They Say It's the Coverup That Gets You Nailed

An organization has been telling me about a job they’re trying to fill, and while they want me to be careful to keep them anonymous, it is fascinating.

It’s a web manager type job that one would think would offer up a ton of candidates, as it’s located in a city where the job market is currently seen as employer-friendly, especially in the creative-editorial-marketing fields.

They’ve had a hard time finding someone (partly, from what I can tell, due to the manager and recruiter not totally understanding each other and what is wanted for the role), but finally did find someone a couple weeks ago. Someone they were excited about — not perfect, but certainly right up the alley of what they were looking for. 

The background-checking company, in a routine check of the person’s education experience, was told by the (prestigious) college the person attended that there was no record of their graduation. The background-checking firm told the employer, who asked the candidate what was up with that. They didn’t get a clear answer other than a half-hearted response that it may have been a mistake. 

The person has a social media following and a whole career and contacts and a resume and what not — the resume stating they received a B.A. degree. Apparently, they didn’t.

It was an odd lie. I’d think if you didn’t graduate, you might list the college you attended, but not lie. Perhaps you’d not say “B.A.” and hope the employer either didn’t mind that you didn’t graduate, or didn’t notice. In other words, I like to think most people would omit truthfully, not lie outright. 

The hiring process and interviews and all started anew.

A couple days ago I asked how that was going. And they told me that despite the initial trouble filling the job, a second great candidate had emerged. As far as this new person goes — the company was at least, maybe more, excited about them than they were the first candidate. Everything went great — the personality/profile test, the interviews, and so on.

The background check began. The university had a record of their attendance in college. But – no evidence of a diploma, according to the background-checkers.

The hiring organization emailed the candidate, who emailed back that it must have been a mistake, they’d look into it, and by the way, the job they’re currently in is going well, they’re going to stick with it after all, so thanks for the interest.

Again, this second candidate seemed to have been caught in a significant lie — not a short omission of an “employment gap” or slight stretch of dates or a tinkering around with a title (say, mentioning they were a VP and not a regional VP) but an outright fib, apparently easily caught by a basic background check.

The company emailed me to say that “it was so needless in both cases. Had either/both of them just listed on their resume that they attended their universities but did not put down that a degree was awarded, it would have been fine w/us.”

They’re back to square one. They asked me if I knew why it’s so hard to find good people in a weak job market. I didn’t have a great answer; although I’ve read through the years about the many high-profile cases of people in high-up jobs being caught lying on their resumes, these two in a row seemed quite unusual. I’ll blog again about them when they update me on this hiring process.