Ensuring IT Candidate Authenticity

by Wayne Trimble on July 3, 2012

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In May, Yahoo’s Chief Executive Officer Scott Thompson was forced to resign after it was revealed that he exaggerated his qualifications on his resume.

If this could happen at one of the largest IT companies in the world, at the highest levels of leadership, imagine how often it is happening in the IT industry in general!

The fact is that the widespread presence of falsified resumes is nothing new, especially in the ultra competitive IT field. In fact, during the Dot-com era of the late ‘90s, it was commonplace for candidates to exaggerate their qualifications in order to catch on with hot new companies only to flame out on their first day on the job.

Today, hiring managers and IT executives are experiencing a resume-falsifying renaissance, and it is not limited to one segment of the technology industry. From chip-level software development to web development to ERP, it’s a universal issue.

But why?

It’s because businesses are fighting each other for top talent with the latest skills and IT professionals are looking to catch on with high paying jobs at U.S. companies. In fact, it is the very success of the American IT industry that is spurring falsified resumes. The unemployment rate within the industry domestically is so low – at nearly 0 percent for U.S.-born professionals – that a candidate’s decision on fabrication is often borne out of desperation. For U.S. citizens and Green Card holders facing high unemployment in other industries, or lacking the proper skills and experience, falsifying their resumes may be their best chance to put food on the table for their families. For foreign candidates aspiring to come to America for work under a Visa, beefing up a resume may be their only way of securing a life in the U.S.

The causes of the epidemic – and it is indeed an epidemic – are clear. Unfortunately, the solution to the problem is not as readily apparent for companies looking to verify the authenticity of their IT candidates.

As an IT leader or HR manager, you know the significant costs – in terms of time, money and effort – that must be expended for every hire. You also know how frustrating it can be to hire a candidate only to find out that they don’t have the skills or experience to adequately perform their job. As a Senior Business Development Manager with more than 16 years of experience serving the IT industry, I have helped hundreds of clients overcome this growing challenge by employing proven best practices.

Here are my suggestions for ensuring the authenticity of IT professionals in your business:

  • Do away with phone interviews.  The days of the telephone interview are over, at least they should be. A telephone interview, while quick and easy to set up, does not allow you to see the candidate and accurately gauge their skills, experience and technical fluency. In our offices, we schedule video conferences, facilitated by free and readily available software, to conduct initial interviews for out-of-town or foreign candidates. Video interviews allow you to verify whether or not the person responding to your questions has trouble providing basic information without assistance from someone else. If candidates decline the opportunity to participate in a video interview, they will not be considered for a position with Modis.
  • Let your experts verify their expertise:  If you are looking to add someone to your mobile development team, chances are the existing team knows what to look for in a candidate. We regularly engage our internal IT colleagues to assist with interviews and ask questions related to the available position and you should, too. Having a high technical acumen makes it easy to tell when someone else does not.
  • Test first, be thankful later:  Many companies wait until the latter stages of the interview process – after they have already invested significant time, effort and costs in vetting a candidate – to conduct a skills assessment. On the contrary, my team conducts basic tests during the initial face-to-face or video interview. For example, when hiring someone for a position that requires the ability to write code, we will pose real-time coding problems and use keystroke monitoring software to authenticate the candidate’s basic knowledge and ability to program logically.
  • Make candidates sign off on their skills:  It may seem simple, but including a legally binding statement in your documentation may help deter candidates from taking liberties with their resumes.
  • Opt for an educational background check: Whether you are working with Modis to find IT consultants or looking to hire directly, I strongly recommend utilizing a background vendor to perform an educational verification check. While this step may cost a bit more than a standard background check, it will pay off dearly in terms of peace of mind.
  • Don’t judge:  When you find out you’ve been lied to, it’s natural to get angry. However, the purpose of a well-conducted interview and selection process is to make sure that you are hiring the best candidate possible. The goal is not to admonish or humiliate those who don’t pass the process. If you do discover dishonesty, simply move on to the next candidate. If a candidate decides to come clean on their own, you may consider hearing their side of the story and learning about their true skills and potential value to your company. You may be surprised to find out what they have to say – and what else they have to offer.

Wayne Trimble is a Senior Business Development Manager for the Modis branch office in Houston, TX.  You can follow Wayne on Twitter or connect with him via LinkedIn.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary July 3, 2012 at 12:21 pm

Personally, I am extremely offended by THE INTERNATIONAL RECRUITERS DEMANDING THAT I ‘FLUFF’ UP MY RESUME.

I am what I am, I have actually accomplished what I say I have accomplished, with PRESICELY the tools I state I have experience with.

I STAND BY THE RESUME I HAVE CREATED.

I WILL NOT LIE, even when the internationals suggest that I must.

I wish they would STOP suggesting it. (I actually have told them WHY, using the error of Yahoo ceo.

Rick July 3, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Your article is correct and yet useless. When hiring a technical employee, any panel composed of technical people with sufficient experience in the business will be able to rule out incompetent candidates with a high degree of success. The real problem is for candidates in the management track. There is no hard and fast set of questions to filter out weak management candidates because most interviews drift towards situational and anecdotal scenarios that cannot be easily verified and can be easily embellished. In many cases, you are left to rely solely on personal references. Since managers have a stronger impact on project’s outcome than any individual contributor, how do you guarantee success in the process of hiring IT management candidates. How do you measure team building, mentoring, project management, and political skills?

Saif Aldeen Masadeh July 3, 2012 at 1:43 pm

If you lied at the begging, you will be stuck later, we have a famous say in Arab world:
“The diver is disproved by the water”

It generally means that if someone claims that he can dive, then the water is the test for him, if he’s lieing then the water will expose him.

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