Oswald Letter

Fake job references—what’s the world coming to?!

Resumeby Dan Oswald

The other day I heard about a company that provides fake references for job applicants, renters, and others. And from what I understand, the length it goes to in order to “lie” on behalf of its clients is unbelievable—even if the references it provides are believable.

This company will provide you with a reference from a person who works for a company that is completely fabricated. You get to choose the area code from which the reference will come, along with the industry in which you work. It guarantees the company will pass the sniff test. That is, when someone searches the Internet for your fake employer, she will find a company complete with an address and driving directions.

The company provides the same type of service for renters. Need to show employment to rent that house or apartment? No worries. You don’t need a job; you just need someone to say you are gainfully employed. This company will do that for you.

It’s hard to believe a ruse this elaborate really works. What’s the saying? “What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” Can you imagine a job applicant lying in an interview by trying to match his work history to a company at which he never worked and learned about only from a conversation with the liars who are providing the reference? Simple questions about management, the area in which the company supposedly is located, or its products and services could completely derail the interview.

I must admit that when I heard about this service, I was incensed. It makes me incredibly angry that a company would be in business to lie on behalf of its customers. While I assume it’s not illegal to provide false references for job applicants, it’s certainly unethical and immoral. What does it tell its employees when it hires them?

I can imagine the company’s job ad reads something like this:

Can you lie through your teeth while you smile? Have you been telling fish stories since you were a child? Are you willing to lie unabashedly on behalf of strangers? If so, do we have a job for you! We’re a growing company looking for talented professional liars. The better you can lie, the bigger the opportunities are with our company. So if you’re a liar, we want you. Apply today! (And if you don’t have any references, we can help with that, too.)

If a great working relationship is based on trust, what must this company be like? I can’t imagine the employees trust their employer—its whole business model is predicated on lying. And on the other hand, the employer can’t trust the employees—they lie for a living. What could anyone believe?

And what’s the company’s mission statement—“We strive to be the best liars in the business” or “We won’t rest until every unqualified job applicant has a host of fake references on which to rely”?

As I write this, I become angrier with every sentence. Imagine the company provides a reference for a supposed experienced heavy equipment operator. The applicant gets the job based on the glowing reference. The problem is the person has never operated heavy equipment in his life. He just liked the sound of the job and the salary associated with it. The first day on the job, he drives a bulldozer through a building or—worse yet—injures someone else because of his complete lack of experience. Is our friendly reference provider liable in any way for its part in this? I sure hope so!

I’m not sure what it says about our society that a company like this can exist, but in my opinion, it’s not good. Here’s hoping that your applicants have real references from real people at real companies! And if you’re afraid I’ve lied about all of this, here’s the link to the company’s site: www.careerexcuse.com. Of course, I guess they could be lying about even providing the service.

9 thoughts on “Fake job references—what’s the world coming to?!”

  1. Hello, Dan.

    I have appreciated your column for several years now as you bring very positive energy and thoughtful comments on diverse information to those of us working in Human Resources. I have, unfortunately, known many gifted liars. These are individuals who appear better at their skills of deception and deceit than those of us committed to the truth for the sake of personal, community, or corporate integrity.

    I have yet to see an employment application form that does not include the ‘liar’s clause’, which informs the applicant that any form of lying discovered before, during, or after the process is applicable for immediate dismissal.

    A lot of candidate fiction can be sorted out from non-fiction through careful and thorough reference checks. I love to do the checks because I have often learned of many valuable qualities in our candidates. There also have been times that I have seen applications, resumes, and references that were creative writing, nothing more.

    Clear, consistent, and careful interviewing is imperative, along with reference checking. However much the “Liars’ Club” may create an aura, people often reveal themselves in many ways when we act carefully and do not “fall in love” with a candidate. Careful listening and observation can provide unexpected information on a candidate being a jewel or not.

    Sherlock Holmes would tell us that we spend too much time with casual ‘seeing’ and little or no time in true observation of people, situations, or even life.

