© 2006 Jonathan Bernstein
Estimated Readership: 14,000+
JUST A THOUGHT
In the absence of communication, rumor and innuendo fill the gap...and become reality.
CRISIS MANAGER UNIVERSITY
Editor's Note: Regular readers of this newsletter know that I strongly advocate the use of background checks to prevent the kind of embarrassments suffered by the Bush Administration, whose appointees - first Michael Brown, now George Deutsch - somehow made it through White House screening without anyone catching on to fudged facts about their education and/or professional experience. So when I received this article from Integrated Screening Partners (ISP), I immediately requested and received their permission to bring it to you. When I do vulnerability audits, I remain shocked at the number of organizations that do little, if any, thorough background checking on lateral hires - executives brought in from other companies - and as a result they make themselves vulnerable to future crises. Take this to your HR director and your CEO, if you're not already in those positions, and be sure to read about ISP's free screening and assessment offer at the end of the article.
Top Ten Application Falsifications
A Growing Minority of Applicants Lie
The Truth about Bob
After sorting through hundreds of resumes, you found the perfect employee: Bob. Bob graduated with his Master's with a 3.8 GPA, and then went on to work for eight years at a top tier firm in your industry. He was also an active philanthropist in the community.
After the first interview, everyone in the office adored him. You hired him, and he was still a universally liked employee. He even sent the secretary flowers on her birthday.
Too bad Bob was stealing from day one. After you began the investigation, you also discovered that he never actually graduated from that great school on his resume, only worked at that top-tier firm for eight months and was fired...for embezzlement.
Resume Fraud on the Rise
If you knew that 30-40 percent of your employees lied on their resume, would it change the way you feel about your company? What if you knew that you hired these people...and that they lied to you during the interview? Unfortunately, this is an unsettling reality for companies across the country.
Without a background screening program in place, it is a near-statistical certainty that a company will hire someone who falsified their resume, has a criminal record or has insufficient skills or knowledge to perform their job.
Why? Applicants have worked to hide these elements of their past, and they know the ins and outs of the hiring process thanks to books and blogs on everything from resume writing to mastering the behavioral interview. The proliferation of falsifications is astounding:
30-40 percent of all applicants lie on their resume
10-15 percent of all applicants have a criminal record
52 percent of resumes have discrepancies [Source: 2005 study by the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Information courtesy of CNN Money.]
Top Ten List
Most applicants falsify the same sections of their resumes and applications. If you know what to focus on, you may be able to spot the red herring. The following common resume falsifications are in order from the most common to the least.
1. Dates of Employment
No one wants to admit they were unemployed, much less that they were employed for a substantial period of time. Often, applicants will elongate their employment at several jobs to cover these gaps.
2. Job Title
This is the quickest way to update your insufficient qualifications to fit the position. Applicants often upgrade their positions to the one above their own. If you wonder why, ask yourself: how much pay difference is there between a manager and a V.P.?
3. Degrees Earned
In this case, the lie is often close to the truth. The applicant may have completed (or nearly completed) the necessary credit hours but failed to finish the requirements to graduate. Occasionally applicants will upgrade their education in the same way that others upgrade their positions-they'll say they earned a Master's when they received a Bachelor's or a Ph.D. when they have a Master's.
4. Educational Background
In occupations where the prestige of your university can give you an edge, applicants will often say they attended their first-choice institution, e.g. Harvard, when in reality they attended the community college near their home.
5. Past Employers
In much the same way that applicants will upgrade their schools, they will also upgrade their past employers. Another approach that is increasingly appealing in a global marketplace is to say that they worked for a company that doesn't exist or is no longer in business.
The most difficult question an applicant will have to answer is: How much are you worth? Of course, it's never phrased that way, but that's the meat of the compensation issue. If they say their last employer paid them $60,000, it's much easier for them to ask for $65,000
7. Reason for Leaving
If an applicant was fired, that's a fact he or she wants to hide. During the application process, they may cite a mass layoff as the reason for leaving rather than an individual layoff caused by poor performance review.
8. Past Accomplishments
In this case, applicants may say they single-handedly managed a $1 million account when they were part of a team or they managed a team of 50 when, in reality, it was a team of five. Applicants want you to believe that they can handle the responsibility you're giving them; even of they don't really have the experience you require.
This refers to hard skills, such as programming languages, foreign languages or accreditations. For example, an artist who is looking for a career change may say they know all the designer packages necessary for a graphic designer position when they have only seen the programs or played with them once or twice. On the other hand, they may have the knowledge to do the job but lack the documentation to prove it.
10. Past Supervisor
Applicants will falsify the name and position of their past employer for many reasons. Some applicants also give the name of a friend or co-worker and prep them for your call. Either way, this is a sign that they probably don't want you to contact their actual boss.
Combating Application Falsifications
So, what can you do when nearly one-third of your applicants distort, embellish or create their work history and personal qualifications? When only 15 percent of all resumes are ever given a thorough read-through, applicants can lie and get away with it. You must be diligent to find the best employee for your firm, and that means performing background checks. Although pre-employment screening doesn't guarantee that you've hired an exemplary employee, it does give you a more reliable and accurate picture of a candidate's background before the job offer.
