With the proliferation of generative AI tools, including tools built specifically for resume creation, it’s easier than it’s ever been for people to inflate their resumes or candidate profiles. With just a few clicks and taps, anyone can create professional-ish text full of qualifications that sound impressive if not too good to be true. 

The rapid rise in fake or bloated candidate profiles in job applications is creating new challenges for businesses, hiring managers, HR professionals, and recruiters. Larger businesses face the biggest hurdles here: as we’ll explain, the difficulty isn’t as much identifying these profiles, but doing so on a scale. 

Putting the Problem in Context

Fake and bloated candidate profiles aren’t exactly new: people have been padding resumes as long as resumes have been a thing. Claiming to have a degree or credential or to have attended a prestigious college, exaggerating accomplishments within a real past job role, and even creating entirely fictional entries somewhere in the job history — it’s an open secret that these are commonplace. 

Of course, there’s the famous example of Frank Abagnale, whose real-world behavior (and success, for a time) was so notable that it even got the Hollywood treatment. 

And for as many stories as you’ll find of high-profile executives who get caught for these kinds of actions, it’s a safe bet that exponentially lower-profile professionals have done the same. 

So, what’s changed in the last couple of years? 

The barrier to entry. 

It’s just much easier to do these things today, and in a way that more easily passes initial scrutiny. 

AI Out of Control?

What’s new has a whole lot to do with the generative AI frenzy. There’s an entire family of paid resume-building tools out there (like this one) that ask the candidate to supply a job title, then the AI “magically” builds a set of accomplishments for that job title — based on keyword relevance alone, with absolutely no consideration of whether the person did anything of the sort while working that job. (Several of the tools we surveyed didn’t even give the candidate the opportunity to list the details of their own accomplishments!) 

The Good News: Second-Level Fraud Is Still Extremely Difficult

The good news for businesses and hiring managers is that while creating this kind of material is easy, backing it up remains quite difficult. 

That’s because someone who’s trying to sneak through with a fake candidate profile will almost certainly not have the resources to backfill supporting material. Fake or fraudulent references are usually easy to discover with a small bit of investigation. Fraudulent job history claims are similar (if a point of contact is required in the job application). 

There are other tools that can help here as well, but for now we’ll sum it up this way: creating a convincing fraudulent resume is much easier today than a decade ago. But creating an entire persona with a believable job and education history with references that check out? That takes serious resources nearly on the level of state-sponsored spycraft, or (as in the famous case of Abagnale) incredible personal talent and gravitas. 

The problem for businesses and recruiters is that the vetting process required for identifying and filtering out candidates like these remains highly manual, time-consuming, and difficult to scale. 

Techniques for Identifying Fraudulent or Exaggerated Candidate Profiles

We’ll get to the issue of scalability in a moment, but first let’s talk about the strategies that expert recruiters use to identify and eliminate fraudulent or exaggerated candidate profiles and job applications.


1. Watch for keyword overload

Applicants know they live in the age of applicant tracking systems (ATS), and they know that some of these systems are automatically rejecting resumes without the right percentage of relevant keywords. 

The solution, they assume, is to stuff their resume to the gills with potentially relevant keywords. However, it’s usually possible with a quick read to tell the difference between a resume written with ATS/keywords in mind and one written to fool such systems regardless of actual qualifications or ability. 

Related: watch out for resumes with terms and keywords that seem to be going after an impossibly wide slice of an industry. No one’s an expert in everything.


2. Consider the digital trail

Well-qualified candidates for highly compensated positions will almost always have a digital trail. Check out whether the digital trail makes sense for the claims given. Consider it a massive red flag when you encounter an applicant with minimal or zero connections to the institutions, and employers claimed on a candidate profile. 

For example, a professional who went to Harvard will almost certainly count numerous other Harvard alums as members of their network, and this isn’t hard to see on LinkedIn.


3. Check the references

References are hard to spoof convincingly. Many times, candidates will use friends or family as their references for fraudulent roles. It’s usually not hard to compare references and their contact information with what’s been provided. For example: 

  • Could that phone number reasonably belong to the claimed business? 
  • Is that email address a legitimate business address? 
  • Is there anyone on LinkedIn by the reference’s name who’s in the role the applicant claims? 

With a little social engineering, a fraudulent applicant may be able to fake some elements here. But it’s nearly impossible to fake them all fully.


4. Use technical assessments where possible

Technical assessments are a strong option for many roles, especially within the technology and software sectors. These tests are a great way to thin the herd, so to speak it doesn’t matter what someone claims on a resume if they can’t demonstrate aptitude in the work itself. 

Technical assessments can suffer from the same scalability problems, but modern solutions like the ones offered through Pumex help businesses automate and scale technical assessments.


5. Remember the power of the interview

Last, remember the power of a live interview: someone who generated their qualifications via ChatGPT probably won’t be able to speak confidently and passionately about those qualifications or the relevant work history. Someone who worked that job or has that qualification can speak naturally and effortlessly about it. 

The Best Solution: Rely on the Experts

All these tips are actionable and can help individual hiring managers win now through a handful of applications. 

But what about situations where you get a thousand applicants for a single job posting? What about larger companies and enterprise businesses hiring hundreds or even thousands of jobs at a time? These tips alone aren’t enough to stay ahead of the deluge of applicants and job postings. 

The best solution is to rely on an expert, tech-powered staffing service, such as what we provide at Pumex. Pumex combines deep human expertise in staffing and recruiting with proprietary digital tools that work together to solve your hiring and recruiting challenges. 

We provide more than just the tools to work through piles of resumes. We handle as much of the process as you want us to take care of background checks, work verification, reference checks, matching resumes to LinkedIn profiles, highly targeted technical assessments, videos of technical interviews, and matching candidates to a verified ID. 

The five tips we provided above are just a few of the processes that we do daily, taking the pressure off of clients and allowing them to focus on moving business forward — not deciding which resumes are legit and which are inflated or fake. 

By working with Pumex, you gain a partner with a trained team of experts and the tools necessary to ensure 100% authentic candidates, drastically cutting down your vetting process and allowing you to focus only on interviewing relevant candidates. 

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