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8 min read

The Rise of Fake Employment References and How to Address Them

Fake references have become popular among candidates, especially due to high demand for employment within the candidate pool. In fact, many businesses now offer fake employment references as a service to candidates looking to secure a position. 

For organizations that prioritize references and use them to verify a candidate’s skill, this leaves room for errors in recruitment and could ultimately lead to inaccurate skill validation. The good news is that you can check employment references and address the alarming rise of fake references. 

In this article, we will explore how you can conduct reference checks and effectively validate candidate expertise.

Why conduct reference checks?

Fundamentally, a reference check is a process that involves confirming whether or not a candidate’s references or recommendations from previous roles and companies are real. This process affirms that the candidate actually has experience with the role they claim and has worked with the company in their reference.

From the definition of a reference check, you can have an idea of how important this process is. However, its usefulness goes beyond verifying the candidate’s job fit. If not properly conducted, it can also affect your company’s success since you’re at risk of hiring unqualified candidates. Here are some reasons why you should conduct a reference check:

  • To verify the candidate’s previous experience and performance: When performing a reference check, you confirm the candidate’s employment history, job titles, number of promotions, and even the dates of employment. This gives you a solid idea of how experienced the candidate is and how they can apply their skills to carry out tasks in the role.
  • To ensure candidate reliability: While checking your candidates’ employment references, you’re assessing whether or not they lied on their applications or resumes. With many candidates lying on their resumes, this process can help you filter through the applications and locate honest and reliable ones.
  • To gain insights into candidates’ work ethic and culture fit: Checking for fake references typically involves contacting their previous employers and getting insights about the candidates. The employers can tell you about candidates’ conduct, culture fit, and work ethic while working with them. This shows how well the candidates can work with others, uphold professionalism, and apply interpersonal skills.

The rise of AI and the ability to easily produce fake references

A woman using her computer

According to a 2024 study by StandOut CV, one out of four candidates uses fake references when trying to get a job. Of course, the accessibility of AI tools to generate fake references is a significant contributor to this high number.

Artificial Intelligence has gained significant traction in recent years, specifically because it simplifies tasks that normally require much more effort. So, without a doubt, AI in recruitment has its perks. However, just as recruiters can incorporate AI to streamline their recruitment process, candidates can also apply it to make their resumes look more attractive. In this case, that involves generating fake references.

Today, platforms like ChatGPT, Gemini, and Bing AI can generate these references alongside non-existent characters as employers. These platforms can also apply deepfake technology to generate images for these characters, making them all the more convincing.

Because of how advanced technology has become, most AI tools used to produce these fake references require little to no technical expertise. All the candidate has to do is enter a command stating the kind of reference they want and what they want to look like, and the AI tool will generate it.

This ease of use and advancement have contributed to the popularity of fake references and skill sets in many candidates’ resumes.

How to spot a fake reference

A woman screening a candidate

Truthfully, due to the number of applications a hiring manager has to go through, it can be difficult to spot a fake reference, especially if you don’t know what to look out for. Below, we will explain how to spot a fake reference during your recruitment:

1. Look out for discrepancies in documents

One of the most effective ways to spot a fake reference while screening candidates is to check for points in their applications that oppose each other. For example, the candidate’s application could mention that they lack a certain skill set, but their resume has a reference that says otherwise.

To adequately check for discrepancies, you shouldn’t limit your screening to just their resumes. Rather, you can cross-link the results from each step of your recruitment process, from application to interviews, and verify the candidates’ skills across all processes.

2. Stay updated with trends in candidate fraud

As technology advances, new trends emerge in various aspects of recruitment, and fake references are not left out. The more company requirements for a role change, the more candidates feel the need to add elements to their resumes to back up the skills they claim. These elements could be fake references, AI-generated certificates, or even fake working experiences.

With this in mind, staying updated with the trends in candidate fraud during recruitment lets you know what ways candidates lie while trying to get a position. As such, you get firsthand direction on the aspects of candidate assessments to focus the most on.

