Background Check Red Flags



Want to know what types of red flags are most often found on résumés and employment applications? CRI Group’s EmploySmart™ experts provided some statistics on their latest pre- and post-employment screening engagements, and they give insights into where companies are most vulnerable in the hiring process.

The operations team found that providing incorrect employment details is the most common red flag, as it was uncovered in about 4.5 percent of background screenings. This is followed by providing incorrect education degree details as well as having adverse media (unfavorable news or online mentions), both at 2.33 percent.

Most employers would probably say that when it comes to educational background, the only thing worse than providing incorrect degree information would be outright claiming a fake degree – which occurred in nearly 2 percent of cases. Other red flags included having a criminal record (1.5 percent), a civil litigation record (1.27 percent), and providing a fake address (also 1.27 percent). To round out the findings, the operations team found bankruptcy records, fake certificates and negative references among 0.85 percent of those screened.

Deception among job seekers is real. Anytime someone intentionally provides false information in their résumé, they are committing résumé fraud – usually in the hopes of gaining a competitive edge in the hiring process. “There are even business services out there that will knowingly assist candidates with changing their résumé in this way, such as offering advice on how to hide employment gaps or how to add false information that looks realistic. Some will even provide fake transcripts and fake letters of recommendation” (HR Daily Advisor, 2018).

The same goes for fabrications on an application. It can occur anywhere in the process, and the candidate will likely continue to misrepresent themselves in the interview process to maintain their fraud. As mentioned above, helping candidates embellish or even fabricate credentials has become a business unto itself. “On the surface, these appear to be candidates taking desperate measures. But the candidates themselves may not be the only ones at fault. As recruitment has migrated online and become automated … opportunities for scammers have arisen. Professional recruiters, who get placement fees when they land candidates in jobs, have a clear incentive to game the system, Zhao says. They are ‘middlemen who can make significant profit by misrepresenting clients’” (, 2019).

There is only one clear remedy and protection method to combat this type of fraud: thorough and comprehensive background checks. Most organizations, however, don’t have the time, resources, or the expertise to conduct the needed level of background screening on their own. This is where a robust pre-employment background screening service helps organizations worldwide avoid making uninformed and potentially harmful hiring decisions. These checks include the following:

  • Address verification – one of the red flags discussed above.
  • Identity verification – what are they hiding? Falsifying one’s identity is a major red flag.
  • Previous employment verification – candidates might claim false employment to beef up their résumés.
  • Education & credential verification – screeners check degrees and education history.
  • Local language media check – what is uncovered about the candidate in news reports?
  • Credit verification & financial history – candidates who conceal financial problems can be a fraud risk (local privacy laws apply).
  • Civil litigation record check – lawsuits can indicate red flags, background screening will uncover the details.
  • Bankruptcy record check – when hiring someone for a financial or leadership position, it’s important to know if they have bankruptcy filings.
  • International criminal record check – checking criminal records is essential for the safety of your employees and your business.

These are just a few of the essential checks that are part of the background screening process.