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A survey from Right Management reports that the cost of a bad hire can range from one to five times the salary of the individual. According to background screening leader HireRight, job seekers very often exaggerate, falsify credentials and outright lie on their job applications, especially in today’s competitive job market.

Thus, the chances of hiring the wrong person escalate. The prevalence of candidates lying on job applications and resumes, if not outright fraud, at the very least provides reason for small businesses to conduct comprehensive background checks.

Here are five of the most popular lies told by job candidates that employers should watch out for:

1. Exaggerating dates of past employment

As many as 34 percent of all resumes include discrepancies related to previous employment. Candidates often stretch the truth to cover gaps in their work history they may not want to explain — like the job seeker who extended his employment dates to cover a six month jail sentence! Sometimes discrepancies are honest mistakes, but employers should always verify employment dates.

2. Falsifying the degree or credential earned

There is roughly a 20 percent discrepancy rate in education qualifications provided by candidates. Often a resume will tout a degree when a candidate only took some classes, or exaggerate a major so the candidate appears more qualified for the job. Other candidates forge diplomas, claim degrees earned by family members or purchase degrees from diploma mills. The latter can be very difficult to identify, but knowledgeable background checking firms compile detailed databases of known diploma mills so frauds can be identified.

3. Inflating salary or title

It’s hardly surprising that a candidate might exaggerate these important facts to get a better job or a higher salary. That’s why companies typically contact previous employers to verify positions held by the candidate. Salary verification can be more difficult since many companies will not reveal this information. In such cases, asking the candidate for previous W-2 forms as proof is a wise step.

4. Concealing a criminal record

The most serious reason companies must perform background checks is to maintain a safe workplace. Roughly 11 percent of all background checks return a criminal record. Disturbingly, criminals are most attracted to companies where they know they will not be checked, therefore smaller businesses may be a target. Criminal applicants often try to avoid detection through nondisclosure or by changing details such as the spelling of their names or dates of birth.

5. Hiding a drug habit

Since 42 percent of Americans admit to using an illegal drug in their lifetime, screening candidates for drug use is a wise idea for small businesses. Drug users go to great lengths to beat these tests — such as adulterating urine samples — but today’s drug tests are increasingly sophisticated and can identify true positives and negatives despite the attempts of those trying to cover up drug use.

{by John Reese, HireRight, as featured in business know-how online}

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