Employed adults polled have taken advantage of flaws in the reference checking process to boost chances of landing a job

A staggering number of respondents have lied to HR managers and recruiters according to research released by Xref, the human resources technology company, with 45 percent of respondents admitting to having lied to a potential employer.

The research, which examined the recruitment process in the UK – with a specific focus on reference checking – surveyed more than 1,000 18- 39 years-olds who are currently employed in the UK and have applied for a job in the last two years*.

The most common embellishments used by potential recruits to deceive employers was exaggerating their work experience (36 percent), followed by exaggerating their qualifications (28 percent).

“As an employer, you know there’s always a risk that people change their work dates or their job title”, said Lee-Martin Seymour, founder and CEO of Xref. “This kind of deception tends to appear as exaggerated qualifications or misleading professional experience. What’s most worrying is that the real figures are probably much higher as our stats only reflect the behaviour that people were willing to admit to.”

That nearly 45 percent of recruits surveyed have bent the truth on their CVs, is alarming for businesses, recruiters and HR managers alike, but it becomes even more concerning as 48 percent of respondents admitted they had also exploited flaws in the reference checking process that follows, usually conducted by phone or email, to improve their chances of getting a job.

The most common methods adopted by candidates to deceive employers during the reference checking phase are; choosing someone who will give a good reference, rather than the most appropriate person (32 percent) and avoiding choosing someone who might give a bad reference (32 percent).

One of the most shocking findings from the research was that more than one in five respondents admitted they’d encouraged a referee to lie on their behalf –  21 percent had asked a referee to exaggerate their previous experience, while the same percentage had asked their referee to pretend to be someone they were not.

The research also found that 30 percent of those that had acted as a referee had been asked potentially discriminatory questions about the candidate. This includes those who had been asked for the candidate’s age (25 percent), and their marital status (14 percent).

Recruiters however are not helping themselves to tackle duplicitous candidates. According to the research, only 42% of those surveyed said they knew their referee had actually been contacted for their most recent job application, implying that the majority of CVs are not passing through reference screening at all.

Lee-Martin Seymour said:

“Given how time consuming chasing reference checks can be and the fact that it’s often left to the most junior person on the team – or even someone with no experience in HR – this can lead to all kinds of errors; from ignoring the reference checking process entirely, to rushing the process, or not knowing the correct questions to ask,”

“These findings have further validated our belief of the real need in the UK for a better approach to recruitment that to avoids fraud, hiring based on inaccurate data and ultimately, money wasted on unsuitable employees.”

*All research was conducted by OnePoll in February 2017.

About Xref

Xref is a secure, cloud-based candidate referencing platform. Launched in Australia in 2011, Xref set out to solve a significant pain point for HR managers and recruiters – the way candidate feedback is collected. Headquartered in Sydney, Xref also operates in Singapore, UK, New Zealand and Canada.

Xref transforms reference checking to add strategic value to the hiring process, while saving time and money for employers and protecting them from breaches of privacy, discrimination and reference fraud. In February 2016, Xref commenced trading on the Australian Securities Exchange under trading code XF1.





Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.