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SHRM Foundation Research

     

Resume Fraud: Investigations of the Antecedents and Consequences of Fabrication, Embellishment, and Omission

Funded: June 2009     Completed: February 2012

Brian Dineen, Ph.D., University of Kentucky Research Foundation
Christine Henle, Ph.D., Colorado State University
Michelle Duffy, Ph.D., University of Minnesota

Executive Summary

Resume fraud, defined as job seekers’ intentional inclusion of false information (fabrication), overstatement of otherwise accurate information (embellishment), or omission of relevant information (omission) on resumes in an effort to deceive, is a growing problem for organizations. As a result, it is important to understand the antecedents (e.g., applicant personality, social pressures) and outcomes (e.g., increased likelihood of getting interviews) of resume fraud so that HR professionals can determine if they should invest resources to prevent or detect this behavior and which methods are more likely to be effective.

Drawing on self-regulatory theory, we conducted two studies of job seekers to determine the factors that predict the likelihood of engaging in resume fraud and whether these factors differ depending upon whether job seekers are early in their job search process or have been searching for a longer time. We also sought to determine if the factors that predict resume fraud could also result in increased job search effort in the form of more job applications submitted. In a third study, we surveyed recruiters to find out why they believe job seekers commit resume fraud and if these reasons differ from job seekers’. We also used attribution theory to assess whether recruiters attribute the causes of resume fraud as: (1) due to internal characteristics of job seekers versus external factors (e.g., social pressures), (2) controllable, and (3) stable over time versus temporary. Finally, we examined if these attributions impact how likely recruiters are to reject applicants for resume fraud.

KEY FINDINGS

• Job seekers who had committed deviant acts in the past were more likely to have fraudulent resumes.
• The pressure job seekers felt from others to try hard to find a job did not relate to the occurrence of resume fraud.
• Envy regarding how others are doing in their job search was related to increased resume fraud, especially when job seekers had been searching for a job for a longer time.
• Job seekers with lower levels of moral identity were more likely to commit resume fraud, especially when they had been searching for a job for a longer time.
• Earlier in their job search, job seekers who were envious of other job seekers or felt pressure from others to do well in their job search submitted more job applications (and were not as likely to commit resume fraud).
• In both earlier and later stages of their job search, job seekers who submitted more job applications received more job interviews. However, in the earlier stage, submitting more applications was even more likely to result in interviews if seekers committed resume fraud.
• The main reasons recruiters believe job seekers commit resume fraud are: they lack confidence in their job search ability and they have behaved in a deviant manner in the past. The least likely reasons are: job seekers behaved in an uncivil manner towards others in the past and they are envious of how other job seekers are doing. 
• Recruiters saw resume fraud as under the job seeker’s control, due to the seeker’s internal characteristics, and as a stable behavior.
• When recruiters viewed resume fraud as controllable, internal, or stable, they were more likely to believe the reason for current resume fraud was that job seekers did it in the past.
• When recruiters perceived resume fraud as external, uncontrollable, or temporary, they were more likely to believe it is motivated by an unfavorable labor market.
• Recruiters reported that they would be more likely to reject applicants for resume fraud when they perceived it as internal, stable, or controllable.

IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE

Our findings have practical applications for HR professionals. First, HR professionals can use our study to argue that background verification services are essential and to justify related expenses. Job seekers who engage in resume fraud are more likely to get first interviews as well as behave in a deviant manner once on the job given their past history of deviant behavior. Second, HR professionals should be especially aware of job seekers with lower moral identity and patterns of past deviant behavior, as these individuals are more likely to falsify their resumes. That is, because we found that resume fraud leads to better job search success (i.e., interviews), and previous research indicates that individuals with lower moral identity and who have behaved in a deviant manner in the past are more likely to make unethical decisions and less likely to engage in prosocial behaviors, it is critical to refrain from selecting those who engage in it. Third, organizations may want to find ways to enhance job seekers' social comparisons, thus reducing feelings of envy. Frustrated job seekers might include misinformation on their resumes simply because they envy their peers for attaining better job search outcomes. Efforts to reduce envy (e.g., providing an accurate picture of cohort-wide job search patterns and outcomes) might decrease resume fraud. Fourth, our research might inform job placement offices, career counselors, and others who assist job seekers about the potential triggers of resume fraud. From a grassroots perspective, our results may enable professionals to more readily identify individuals who might be at risk for committing resume fraud and counsel them appropriately. Finally, the results from the recruiter survey show that recruiters do not always accurately assess why job seekers engage in resume fraud. This is important because their attributions for resume fraud influence how they respond to it. Recruiters need to be educated on the causes of resume fraud as well as why they should reject those caught with falsified resumes, given that these prehire fraudulent behaviors may translate into negative acts once on the job.

Study Methods

We recruited 369 unemployed job seekers (Study 1) and 272 recruiters (Study 3) from an online job board to complete a survey about their resume fraud and perceptions of resume fraud, respectively. For Study 2, we surveyed 51 Masters Students five times over an 18 month period as they engaged in an early job search for an internship and in a later search for a post-graduation job.

View the full list of SHRM Foundation funded research.