5 Fake Candidate Horror Stories – And How to Escape a Bad Hire

by iSphere on June 21, 2022 in Hiring Challenges

Ever had a bad dream that you couldn’t wake from? One nightmare replaces another and another until you wonder if you’ll ever escape? That’s how many business leaders and hiring managers are describing the current market, especially as they routinely encounter applicants who look great on paper, but in a twist reveal, were too good to be true all along.

Yes, there’s still great IT talent out there (we place them all the time) but even the iSphere team is running into our fair share of bogus applicants. The trick is separating the candidates who will be a cash cow for your business from a sea of Anna Sorokins out there.

Not long ago, we provided how to identify fake candidates in recruitment, but that’s only the start of what needs to be on your radar. Recently, our recruiters and account managers sat down to talk about some of their worst fake candidate horror stories and here’s what they had to say.

The Technical Issues Are Too Convenient

Stacy Matlock – Client Account Manager

One manager was receiving all these fake candidates from other vendors, but things were looking good when we were guiding her through the process with a specific candidate. She interviewed the person, really liked them, and then scheduled a second interview. We started to have technical difficulties getting on the call, which is one of the typical telltale signs.

The candidate’s camera was not working and neither was the audio. We finally got the candidate connected, told her it was okay to calm herself before she responded, and then she dropped off completely. We didn’t hear a single word from her afterwards and found out she was fake when we stumbled upon her second LinkedIn profile.

We’ve also had candidates claiming issues, typically a blurry camera (which they achieve by covering the lens with Vaseline), which makes it harder to tell that their audio isn’t lining up with their lip movements. Really, they’re having someone answer for them just offscreen – George describes it as being like bad lip-syncing from old Japanese English-dubbed movies and you’ll know it when you see it.

The Details Don’t Add Up

George Walker, Managing Partner

I had an interesting resume recently which had all the markings of fraud. This person had a Filipino name, a degree from a school in Dubai, a work history with Apple and Amazon, a current job in Orlando, and a single spoken language: Arabic. Though this crazy combination is not impossible, all together they are certainly improbable and didn’t add up in my gut. However, I at least thought I’d test the waters.

When I got this person on a call and asked them questions to confirm anything, they went totally silent. I was like, what is going on here? When information just doesn’t add up, that’s usually a major warning sign. You don’t have to drop the candidate like you would a uranium rod, but you should be DEFCON 1.

The LinkedIn Story Is Shaky

Stacy Matlock – Client Account Manager

I spoke with a client who found a second LinkedIn profile for her candidate. One LinkedIn profile reflected the candidate’s resume and the other showed the person was much more junior, still pursuing her master’s at the University of Houston.

Anyway, if you start searching for candidates and they have multiple LinkedIn profiles, check for the differences. You’ll usually find that one LinkedIn profile matches exactly the resume and experiences you’ve been given and one is completely different, but it matches the picture and you can tell it is the same person.

Or sometimes, they’ll say they don’t have a profile at all. That’s where the detective work starts for me. Yesterday, Lisa and I had a candidate who said he didn’t have a LinkedIn profile. I just searched his name – he had an uncommon name – and I found two profiles on LinkedIn. He only had eight connections, another with more. Looking at his job history on his LinkedIn profile showed that it was a little bit like his resume, but the LinkedIn profile said something about Deloitte and that was nowhere on his resume. Not something I’d leave off the table. The second profile showed he was a student (a common trend among this type of fakery).

The Fear of Being Caught Scares Them Off

Julie Westhoff, Sr. IT Recruiter

TechServe Alliance told us to get in front of candidates and say, “We catch all fake candidates. We know how to do it and we have a rigorous process.” A third of fraudulent candidates will drop out just because of what you said. That’s a lot to drop off where you don’t have to weed through candidates who don’t fulfill your criteria.

It’s like putting certain locks on your doors after a burglary. It’s not that shady people can’t get in, but if you make it even a little harder, many will go to the next house where it’s easier to get what they want. Plus, if they are people trying to get spouses into the country on work visas, they’ll back off for fear of crossing wires with DHS.

The References Are Off Base

George Walker, Managing Partner

I just came through one on Terefic, the reference checking platform, and the resume listed that the candidate worked at ConocoPhillips and Amazon. All the references, every one of them is at a Gmail address or at something like “” This was extra dumb and highly suspect. Few of the names matched up with anybody you could find at either company. If you are a manager at ConocoPhillips, you should be able to come up with a ConocoPhillips address for a reference – if a candidate actually did and can’t get references, that probably says something about their work ethic or “charming personality.”

Julie Westhoff, Sr. IT Recruiter

To build on what George was saying, I’d rather have the manager say they won’t give me a reference if I call them. At least I know they are a real person and they worked there. Instead of those instances when they answer and say, “Who? Stacy who? I don’t know who you are talking about.” When they say, “I’m sorry. It’s company policy not to give recommendations, but they worked here,” I’m okay with that.

The Tricks Are New and Ever-Evolving

George Walker, Managing Partner

There are a thousand barbarians trying to storm the gates. We do everything we can to catch them, but some of them are going to slip through beyond the initial screening. We always have our eye out for any deception during the entire process, but if a hiring manager sees something that feels off, then there’s at least some reason to suspect something might not be right. Always bring it up and we’ll help sort it all out.

Stacy Matlock – Client Account Manager

Often, I’ll offer to sit in on the interview and explain why to the manager. I think it’s a good thing because it conveys that we know what we’re looking for in fake candidates. With some of those bad ones, I was texting with the manager during the interview and giving them insight into what was making me suspicious. When it was time to pull the plug, I pulled the plug. I think that it bought more credibility in their eyes for us that we were on top of it and stopped it.

Want to learn more about fake candidates? We’re always deciphering their latest tricks. Reach out to us and we can give you a few extra pointers – as well as help you find your next great hire.



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