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How Tech Can Help You Avoid Fake References

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For any hiring decision, it’s crucial for employers to check references. These checks are valuable when the information comes from reliable sources. Information from former supervisors or ex-colleagues is useful in the hiring process.

Recruiters need to have robust reference verification processes. With the new norms of remote working the need for this process becomes essential.

In this blog, we cover:

  • What businesses can do to protect themselves against candidate fraud 
  • How HR tech can help you spot and avoid the issue of fake references 

What to look for when reference checking?

According to a research we conducted in the UK, more than 28%of jobseekers admitted to taking advantage of flaws in the reference checking process, to position themselves more favourably with potential employers than is strictly true or accurate. 

stat from recruitment risk index

Hiring companies and recruiters observe a considerable number of CVs containing inaccuracies. ranging from gaps in employment history to false claims on qualifications. In some cases, the past history may even include fraud committed against former employers.

Recruiters should look at the following key points when checking references of candidates:

  • Information provided during the hiring process is accurate. Check employment tenure, job positions held, certifications and qualifications received and any other relevant information.
  • Previous performance indicators that could provide the assurance of the candidate’s ability to do the job.  
  • Reasons for leaving
  • Plus any additional and useful information like strengths and weaknesses and  job applicant potential.

Faking credentials that has caught media attention:

It comes as no surprise that candidates at all levels including those in senior positions fake their credentials. These are just some of the many cases that have caught media attention: 

  1. Top Adelaide bureaucrat who lied on her CV to secure her lucrative SA Government position. A former manager at a state government department was found guilty of fraudulent behaviour in relation to her job application. Veronica Hilda Theriault, 45, was chief information officer within the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) when she was charged with deception, dishonestly dealing with documents and abuse of public office in September 2017. Sentenced to a non-parole period of 12 months in jail, the court heard that the high-paid officer fabricated her education, references and work background.
  2. Myer Group executive faked references for the top job. Myer executives and Quest Personnel were duped into hiring Andrew Flanagan in 2014. Quest conducted two overseas interviews with referees, supposedly senior executives in well known retail organisations, and checked the documentation before putting Flanagan forward.  Top executives at Myer interviewed him extensively before appointing him, paying him a six-figure salary. But, Andrew left on his first day when it was discovered he had falsified his resume.
  3. Dean at M.I.T. Resigns, Ending a 28-Year Lie. The M.I.T. Dean of Admissions claimed to have earned both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, despite having neither. Her deception lasted an incredible 28 years but could’ve been uncovered through proper due diligence and thorough reference checking and employment verification.

What can employers do to prevent fake references?

Findings from the Recruitment Risk Index for Canada conducted in 2017 say that 7% of candidates who took the survey admitted to exaggerating qualifications or work experience, and even fewer admitted to misrepresenting employment dates (5%) and previous job titles (4%).

It is vital to have processes defined to reduce the risks of fake references. This leads to confident and informed hiring decisions. Proper due diligence provides relevant insights about candidates.

"X-Ref has formalized the reference check process which has enabled us to get higher quality references and faster than before. We are able to ensure that references are coming from legitimate sources and see how the reference quality compares to other references." G2 user in education management

Here are five ways to prevent fake references:

  1. Don’t make assumptions. If you notice discrepancies or something is suspicious, you should ask the applicant directly.
  2. Accepting email IDs from professional accounts. Accept references from professional email addresses. This provides an extra layer of protection as personal accounts are easy to create
  3. An offer of employment based on the fulfilment of pre-employment verification. Your offer of employment should be made conditional on certain requirements such as satisfactory references, a criminal record and qualifications checks. If the applicant does not fulfil all the conditions of the offer, the job offer can be withdrawn.
  4. Set out clear expectations in Contracts of Employment and Employee Handbooks. Create clear guidelines and consequences of misrepresentations on resumes. Define a policy in contracts and employee handbooks.
  5. Use an automated reference checking system that can detect suspicious activity. 

5 ways to reduce fake references

A robust reference checking tool like Xref is designed to detect suspicious activity and any type of potential fraud. Here are some tips on how to choose software that’s right for your business.

"Fraudulent references through IP address tracking and verifying the referee's email address are picked up by the XRef system that may otherwise be missed if done through manual reference checks.  Xref's features are fantastic, improving compliance across the reference check process." G2 Review by Talent Acquisition Specialist

How to deal with fake references in the pre-employment stage

Employers and hiring managers should have a clear process in place to follow when a fake reference is discovered.

Here are three steps that are commonly followed when issues of candidates faking references are presented:

  1. Respectfully confront the candidate with the facts. Some organisations may be willing to let go of the offence simply because the inaccuracies may not have a significant impact on the candidate’s current role. 
  2. Ask for an explanation. It’s always good to be upfront and have a candid chat with the candidate.
  3. Seek legal counsel. This may not be required in all cases but only if necessary.
"We’ve had a few experiences where Xref has flagged some suspicious activity, and we really like that it gives us a chance to talk to the candidate and clear up any misunderstandings. It adds value to our process, knowing that an extra level of security is in place, even if we don’t need to use it too often.” Lion

The impact of not conducting thorough reference checks on candidates

In the current remote working environment where supervision over a role is minimum and hard to monitor; it’s crucial to be able to trust a new hire. 

Recruiters who don’t do their due diligence in reference checking candidates risk damaging their own reputation and the organisation they represent when the candidate turns out to be a bad hire.  

There are some sectors in particular that need to be extremely careful with hiring decisions. This is because of the significant impact on others. Childcare, aged care, healthcare, and other professionals associated with positions of trust are some examples. 

“The real catalyst for change was a child protection issue. I was called in to help investigate a potential red flag in a new hire. We analysed the references that had been taken and while, on paper, we had followed every step, we hadn’t exercised any sort of depth." YMCA

Prevent candidate fraud with Xref

Xref alerts recruitment and talent teams when red flags from a candidate are present. This is thanks to our Unusual Activity feature. 

Using a unique algorithm, Xref can monitor several different data points during the referencing process. 

If anything suspicious is detected, the system will raise a red flag that some unusual activity has occurred. Reasons for a flag may include:

  • Matching IP addresses for the candidate and their referee
  • Matching operating systems 
  • Identical internet browsers, among others

Of course, there may be an entirely plausible explanation for the flag, but often, they are found to uncover fraudulent activity. 

“Xref detects cases of unusual activity, which could be signs of a fraudulent reference allowing us to validate the authenticity of each response. We investigate every single case that is flagged and have found that 80% of those are indeed suspicious. This is an ability that we would never have had before and a huge value add for our schools.” Just Education
“Xref tracks IP addresses, and that extra security measure allows us to trust the information we have in front of us.” Planet Organic

Don’t risk a bad hire

“The Xref fraud detection tool is something that we hadn’t considered when we first signed up but we have been aware of it on a couple of occasions. We have had a couple of candidates who have submitted their own references and the Xref platform has been able to detect it and raise a red flag to us almost immediately.” Oliver Bonacini

Proper processes assist in the identification of fake references. Manual methods of reference checking have a lot of room for errors. Robust reference checking technology like Xref is designed to make your verification process as bulletproof as possible. 

If you’re on the fence about investing in reference checking software, why not give Xref a go? Try Xref for free to see how it works. 

Note: Information provided in this blog is not legal advice.

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