Photo: AP
Photo: AP

Job application fraud at a five-year high

Job application-related frauds rose to 10.5% in 2014 and 11.6% in 2015 from 10% in 2011, 2012 and 2013, according to a First Advantage study

New Delhi: Every year, around 1,200 potential employees at Birlasoft (India) Ltd undergo a massive exercise in background screening, or claims made in their applications. And this exercise, says Siby Joseph, general manager (human resources), has helped the Noida-based information technology (IT) services company maintain “credibility in front of our sensitive clients".

“As an IT services company with clients in sectors like banking, insurance and manufacturing sectors, our potential employees need to be extra cautious, trustworthy to not hurt the brand image of the company as well as clients. Between job offers and joining date, we run eight key checks on candidates," said Joseph.

“And if he or she fails during background screening, we say ‘sorry’. Such checks are now part of the job offer agreements," said the HR manager.

Birlasoft is among a number of companies that have become increasingly particular about the need to check their employees’ background. They have good reason to be wary—a fresh study finds that 2015 was the worst year for frauds by job seekers in the last five years.

Discrepancies, including forgeries in education and employment credentials in job applications in India, fell slightly to 11.4% in the last quarter of the 2015 calendar year in comparison to the previous three quarters.

But while in 2011, 2012 and 2013, overall job application-related frauds remained at 10%, they rose to 10.5% in 2014 and 11.6% in 2015, according to the report by global background screening firm First Advantage.

This means that of all the applicants First Advantage screened on behalf of companies in 2015, at least 11.6% reported some kind of forgery related to employment, address, education or some other personal credentials. The company screened some 2.8 million candidates in 2015, or an average of 700,000 every quarter.

The report said IT and banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) were the key sectors where job seekers were most liberal in window-dressing their applications. These sectors were followed by telecom.

“BFSI, IT or telecom companies in India are much more aware about checks and conducting screening to avoid any damage to their brand image and that of their clients. If you are an IT company and your employee’s action has impacted the image of a client then you will lose the client and the revenue," said Purushotam Savlani, managing director of First Advantage.

In the last quarter of 2015 (October-December), some 38% of the total frauds detected by the company were in the BFSI sector, followed by 23% in IT and 15% in telecoms.

A look at the fraud rate among all the candidates who have been verified shows that telecom (31%), engineering (21%) and retail (16%) were the top sectors in terms of reporting job-related discrepancies.

Sixty-five per cent of the total forgery cases detected during October-December 2015 were in the 22-30 year age group or at the junior management level.

“Companies are running a background check on all fresh entrants and this is perhaps the biggest employee grouping in any big company," said Savlani, who added that top executives are not above dressing up their credentials either.

According to the survey, the discrepancy rate is high among all age groups. So if 11.3% of all those in the 22-30 year age group were detected to have fudged their background, the proportion was 16.4% among the 31-40 age group, 17.4% among the 41-50 age group and 20.3% among those aged 51 and above.

“Senior executives generally think that nobody will check their credentials as it was not a trend during their young days. Suddenly, they face the reality as companies are now going for a check on all," said Savlani.

Joseph of Birlasoft agreed: “Senior or junior, screening the background is now a round-the-clock exercise and top executives entering a company are not immune."

Joseph said Birlasoft was now screening executives on eight parameters, including education, employment history, address, criminal antecedents and leadership role claims.

How long back should a company go while scanning an executive’s history? “We do it for seven years. If you have not done a fraud in 7 years, it’s unlikely that you will do anything now," said Joseph.

Savlani said the survey found that in 2015, job-related discrepancies kept rising with every quarter. If 52% of all verified candidates reported discrepancies in January-March, it reached 59.3% during October-December. During the same period, address-related discrepancies were found in 12.3% of the cases, education in 5.1% and other discrepancies in 23.2% cases.

In terms of regions, south India reported the highest number of frauds related to employment (36%) and address (40%) while north India topped in frauds related to education at 36% in the last quarter of 2015. Among states, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh reported the most discrepancies.