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The Rise in Applicants Suffering from the Pinocchio Syndrome Causing Havoc in Hiring Process

Authored By W.Barry Nixon, SHRM- CMP

Appropriately termed the “Pinocchio Syndrome,” hiring managers around the world are facing issues with applicants lying and misrepresenting their backgrounds during the hiring process, from educational and credential verifications, to employment history and criminal records checks.

In one such instance, a conviction was reported by 3rd Degree Screening, Inc., after a finding in the applicant’s background check disqualified her from working at a childcare center. The alleged denied the record, despite court records that proved the contrary. In the end, after extensive research, it was found that the applicant did not commit the original crime, but, rather, did steal the identity of her roommate to apply for the position.

This illustrates the importance of employers to conduct thorough background checks to verify the accuracy and truthfulness of information provided, as well as ensure that the applicant is competent, qualified and the right fit for the position and company.

A recent study revealed that 57% of employees in the U.S. will be looking for a new job this year, leaving their employers facing the cost of turnover, which can be estimated at 50 to 100% of the salary.

On the contrary, the Aberdeen Group recently reported that first year retention rates of new hires are 31% higher when a screening process has been completed.

Employers should keep in mind that part of this background screening process includes the verification of an applicant’s education. With more than 100,000 fake degrees sold annually in the United States  through problematic diploma mills, these red flags should serve as an alert to take a closer look and dig a little deeper for information: Duration of time to earn the degree; credits that were mostly earned for “life experience”; university addresses that go to a P.O. Box number or suite; a university location in which the applicant has never resided (consider online degree programs, however); or schools that are not accredited.

In addition to fake degrees, companies like The Reference Store and are offering to act as an employer to provide a great reference. Private Investigators should be prepared to identify if and when an applicant is using one of these services.

Companies should also consider continued screening throughout an employee’s tenure with services like Infinity Screens to ensure information is as current as possible. A pastor in the Southeastern part of North Carolina discovered the importance of screening even long-term volunteers and employees when a trusted attendee requested to begin working with youth, transporting kids using church vehicles. Fortunately, he contacted Edify Background Screening, who had previously paid the church a visit to share statistics on the “typical” sex-offender. The pastor was shocked to discover that his long-term regular attendee had been convicted of a sex-offense in another state years earlier, as well as a very recent DUI conviction.

It would be nice if the noses of job applicants, employees and volunteers would grow, just like Pinocchio’s did when he told a lie, but, unfortunately, it takes a bit more effort on an employer’s part to ensure their hires are everything they have reported to be, a discipline that is well worth the extra attention.

Post By Barry Nixon (262 Posts)

W. Barry Nixon is the COO, the leading background screening information portal and online worldwide directory of professional background screening firms and Suppliers to the background screening industry. He co-authored the landmark book, Background Screening & Investigations: Managing Hiring Risk from the HR and Security Perspective. He also is the publisher of award winning newsletters, The Background Buzz and The Global Background Screener, and the author of the Background Checks column in PI Magazine.

In addition, Barry is a past recipient of the elite ‘Top 25 Influential People in Security’ by Security Magazine and past Co-Chair, International Committee for the National Association for Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS). He currently serves as a Global Ambassador for NAPBS.

You can contact Barry at 1-949-770-5264 or online at