Employer Insights

How Do You Dodge the Bogus Job Reference Bullet?

Manda Milling Posted by Manda
min read
Zan Am Ee Eb1g3 Xq Unsplash

When you conduct verbal references, do you accept a mobile phone number?  No, of course not, I hear you say. What about when the candidate advises their referee is on holidays and can't be reached any other way? Maybe? We had a 'rare as hen's teeth' payroll specialist come in for interview this week in consideration for a payroll contract. This was our opportunity to impress a new client who had engaged us for the first time. Of course, this candidate was snapped up and commenced work in the contract immediately after leaving our office, 'subject to acceptable references', of course. 

So as the candidate was on her way to commence the assignment, our consultant rang the referee. She was on her way to the snow, and therefore our consultant had to conduct the reference on her mobile. As is his habit, our consultant (who has been around the block more than a couple of times!) then sent a thank you direct message and an invitation to connect on the referee's LinkedIn account. He then received a return message to contact her immediately, as she had not given this reference and did not know anything about a call to her mobile. Say what?

Because of that small piece of due diligence conducted by our consultant, it transpired that not only had the reference been bogus, the 'referee' had also assumed the name and the identity of the legitimate line manager! After a conversation with the legitimate line manager, our consultant was advised that no reference would be forthcoming, as the candidate had been terminated the week before for alleged fraud, and an investigation was underway regarding a very large sum of missing money. A phone call was then placed to the candidate with this startling information, and she admitted to it on the spot. She then confirmed that a friend of hers was helping her out by posing as her referee. She was then asked to leave the assignment immediately. 

The next phone call made was to the still new client advising her of this situation and that the candidate was no longer available for the assignment or any future assignment with people2people. The kicker in all this is that the bogus referee gave her permission for her reference to be recorded (as this is standard reference taking practice at people2people), which possibly could be used in evidence against her. She has been complicit in fraudulent activity. So, if our consultant had not sent that innocuous thank you via LinkedIn, would we have been any the wiser? 

Maybe not in the short term, but the ramifications of a payroll specialist being investigated for an alleged misappropriation of nearly $100,000 would eventually become common knowledge. How would you recover this situation as the recruiter? How would you react as the hiring line manager? How often must this happen?