Enterprises thinking about cutting budgets for investigations and background screenings should think again. National and international studies recently show that job applicants at all position levels are more likely to lie as the recession grows.
At the same time, and thanks in large part to the Internet, newer, less expensive and accurate screening services offer a menu of information services that better fit into today’s shrinking budgets.
In one study, a shocking 64 percent of job applicants bent the truth.
The Risk Advisory Group analyzed 2,900 applications for employment, resumes and curriculum vitas. A resume is a document that contains a summary or listing of relevant job experience and education. It is closely related to a similar document, curriculum vitae (CV). Common hiring practices call for the applicant to fill out an enterprise’s own job candidate form as well as, under federal law, to provide consent for the enterprise to check out the information provided.


Many times, there is a check made of the just filled out information against the submitted resumes and CVs to identify any differences.
In its review, the Risk Advisory Group found out that the percentage of discrepancies had increased by 14 percent over the previous year. As the recession worsened in the last quarter 2008, as many as 75 percent of applications contained at least one inaccuracy.
This year’s research shows that job title is the most common lie, with 53 percent of people not telling the truth about their employment history overall. But the biggest increase – 22 percent – was in applicants lying about their educational grades.
Candidates who include at least one lie are likely to have a resume or CV full of false information. Twenty-four percent of applications reviewed had three or more issues – an eight percent increase on the previous year.
Discrepancies range from issues with job titles, fictitious academic qualifications, omitting court judgments and undeclared business interests.
The Group’s Sal Remtulla said, “With the economic crisis widening and jobs becoming more limited, applicants are forced to go to greater lengths to make sure they stand out. Companies cannot take experience and qualifications at face value and must make adequate checks.
“Employers must constantly review the risk facing their business in light of the changing environment. Personal circumstances can change quickly at the moment and this could put a business at risk. Ongoing checks can reduce the risk of fraud from existing staff who could be under increasing financial pressure.
“No business can afford to invest time and money in someone who is not up to the job. The only way to know if they are is to check their credentials independently.”


In the U.S., the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) sets national standards for employment screening. However, the law only applies to background checks performed by an outside company, called a “consumer reporting agency” under the FCRA. The law does not apply in situations where the employer conducts background checks in-house.
States may have stronger laws or labor codes.
Under the FCRA, a background check report is called a “consumer report.” This is the same “official” name given to an individual’s credit report, and the same limits on disclosure apply. The FCRA says the following cannot be reported:
  • Bankruptcies after 10 years.
  • Civil suits, civil judgments, and records of arrest, from date of entry, after seven years.
  • Paid tax liens after seven years.
  • Accounts placed for collection after seven years.
  • Any other negative information (except criminal convictions) after seven years.

There also are "employee misconduct investigations." Sometimes conducted internally but also by a third-party, they can kick in when there is a suspicion of:

  • Misconduct relating to employment. 
  •  A violation of federal, state or local laws or regulations. 
  •  A violation of any preexisting written policies of the employer. 
  • Noncompliance with the rules of a self-regulatory organization, which, for example, oversees the securities and commodity futures industry.    

 Changes at the FCRA recently makes it clear that employers do not have to get permission to conduct a misconduct investigation. 


  1. Job title
  2. Dates of employment
  3. Dates of academic qualification
  4. Academic grades
  5. Academic qualification type

SIDEBAR: The Lies Have It

And they can cost a lot of money. According to Amy Ricciuti of G4S Compliance and Investigation, fraud racks up $20 billion in losses while employee theft rings up another $120 billion. “There is also the matter of negligent hiring,” she said. “About 72 percent of such suits are lost by the employer.” And even when the employer wins, there are the legal costs that add up fast, added Josh Woolley, also with G4S Compliance and Investigations.
Both executives work two sides to screening – corporate clients for pre-employment needs and specialized screening of potential security officers for their sister company Wackenhut.
In both cases, “what is critical is screening smarter and not necessarily harder,” observed Woolley. In today’s economy, enterprises and their security executives should re-evaluate their background screening programs. There are layers on top of specifics through multi-jurisdictional databases. “We look at the activity history of the candidates, and when there are holes, we dig deeper to fill them in” said Woolley.
He pointed out that instant screening may not prove effective in the long run.
“The goal is two fold. Consider screening professionals to complete backgrounds. The main driver in terms of cost and accuracy to the enterprise is volume. Second, the outcome must be fully compliant and actionable.”
If the job candidate is a potential security officer, Woolley believes these folks need to be screened at a higher level. “It’s a matter of being trustworthy and reliable. We look through seven years of history for Wackenhut.” Whether for proprietary or contract officers, a bad hiring decision could literally lead to life and death mistakes as well as a hit to the enterprise or security service firm’s brand for years to come.

SIDEBAR: Third-party Screening Help

There are hundreds of firms that provide background screening services as well as employee misconduct investigations. Sources range from those that serve Fortune 100 companies and national and regional guarding firms, which have full-service investigation and screening services, to firms that search accessible records across a diversity of databases.
Database areas include:
  • Credit
  • Academic
  • Criminal
  • Civil (court) actions
  • Employment history
  • Professional qualifications
Security leaders and their hiring colleagues can choose from a menu of third-party services depending on the type of position being filled.

For example, Verified Person offers many services through its Web portal. From a Web-based dashboard, security can run reports, search through an archive of completed reports, view pending checks and manage other users. Verified Person and some others keep up with FCRA changes and constant revisions to individual state laws.

Uniquely, John Sculley, former CEO of Apple, co-founded Verified Person in 2004 with the idea that background screenings could be greatly simplified by infusing it with technological sophistication. The Web-based client interfaces support pre-hire and ongoing background and criminal screenings.