Fall-out from dishonest candidates far worse than the pantomime of The Apprentice

Mar 23, 2022 | Attraction & marketing

The reality of dealing with people who lie on their job application is much more complex than The Apprentice, says Chris Rea from Jisc’s Prospects Hedd degree fraud service.

It’s been over two years since we last cringed at the BBC’s The Apprentice interviews and they didn’t disappoint. True to form, the final four were left with little credibility as business plans and applications were found littered with lies and inaccuracies.

While the expert team of Lord Sugar’s trusted advisors effortlessly picked apart the candidates’ skills, experience and credentials, the reality of dealing with people who exaggerate or lie on their job applications is much more complex than a pantomime moment on The Apprentice.    

As well as the immediate consequences of wasting team time and resources on people who aren’t qualified to do what you need them to, the fall-out of not spotting a fraudster can have serious organisational implications.

Degrees of fraud

There are various degrees of fraud that can take place during student recruitment. At the basic level there are the chancers who award themselves a higher qualification or make a small tweak to the subject studied to give them a better chance of landing a job. At the other end of the scale there are people who have deliberately bought a fake degree to gain entry to your organisation.

If these people go through the recruitment process undiscovered the fall-out could be severe. The cost of rehiring can stretch into thousands of pounds and lies on job applications may just be the tip of the iceberg.

When someone is found out, the effect on staff morale can be corrosive and faith in management can weaken if they are seen to have not acted quickly or decisively. Externally, a corporate brand can come under fire and reputational damage result in a dip in share price.

Once inside an organisation unscrupulous staff often go on to be found guilty of expenses fraud, intellectual property theft and other offences.

The seriousness of the issue is thrown into stark relief by cases such as Phillip Hufton who lied on his CV about a wealth of qualifications to land a job at the NHS. He went on to con his employers out of almost £350,000 in expenses.

Headline-grabbing high profile cases mask how widespread qualification fraud is. A Prospects survey of employers found that half of them had fallen foul of degree fraud and further analysis of almost 55,000 CVs revealed that a quarter contained inconsistencies.

Just like on The Apprentice, candidates underestimate the chance of getting caught. People can go a long way based on personality and confidence tricks and that can stretch into artefacts. In the process of writing a job application it can be easy to inflate experience or even go as far as outright lying.

There is some truth in that assumption. We found that while 83% of employers believed that some of their hires would have lied about their degrees, a fifth did not verify degree qualifications. Some reported that they spoke to tutors or used references instead, while others assumed integrity or valued interview performance over qualifications.

Our Prospects Hedd team is at the coalface of qualification fraud. We are often the first point of contact if someone is unsure about the legitimacy of a degree certificate or an educational provider. Sometimes lies are easy to spot, a misspelt name or Americanism may raise alarm bells such as the Royal Navy sailor caught out by spelling his name incorrectly on a forged GCSE certificate.

You don’t need The Apprentice super-sleuth interviewers to spot a fraudster. Establishing processes and policies for dealing with fraud and automatically checking qualifications are sure-fire ways to protect the integrity of your organisation from a fall out far worse than an embarrassing moment on TV.

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