Are resumes always an accurate reflection of a candidate’s education and employment history? It seems not. More than one in five background checks on candidates in Asia identified inaccuracies, according to HireRight - a rate almost three times higher than the global average.

But there is some good news – the increasing use of employment checks is not only helping catch the cheats, but also deterring candidates from misrepresenting their employment histories.

“With the greater prevalence of background checking, candidates are realising that these things do come out in the wash and they need to get it right. Increased screening is seeing [resume] error rates come down across all countries and regions,” said Vincent Romano, managing director of Elliott Scott HR, Southeast Asia.

Background screening has long been adopted as best practice by employers elsewhere in the world, but it is only in the last decade that it has taken off in Asia, spearheaded by multinationals.

Tiffany Wong, associate director of the HR division at Robert Walters, said that 10 years ago it was not uncommon to come across candidates who falsified their education. While she is now seeing a lot less of that, it does still happen. She recently got a call from someone who had falsely claimed to be a university graduate on his resume and was panicking because he’d learned there would be a background check.

“I told him he should obviously declare that he didn’t have a degree, but he just withdrew his application. I think it [falsifying resumes] is more common in China,” says Wong.

HireRight found inaccuracies in 21.5 per cent of background checks conducted in APAC last year, down from 29 per cent the previous year. Some discrepancies were minor, but among the cases of genuine errors were instances of outright fraud.

Romano said genuine minor mistakes can be forgiven – such as listing job as beginning in June instead of July. And it’s not uncommon to find errors in job titles where the internal corporate title doesn’t match the external title – for example, HR manager as opposed to VP of human resources. But he has also come across cases of outright lies – in one instance, a woman applied for a job with the Singapore Government citing on her CV a degree from what turned out to be a fake Indian university. This was only discovered after she had got the job.

“It’s important that people do tighten up their CVs because if it’s a multinational they will check. The banks always check – compliance is very important after the global financial crisis – but so do insurance firms, financial services and the bigger companies, the Fortune 500 firms,” said Romano.

Sharmini Wainwright, managing director of Michael Page Hong Kong, said that with the increasing use of social media it’s important that candidates ensure their resume matches their LinkedIn profile. She suggests there are more inaccuracies in resumes in Asia because people change positions more frequently.

“People move two times more often than in other equally mature job markets, which complicates things. In Asia, the average tenure is one a half years compared to three years in Australia,” she says.

Another particularly Asian tendency is the reliance on written references: “Hong Kong is obsessed with written references. To me, these letters mean nothing - with their permission, we will call the previous employer and get a detailed reference,” said Wainwright.

Romano isn’t even convinced that reference checks are worthwhile: “If you can’t find two people to say something nice about you then it’s very bad”. He considers a professional screening a cost well spent, particularly for senior posts and positions of responsibility.

“Before a company starts investing in a person, they want to make sure that they are hiring the right person, said Wong. “It’s not a huge cost to carry out a check compared to what you stand to lose if you hire the wrong person.”

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