3. Train your HR team with evolving technology

Aside from learning the trends with candidate fraud, you should also explore the various technologies and tools that can help you spot fake references. These tools include background checkers and resume screening tools, which help verify the information in candidate application letters and resumes.

Once you’ve explored these tools, you should train your HR team on how to use these tools to verify a candidate’s job fit properly. 

4. Crosscheck all references

At times, not all of the candidate’s references might be fake. So, it’s easy to overlook other references after confirming one of them. Doing this has its detriments, as it leaves room for some candidates to get away with adding fake references to their resumes.

As such, you must cross-check all references to ensure thoroughness in your recruitment. Doing this also ensures that you hire candidates who value honesty and integrity, especially in the workplace.

5. Apply pre-employment tests to validate skills

Simply screening candidate resumes on your own may not accurately verify their skills. This is because it’s easy to overlook certain discrepancies in candidate applications or favor one candidate over the other, thus leading to bias.

Fortunately, a pre-employment test can help you curb this by empowering you to see candidates apply the skills they claim. An excellent pre-employment test can also help you verify whether or not they have the expertise their references say they do.

A better way to evaluate candidate experience and expertise

Traditional methods of candidate screening, such as resume scanning or human-based reference checking alone, don’t guarantee complete accuracy. Luckily, there are more advanced and reliable ways to evaluate candidate experience and expertise, such as applying a skills-testing platform.

Pre-employment skills testing applies well-crafted problem-based questions to verify the skills candidates claim to possess. As such, you can use the insights from these tests to accurately determine whether or not a candidate used fake references in their application.

Without a doubt, skills testing has its benefits, but you can’t assess some of these benefits without the right assessment platform. Thankfully, you don’t have to look too hard to find one. Vervoe is the perfect fit for you, especially if you want to incorporate skills testing into your recruitment process and access all it offers.

Vervoe has everything you need to validate your candidates’ experience and expertise, from valid skills tests to job simulations and hiring resources. Ultimately, our platform is an integral tool for companies looking to achieve excellence in hiring. Some of Vervoe’s top features include:

  • Realistic job simulations: Vervoe uses challenges and tasks unique to a role to craft scenario-based questions that check how well a candidate can handle the situation. This gives you an accurate idea of how much experience they have with the job.
  • Flexible assessment builder: Aside from having a comprehensive skill assessment library with tests tailored to meet any role’s evaluation requirements, Vervoe gives you the opportunity to be even more flexible with your assessment. With our platform, you can customize and brand your assessments as you wish. This means you get to control the level of proficiency and expertise you test for.
  • Personalized AI-powered grading: Equipped with intuitive AI, Vervoe allows you to grade each candidate based on your terms. You can train our AI to spot correct answers like you would and grade your candidates accordingly.

Verifying job fit is fast, easy, and reliable with Vervoe 

The effect of fake references might seem minimal at first glance, but they can tell on a company’s success in the long run — especially if they cause you to make a bad hire. Fortunately, reference checks can help you avoid these negative effects and hire right each time.

While traditional methods of checking for fake references can be useful, there are much more effective ways to verify candidacy skills. Vervoe is a perfect example of these advanced screening methods that focus on proven skills rather than unproven experience.

Equipped with a comprehensive assessment library, realistic job simulations, and valid tests, you can rest assured that your recruitment will be based on tangible data. Not to mention, you can easily spot fake references by comparing the results from our tests with the skills the candidates claim on their resumes. 
So, waste no time; register for free on Vervoe to begin!

Raji Oluwaniyi

Raji Oluwaniyi

Raji Oluwaniyi is a seasoned Technical Content Writer at Vervoe with a rich background of over five years in the intersection of HR technology, consumer data protection, and SaaS. He has garnered significant recognition and has worked with industry stalwarts like TestGorilla, Brightlio, MakeUseOf, and Careerkarma. Oluwaniyi has a continuous drive to evolve and keep himself up to trend with the latest technology trends and best practices in writing. Beyond his professional pursuits, he is a genuine soccer fan and profoundly values his quality time with his close friends.

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