Big little lies? Discrepancies in job applications rife in Singapore
While not surprised by latest findings, experts disagree on whether problem is getting worse
When news broke earlier this year about American Mikhy Farrera-Brochez and his role in the HIV Registry data leak, the fact that he used fake educational certificates to secure lecturing jobs here riled many people.
The New Paper also reported that from 2016 to 2018, 33 foreigners were nabbed for submitting fake certificates when applying for work passes.
Local and foreign job seekers have also used less egregious ways to puff up their credentials, such as inflating job titles and salaries or lying about the periods they were jobless.
Background-screening firms have floated differing statistics, but most agree that discrepancies between what candidates declare in job applications and what is officially on record continue to be rife.
A recent study by global background screening firm First Advantage found three in 10 job applications analysed here last year had discrepancies such as employment history, education and financial status.
Singapore had the highest discrepancy rate among nine Asia-Pacific countries, and it has risen over the past two years.
The report also named the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Malaysia as hotbeds of dishonesty.
Ms Linda Teo, country manager for human resource consultancy ManpowerGroup Singapore, said the study's results are not shocking as technological advancements have made it easier to falsify credentials.
"Candidates, both local and foreign, feel pressured to stand out in their resumes due to the strong competition for attractive jobs in Singapore, thus some may over-inflate their credentials or experience."
COVER UP GAPS
She said candidates also alter their previous employment periods to cover up gaps, which may be queried by hiring managers.
Others may rephrase job titles to make them sound more relevant, or include skills and keywords in resumes to dupe screening software.
Mr Kannan Chettiar, managing director of background screening firm Avvanz, sees discrepancies in about 30 to 35 per cent of resumes, but disagreed that the situation here was any worse than in other countries.
He said: "Discrepancies are consistently high in most countries. It is just that they are high for different reasons."
Highlighting similar tactics as Ms Teo, Mr Chettiar said employment and education-related discrepancies are more typical in developed economies like Singapore and Hong Kong, where job markets are tough.
He does not foresee the number of discrepancies going down any time soon.
At the same time, more companies are conducting background checks, and with more tools and techniques available, background screeners can uncover more discrepancies.
HireRight's APAC general manager Ko Hui Yen is more optimistic.
In its own study published this month, the background screening firm found the overall discrepancy rate here fell to 18.3 per cent last year from 20.1 per cent in 2017.
Attributing the divergence to the different ways used by firms to identify discrepancies, Ms Ko said HireRight's consistently show discrepancies are in decline across the board.
"As more businesses commit to a culture of safety and security, ensuring a positive and fair working environment for all, we will see discrepancy rates improve over time," she added.
Recent cases of resume fraud
A 49-year-old man was sentenced to two years and 11 months' jail and fined $1,600 for using fake qualifications to get civil engineering jobs at 38 companies between 2013 and 2017. He had only a Primary School Leaving Examination certificate but some of the companies had paid him a salary of up to $9,000 monthly.
A lawyer, now 30, was fined $10,000 last year and disbarred this year for falsifying her law degree certificate and transcript on two occasions to improve her chances of getting a job.
A business school owner, who ran a scam selling fake degree programmes between 2004 and 2008, was sentenced to five and a half years in jail after he cheated about $2.2 million from hundreds of students.
NUS was forced to relook its recruitment process after a former medicine faculty member was found to have faked his credentials. A pre-appointment review of his work by West Virginia University in 2012 revealed the fraud.
A man, then 34, was jailed for a year after he was found to have bought fake degrees in human resource management from the Florida International University online for about $8,000.