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Another week and another reminder about the lengths some candidates will go to in order to fool employers and lie their way into a job.  
The Sydney Morning Herald reported last Monday that in late 2009 an Australian ‘doctor’ had conned his way into a senior lecturers’ position at the London School of Medicine and Dentistry.  
The ‘doctor’ in this case, Vitomir Zepinic, had a long history of lying and fabrication behind him, much to the embarrassment of his British  employer.  
As the SMH reported:  
‘For years Zepinic has falsely claimed his medical degrees had been lost due to the war in his homeland (Serbia). Using this excuse, he was able to work as a psychiatrist at Toowoomba Hospital for two years. In 2002 the Queensland Medical Board discovered he had no medical training.’  
‘Zepinic routinely lied, used forged documents, faked the signatures of other medical practitioners and made false declarations about his qualifications, investigators found.’  
The previous Friday, my wife, Michelle, who is an HR Manager, returned home from work to share with me how she had uncovered a couple of major holes in the resume of a candidate who was, until that point, the leading candidate for a important role within the sales division. He had failed to list (at least) one job, of nearly one year,  in his resume.  
These two pieces of news were perfect timing as I read through the, just-released, 2010 Background Screening Trends Australian Report compiled by background screening company, First Advantage (FA). The FA report is especially valuable because a foundation study was undertaken by FA in 2004. The 2010 research has a bigger sample size which has enabled more robust conclusions to be drawn.  
About the research: The report’s statistics have been drawn from 1,345 background screening reports delivered to First Advantage Clients, based in Australia, over a nominated period in 2010. All Applicants consented to the background screening process.  
Definition of ‘alert’: An alert refers to a report outcome that may be taken into consideration when assessing the applicant’s suitability for a position. An alert can be considered as material or immaterial depending on the circumstances.  
If you want to read the whole 19 page report you can email [email protected] and request a copy directly from First Advantage. Otherwise here’s a summary of the most significant information for recruiters.  
General conclusions  

  • Almost one third of reports (28%) highlighted an area of concern for the prospective employer, up from 21% in the 2004 report.
  • Misrepresentations relating to Employment History and Educational Qualifications have doubled in the last six years.
  • The highest number of alerts were reported for Employment History (72%), followed by Employment References (54%) and Educational Qualifications (34%).
  • Employers conducting a total of six background check components per applicant were twelve times more likely to uncover an area of concern (86%) compared to Employers conducting only one background check per applicant (7%).
  • Consistent with the 2004 findings, men (30%) were more likely to have an alert flagged than women (26%).
  • Banking and Finance applicants are the most likely to falsify their background with 38% of all screening reports recording an alert.
  • The bigger an organisation, the more likely target they become for fraudsters. The risk of attracting an unsuitable applicant increases significantly from 12% for businesses with less than 100 staff, to 35% for organisations over 10,000 strong.
  • Senior Management appointments create the greatest risk for businesses with 44% of Applicants recording an alert.

Right to work  

  • One in every 16 candidates had limited rights to work in Australia and one in every 87 had unconfirmed rights.

Education and qualifications  

  • One in 50 educational qualifications could not be verified due to the institution not holding a record of the Applicant.
  • One in 59 educational qualifications (1.7%) were uncovered to be incomplete and 1% revealed a different qualification name or level.
  • One in four Professional membership checks recorded a discrepancy relating to the membership/graduation dates.

Criminal record  

  • One in every 25 reports recorded a disclosable criminal outcome.


  • Recording a 55% alert rate, the greatest risk for Australian employers is individuals applying for roles while abroad (Dr Patel, anyone?).
  • Applicants in NSW are the most likely to falsify an aspect of their background, recording an alert rate of 33%. Applicants from Queensland are the least likely to raise a red flag, with an alert rate of only 14%.
  • Alerts for those spending time outside of Australia were recorded at 44% compared to 24% for Applicants who had not left the country.

Employment history  

  • 40% of Employment History checks uncovered an inconsistency, with the major reasons for discrepancy being salary package and position held at 13% and 10% of all checks, respectively.
  • One in every 18 Applicants inflated their previous salary by more than $10,000.

As you consider these results, bear in mind that every person who was background checked for this research consented to these checks being undertaken. These statistics do not include those candidates who decided to withdraw from the selection process once they were aware of the type of, and number of, background checks that they would be subjected to. The FA report then made a number of recommendations. Here is an edited version with bold added by me for emphasis.  

  • It is of concern that many Employers are still limiting their screening to reference checks. The first step for such Employers is to ensure that they are gaining the most value out of this process. Implementing controls to ensure that the referee was employed in the right capacity to make comments on the Applicant’s performance, abilities and attitude will ensure hiring decisions are based on reliable references.
  • Employers also need to ensure that each and every Employee has entitlement to work in Australia. It is an offence under the Migration Act (1958) to knowingly or recklessly employ an individual outside their work entitlements.
  • Where experience and qualifications are an inherent requirement of a role verification of an Applicant’s employment and education history is critical to prevent unfair and unsuccessful appointments.

My final word (for now, at least) on the topic: Be very clear with your clients what background checks you have (or have not) undertaken on your referred candidates and ensure that each client explicitly acknowledges their ultimate responsibility for satisfying themselves as to the candidate’s bona fides.  
The potential cost of not doing so is losing something very hard to get back: your hard-won reputation.

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You have mentioned that your wife Michelle has revealed to you… Is she allowed to tell you ? Under Privacy Act is she allowed to tell brave stories to world? Pls first think. Pointing on people but no moral to follow.

Ross Clennett

My wife did not reveal the candidate's name (not that I was interested) so there was no breach of privacy.

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