    With this company offering a service that is morally reprehensible, we have an opportunity to review our hiring processes. Rewards for demonstrated integrity and swift termination at the time we discover it offers a clear, strong message for corporate values, if practiced consistently. It can be extremely helpful in diminishing many negative impulses.

    It will be fascinating to discover if a percentage of the consumers for these devious products will expect the company to indemnify them against loss of employment (should the product fail, and they are caught out for lying, then immediately fired). Such irony!

    Sadly, I believe that many people will take advantage of these tools, cheating themselves and others, while making excuses for their choices. I do wonder if polygraph testing will grow in general acceptance. Perhaps both sides will become growth industries.

    This is a remarkably bizarre situation. We have an intense challenge to increase our professional, mental, emotional, and spiritual resources in dealing with it.

    Thank you for warning us about this reprehensible situation.

    Sherrill Hendrick, PHR

  2. I am your ardent fan and await your blogs eagerly. Normally I do not offer comments but on this I could not resist expressing my views.
    Being an HR senior, I have been engaged in hiring and never felt the need to first ensure the credentials of the source – manpower supplier agency -from where applications emerged. With what you now have said, the need for such vigilance has emerged thus leading to novel interventions.
    Liars can go to any extent !

  3. I enjoy reading your articles. Thank you for your thoughtful insight. Our company filter does not allow access to the website link listed in your article. There is a small sense of satisfaction that the website is recognized as containing questionable content.

  4. Appalling! They even make it appear they are backed by The Wall Street Journal, Forbes Magazine, ABC 20/20, and others! Thank you for alerting HR professionals to this scam. It’s hard to believe they are so blatantly fraudulent. Fortunately, HR professionals rely very little on references. Work experience and education are a different matter, but my suspicion is, individuals who use this service will likely continue to face worsening employment and credit issues throughout their lifetime.

  5. I was and still am- incredulous and furious after reading this! This is disastrous to all industries and non-profits. Can this service be shut down? A law needs to be passed to make this illegal- quickly!

  6. While I agree this is a sad comment on our society, I can also sympathize with someone who is in a desparate situation and references end up being a matter of life or death in getting a job or renting a home. My husband was the victim of a crazy, conniving employer who was badly managing his family’s company and used my husband as a scapegoat in order to save face with his family and get out of paying venders. He went so far as to sue my husband and although my husband won the lawsuit (and asked for no money or compensation, unfortunately) he can now never use that company as a reference. That was his best reference, having worked his butt off for them for many years. He decided to completely get out of that business and now works a lesser position for much less money to avoid that situation ever again.

    It is also very common, in the area I live in anyway, for landlords to do whatever it takes to keep a renters deposit, which includes ruining they’re rental history in order to do so. Renters rarely win in an argument against a landlord and usually can’t afford to hire a lawyer to work on their behalf.

    So the coin flips both ways. I’m sure there are many dishonest workers and renters out there using this type of service but I feel there are just as many desparate victims of circumstance that use it to help them get back in the game. Just offering a different perspective.

  7. This type of business is by no means new. They have been in existence in some way, shape or form for many years. In fact, I actually have seen similar businesses portrayed on TV shows or in books.

  8. So what you’re saying is that what SHOULD happen to anyone who for legitimate reasons doesn’t have any real recent-enough verifiable-enough work experience or references, is that they remain unemployable for the rest of their lives. Just lay down and die and decrease the surplus population, is that it?! This attitude towards hiring people who are DESERVING of jobs so that they can get OUT of their problems (debt, bankruptcy, homelessness, etc) is what’s CAUSING the unemployability and homelessness of otherwise decent, educated, normal, formerly-middle-class people. You people SUCK. You should all be sued for false advertising for having required the damn references and work experience in the first place.

  9. Penny, I am just suggesting that people NOT use lies and deceit in order to obtain a job. I am also both disappointed and appalled that a company would exist solely to perpetuate those lies and deception. You might think that it’s acceptable employing any means to secure a job but I don’t. It’s that simple.

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