The Rise of Fake Candidates in Today’s Tech Hiring Landscape
Updated: April 13, 2023
Question: What happens when you combine the tech talent shortage with AI tools, virtual interviewing, and remote work?
Answer: Candidates who are not who they claim to be. Otherwise known as Fake Candidates.
Despite the headlines, the demand for technology professionals is still strong. This past December, employers across all sectors hired an estimated 130,000 technology workers, bringing the tech unemployment rate to 1.8% versus the national rate of 3.5%.
The Perfect Storm
The continued demand for skilled technology workers, combined with the rise in virtual interviews, remote onboarding, and remote work, has created the perfect storm for the rise of fake candidates.
“Fake candidates are nothing new,” claims John Bemis, president and founder of Benchmark IT. “However, within the last year, opportunities for fake candidates have grown along with market demand.
There are many ways that bogus candidates can make their way into the recruitment pipeline, including:
Lack of or duplicated skills:
“In some cases, a candidate will try to sell themselves as more senior than they are,” says Mariah Szarek, Benchmark IT’s senior technical recruiter. “I have seen resumes where a person has claimed to be working since 2013, but their degree says 2016.”
“Additionally, when a candidate interviews for a job they are unqualified for, they have someone else do their technical assessments for them,” she adds. And still another way Szarek can spot a fake candidate is when she sees two identical resumes with the same name, but the jobs differ.
Another way scammers operate is to create several duplicate profiles with different names. It’s faster and easier to duplicate job descriptions and titles than to create unique profiles. If you see multiple resumes and profiles with identical job descriptions, it’s likely a fake.
The Bait and Switch:
One of the most common ways a candidate can fake an interview is over the phone. In many cases, a fraudulent candidate will conduct a phone interview, but once the contract is offered, a different person does the job. “This is especially common in today’s remote workplaces, where managers don’t see the person doing the job daily,” Szarek states. It will often take weeks or months before the scam is revealed, costing the employer thousands in wasted time and paychecks.
Emmanuel Toutain, founder and CEO of Terefic, a , a cloud-based reference-checking and fraud-detection software solution for employers and recruiters. “I came up with Terefic as a solution to detect fraud. From what I’ve seen over the years, and especially recently, is anywhere from 10- to 30 percent of candidates are fake.”
“There are plenty of ways a person can fake their identity for a job, states Toutain. “On LinkedIn, I’ve seen some people use a stock image as their profile pic or angle themselves to make them harder to identify. Many will also often use a phone number that goes directly to a VOIP/disposable number.
Fake candidates often use disposable phone numbers and email addresses to avoid being traced and contacted after committing fraud. They don’t want to be bothered by their phones constantly ringing. VOIP/disposable numbers are just easier to change and/or disconnect. Email addresses are on most applications, and fake people candidates will create a disposable email with no digital footprint.”
According to Toutain, “Some fake candidates have such a huge gap in their skills or minimal tech backgrounds. Some people learn on the fly. Others are just hoping to collect a paycheck.” When asked how long a fake candidate usually lasts, Toutain said, “Some candidates just get their equipment and then vanish. Some candidates can go as long as five months if they can talk their way out.”
How to Spot Fake Candidates:
LinkedIn: Check out their LinkedIn profile. Does their profile match up with their resume? Do they have any endorsements, recommendations, or comments on their posts? How many connections do they have? If they claim to be working for six to ten years and only have a handful of connections, that’s a red flag.
Ask where they are located: Ask the candidate to confirm where they are located and the nearest big city. If they hesitate or stumble, it’s a good tell they’re not where they say they are.
“See what they say and how specific they get. For example, if someone claims they worked at Verizon, ask specifics about their site location. Ask about logistics to get them to spill the lie”, suggests Szarek.
Verify their country of residence: If required, verify their legal right to work in the US and their country of residence. If you suspect they are living abroad and claiming to live in the US, you can check their travel history on the US Department of Homeland Security’s i94 website.
What does their resume reveal: This can work both ways. A sloppy, unformatted resume can indicate the candidate cut and pasted their job responsibilities and skills from an online source. On the other hand, resumes that appear expertly tailored to your job description, or look like a roundup of keywords, can also indicate a red flag.
Keep an eye on funny-looking email addresses—often with multiple numbers listed after the name, the absence of a full first and last name, and how they list skills/technologies on their resume. A laundry list of skills or technologies without context can indicate someone who’s not being honest.
Communication during interviews: Especially common on phone interviews (but can also take place on video calls) is when a candidate pauses, or you hear a drop in background noise after you ask a question. This could signal that they are being told how to answer the question by a third party before they provide an answer.
Similarly, if you hear a lot of background noise, like a call originating from a call center, it could mean the candidate is part of a larger ring of employment scammers.
Meet in person: An easy way to scare a scammer is to suggest meeting in person. Suggest an in-person meeting or a video call and monitor their reaction. Check photo ID’s on video calls to verify they are who they claim to be.
Use an IT Staffing and Recruitment Company:
“We remain committed to our quality recruiting process,” states Bemis. Very few recruiting firms conduct face-to-face interviews with candidates and rely heavily on phone interviews instead. We see every candidate in person or over a video call before we present them to a client. We detect and weed out fake candidates every day so our clients don’t have to deal with them.”
“Before we submit a candidate for any role, we require them to fill out an application and include a list of references. We’ll often cross reference these with Terefic, which has fake reference detection built in. If someone makes up the name in the email address and fills out the form from the same computer, it will detect fraud,” he states. “It’s time-consuming, but in the end, it provides a level of value and reassurance to our clients and saves them time and headaches.”
Bemis concludes, “Our years of technical recruiting experience and proven recruitment process enable us to provide qualified and verified candidates to our clients every day. The last thing I want is for one of our clients to experience a fake candidate in an interview or a placement. Thankfully our technical recruiting experience, process, and taking the extra steps have kept them and us safe.”
About Benchmark IT –Technology Talent
Established in 2007, Benchmark IT delivers superior technology recruitment, staffing, and consulting services throughout the New York metro area and beyond. Our founding principles of dedication to ethics, keen precision, and unparalleled personalized service remain true today. Our experienced team has extensive candidate and client networks. We employ the latest technology to attract the right talent and fully qualify them for a best-fit scenario. Our clients rely on us. Our candidates choose to work with us.