Background Checks

A recent article in the March 21st edition of The Washington Post, highlighted the tendency of many job seekers to feel ashamed of being out of work.  That inclination reminded me of the darker side of unemployment which is stretching the truth on their resumes in hopes of gaining a competitive edge over other job seekers – and in hopes that no one will bother to check.  Here’s one of the stories I recall that illustrates what can happen when a job seeker claims to be something he isn’t.

We were asked to verify the academic credentials of a candidate for a position with an east coast petrochemical company.  The candidate had plenty of experience – over twenty years – and knew the business from the bottom up!  Part of the background checks included verifying that the candidate had, indeed, earned the degree in geology claimed.  As it turned out, he was about a semester short of completing the work for the degree.  In other words, he falsely claimed he had a degree which, in fact, he had never completed.

The prospective employer had made him a job offer contingent on the outcome of the background check.  The job would have been a great career move for him, but upon learning that he had lied about earning that degree, the company withdrew the offer of employment.  Why?  This is exactly what we were told, “We would have hired him if he had just been honest with us.  His years of experience and solid record of job performance more than offset not having completed the degree, but we didn’t want to start a relationship with him having caught him in a lie.”  What makes this a memorable – and tragic – story is the employer would have hired him if he had just been honest with them.

The moral of this story is clear.  It isn’t worth taking the risk of being less than honest on a resume or job application to land a job.  It’s too easy to get caught, because more and more employers are doing thorough background checks.  In the foregoing story in The Washington Post, , that best advice offered was to, “Be brief, be honest, and focus on your achievements.”