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How to Avoid "Catfishing" During the Hiring Process

Published over 1 year ago • 5 min read

We’ve all heard about catfishing in the context of dating, but this type of misrepresentation is also a serious issue in the world of employment. It refers to the act of making false or misleading statements to someone with the intent of inducing them to enter into a contract or agreement. In the context of employment, it can take on many different forms, and it can come from both the organization and the job seeker.

Employers have a significant impact on their employees' lives, as they determine the work environment, compensation, and opportunities for growth and development. However, sometimes businesses can engage in misrepresentation, either intentionally or unintentionally, that can negatively impact their employees and the overall organization.

This typically occurs during the hiring process, including making false promises about the nature of the job or mispresenting the company culture. Not only does this violate the trust of the job seeker, but it can also permanently damage the relationship between employer and employee. In fact, 45% of candidates have rejected jobs after feeling they’d been catfished during the interview process.

On the other side of the spectrum, job seekers misrepresenting themselves during the hiring process has also become a growing concern for employers. Whether they exaggerate accomplishments, lie about their education or work experience, or present false references, job seekers are finding ways to make themselves look more qualified than they actually are.

One study found that 78% of candidates who applied for or received a job offer in the last six months admit they misrepresented themselves on their application (or would consider doing so). This type of misrepresentation can undermine an employer’s efforts to find the best fit for their organization and can lead to significant consequences for both the company and the employee.

In today’s article, I’ll examine this issue in more detail and discuss how organizations can avoid inadvertently misrepresenting themselves to job candidates. I’ll also describe how companies can prevent themselves from being catfished, including through the use of technologies such as isolved’s Attract & Hire system.

Why job seekers catfish employers — and how to prevent this

In an increasingly competitive job market, job seekers may feel pressured to exaggerate their qualifications to stand out from the crowd. They may think that a little bit of embellishment on their resume or during an interview won't hurt, but the truth is that it can have serious consequences. For the employer, it can lead to the wrong person being hired for the job, which can cause significant disruptions in the workplace and lead to lost productivity and revenue.

For job seekers, misrepresenting themselves can lead to consequences that are just as severe. If they are caught, they can lose the job they just started and damage their professional reputation, making it more difficult to find future employment. Additionally, in some cases, it may be considered fraud and could result in legal action against them.

So, how can businesses catch job seekers who are misrepresenting themselves during the hiring process? There are a few steps that employers can take to verify the information provided by job seekers and ensure that they are hiring the right person for the job. An applicant tracking system, like isolved’s Attract & Hire system, can streamline all of these steps.

The first step is to conduct thorough background checks. This includes verifying the information on the job seeker's resume, including their education and work history, as well as checking their references. Employers can also use online resources to verify the information, such as social media profiles, to see if the job seeker's experiences and accomplishments match what they have listed on their resume.

Another way to catch job seekers who are misrepresenting themselves is to conduct a skills assessment. For example, if the job requires a certain set of technical skills, the employer can give the job seeker a skills test to determine their level of proficiency. This can help the organization identify any gaps in the job seeker's qualifications and determine if they are truly capable of performing the job duties.

Employers can also ask behavioral interview questions that allow them to get a better understanding of the job seeker's past experiences and behaviors. For example, they can ask about a time when the job seeker had to work under a tight deadline, how they handled a difficult situation with a coworker, or how they dealt with a challenging customer. These types of questions can provide valuable insight into the job seeker's character and help the employer determine if they are being truthful about their qualifications and experiences.

Finally, companies can use technology to help catch job seekers who are misrepresenting themselves. There are now software programs available that can scan resumes and job applications for inconsistencies and red flags, such as fake references or exaggerations. These tools can save employers time and resources by quickly identifying potential problem areas and alerting them to any issues that need to be addressed.

How companies misrepresent themselves to job seekers

It’s easy to think that employees are doing the majority of the catfishing, but that isn’t always the case. Businesses may misrepresent themselves in a variety of ways, including the following:

  • Overstating job duties or responsibilities: Making the job sound more appealing or prestigious than it actually is.
  • Overemphasizing the earning potential: Providing exaggerated salary or bonus information to entice potential employees.
  • Hiding or downplaying negative aspects of the job: Not disclosing information about long hours, high stress levels, or poor working conditions.
  • Misrepresenting the company's financial stability: Claiming that the company is profitable and growing, when in reality it is facing financial difficulties.
  • Falsely representing the company culture: Claiming to have a supportive, positive work environment, but in reality, employees may experience harassment or discrimination.
  • Misrepresenting the company's policies and benefits: Promising certain benefits, such as flexible work hours or paid time off, but not following through on these promises.

A recent article in SHRM described how a company might misrepresent itself with respect to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), highlighting how most companies present themselves online as having an inclusive culture and impactful DE&I commitments. However, these employers then often ask inappropriate questions or engage in other practices that sour the candidates' opinion of the company.

Citing a study from Greenhouse, the article noted that nearly 33% of candidates have faced discriminatory questions during a job interview. This includes inappropriate questions about their age, race, marital status, gender, religion, parental status, sexual orientation, and pregnancy status. In addition, 42% of candidates have had their name mispronounced in a job interview, indicating that many companies are failing to create a positive and inclusive interview experience.

The risk here, of course, is that job seekers who pick up on this misrepresentation are much more likely to reject a job offer or leave your company in the future. In fact, nearly half (45%) of candidates say they’ve rejected positions after feeling they’d been catfished during the interview process.

To avoid this, employers need to be truthful about job responsibilities and what it’s like to work for their company. This could mean adjusting the language on the website to be more accurate, or educating recruiters on what information they should share during an interview. Companies should also pay special attention to training recruiters on the types of questions they should ask job seekers during an interview.

When employers and job seekers are honest, everyone benefits

For job candidates as well as the companies looking to hire them, honesty during the hiring process is immensely beneficial. When employers are transparent about what it's like to work for the company, it allows job seekers to make informed decisions about whether the job and company are a good fit for them. When job candidates are truthful, it helps the business ensure that they are hiring the right person for the job. In both cases, this type of honesty will ultimately lead to a more productive and successful workplace.

Thanks for reading — be sure to join the conversation on LinkedIn and let me know your thoughts on this topic!

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