Since 1994, Integrated Screening Partners, www.integratedscreening.com, (ISP) has served global, mid-size and small companies, to include Dell Computer, Club Corp of America and Texas Instruments. ISP is offering "Crisis Manager" readers a free screening and assessment to determine your vulnerability to resume falsifications, some of which you may already have experienced. Contact Michele McCullough at 817-288-5000 x57 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
By Jonathan Bernstein
And He's One Heartbeat Away From The Presidency? Last Saturday, my 16-year-old daughter, Michelle, came into the living room and told me that CNN online was reporting that Vice President Cheney -- or, as the wise teen put it, "You know, that guy who's never around" -- had been quail hunting and shot someone, I thought "Cheney shot Dan Quayle?" The future presidential race seemed to be getting very tough already! When I learned the facts for myself, I expected, like you, to hear a dismayed Cheney on-camera expressing the kind of anguish it actually took him four days to reveal. Which also makes it seem somewhat...rehearsed. Was he afraid to speak? Did he not realize that delay and obfuscation, passing the buck to others, hardly looks good for a guy who could theoretically sit in the ultimate "buck stops here" chair? Why wasn't his boss saying, "I don't care how you feel, get your butt in front of the TV cameras NOW, Dick!" Yes, it was a horrible accident and he may or may not have been at legal fault, but it happened and he had a responsibility to communicate that is inherent in his elected position.
I Can't Get Home, Let's Go Skiing. So a huge snowstorm hit the US Northeast earlier this week, causing airlines to cancel more than 2,000 flights and stranding travelers heading in and out of the region. Hopefully, businesses had contingency plans to address the interruptions caused by nature's fury, but what caught my attention was this incredibly insensitive comment reported on CNN.com: "The manager of a ski resort in Londonderry, Vermont, told Reuters that he welcomed the snow. 'I think this will get people back in the spirit of winter and skiing,' Gary Aichholz said." Of course, they couldn't GET to Vermont to ski unless they were local.
But What Does He Really Think? I love the Big Island in Hawaii, where you can enjoy a spectacular array of tourist delights, and where public officials are notorious for hoof-in-mouth disease. You may or may not know that the island is governed as Hawaii County. Bruce McClure is the chief engineer for the County's Public Works Department, and was recently interviewed by the West Hawaii Today newspaper about perpetual delays in improving island roads. McClure offered this bon mot: "Our roads aren't all that bad. Our drivers suck." [Your editor hopes that including this verbatim quote didn't foul up too many spam filters!]
You Mean Planning Works? Adhesives Research in Springfield Township, Pennsylvania, recovered rapidly from a major fire because they had engaged in crisis planning that had resulted in a firewall being placed between its chemical storage area and the rest of its facility, and which apparently got all its people out safely. They were also quickly able to set up a temporary office nearby. It sounds so boring, no one writes front-page headlines saying "Company Does It Right!", but they could have suffered major or even terminal damage to their business without that advance planning. [Thanks to my associate Rick Kelly of Robinson Kelly Strategic Communications in Harrisburg, PA, for calling this fine example to my attention.]
No Your Spam-filter Didn't Block My February 1 Newsletter. There was no February 1 issue of "Crisis Manager." I simply could not take the time from several concurrent and tight-deadline breaking crises and projects. I wanted to offer a mea culpa to anyone who missed me and my meanderings -- and anyone who wishes it may have an indefinite extension on your subscription and/or a refund in full of your subscription fee. Still, it could be worse,,,you could be stuck in a hunting party with Dick Cheney.
Speaking Of The Newsletter. Sheesh. I just realized it. The issue I missed would have been my sixth anniversary issue, Crisis Manager was launched on February 1, 2000. I don't think I've missed publishing more than a half dozen semi-monthly issues since that time, but it's my own mind's little trick on me (happens more as I get older) to miss my own anniversary. Drat. Oh well, I still want to offer COPIOUS THANKS to all of you who have helped this little ezine expand and be reprinted worldwide. I have made new friends amongst my subscriber base, and more than a few of you are clients of mine. Life is good, and I am committed to continuing this project as a way of sharing what was so freely given to me by both humans and a Higher Power. Special thanks to my Webmaster, Oliver Del Signore, who converts this publication to its attractive HTML format and archives all past issues. And thank you to my lovely wife and soul-mate, Celeste Mendelsohn, who designed both the look of my site and the "OhNo the Ostrich" logo you'll find at the newsletter's online home page.
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On February 23, 2005, Jonathan Bernstein played talk show host and expert commentator in a one-hour teleseminar featuring internationally renowned litigation PR expert Richard Levick and one of the country's top white collar crime attorneys, Ed Novak. This CD-ROM is a "must have" to play for the executive staff of any organization, for practice group meetings at law firms, or for the entire staff of any PR agency.
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ABOUT THE EDITOR & PUBLISHER
Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., www.bernsteincrisismanagement.com, a national crisis management public relations agency providing 24/7 access to crisis response professionals. The agency engages in the full spectrum of crisis management services: crisis prevention, response, planning & training. He has been in the public relations field since 1982, following five-year stints in both military intelligence and investigative reporting. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. is located at 1013 Orange Avenue, Monrovia, CA 91016. Telephone: (626) 825-3838.
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