With over a decade of experience in recruitment and sourcing, Jim Stroud has consulted for such companies as Microsoft, Google, Siemens, and a host of startup companies. During his tenure with Randstad Sourceright, he alleviated the sourcing and recruiting headaches of Randstad clients worldwide as its Global Head of Sourcing and Recruiting Strategy. Quite recently, he served as VP, Marketing for Proactive Talent – the most recognized and respected name in talent attraction, hiring and retention. Presently, he produces “The Recruiting Life,” a comic strip about the world of work. Details at sendfox.com/jimstroud.
We live in an era where technology has revolutionized the way we work and hire, making it easier for job seekers to connect with potential employers. However, as with any innovation, there is also a dark side. Today, scammers are taking advantage of HR departments to gain access to sensitive customer data, while in India, a booming fake job interview industry is helping people get work they are unqualified for. I had no idea this was going on but once I did, I fell down a rabbit hole of intrigue. In this article I am going to open your eyes to how your company may have been unknowingly victimized. Moreover, I’ll show you how to spot the signs to prevent it from happening again.
Let me begin with the booming industry of fake job interviewers. This has different names, “bait and switch interviews,” “proxy interviews,” and/or just plain “fake interviews.” Whatever the nomenclature, the practice of misrepresenting yourself in an interview is fraud and it’s become more of an issue with the trend of remote and virtual interviews. The reasons why candidates do this varies. In some cases, they are under-qualified, scheduling conflicts arise, language barriers persist, or simply a severe lack of self-confidence. In India, fake interviewers can charge as much as $150.00 an hour for their services. Consider this quote from Business Insider India.
- In a recent Insider investigation into the “bait-and-switch” job interview that’s becoming increasingly trendy, one “professional” job interview proxy, who uses a website to book clients and keeps a Google Driver folder of past video interviews, said he charges clients $150 an hour.
- The proxy was approached by Aamil Karimi, who works at cybersecurity firm Optiv as a principal intelligence analyst. Karimi, who posed as a job seeker to talk to the proxy, told Insider’s Rob Price that the “bait-and-switch” trend has been on the rise because of more work-from-home jobs and overseas hiring.
- The “bait-and-switch” interview works like this: a job candidate hires someone else to pretend to be them in a job interview in hopes they will secure the job. When the job starts, the person who hired the proxy is the one to show up for work.
An investigation has found that the trend of fake hires is predominantly occurring in non-managerial and non-creative fields. In the IT sector, where many proxies are securing positions for unqualified candidates, the risk is even greater. These fraudulent hires may gain access to sensitive information that could cause irreparable harm to a company’s reputation and its clients. Its not hard to imagine the damage an unscrupulous call center agent at a credit card company could do. Fraudsters have leveled up their game to take advantage of this trend by applying to remote work opportunities. This has certainly been the case in the USA. So much so, the FBI issued an advisory to warn companies of the illicit practice. Specific incidents leveraged emerging technologies you would expect to see in a spy movie.
Deep Fakes – Deepfakes are synthetic media in which a person in an existing image or video is replaced with someone else’s likeness using deep learning artificial intelligence. Click here to see a more detailed explanation. Perhaps a better way to think of this is you are video interviewing someone who is using an Instagram filter but instead of looking like a cartoon character, they look like the person you should be interviewing. Wild, I know.
Eye Tracking – Imagine asking a candidate a tricky question to catch them off-guard enough to give you their most honest reaction. Based on that reflex, you have some idea of how confident they are in their abilities. But what if they were reading a second screen where someone was feeding them additional information? If you said that you would notice that by observing them on camera, you would be incorrect. NVIDIA has a new eye tracking feature on their broadcasting tool that uses AI to fixate eye movements enabling a person to look at other locations. Yes, while seemingly focused on you, they are actually reading another screen.
Proxy Calls – This is a bit old school, but still a go-to method for all concerned. Recruiters commonly rely on phone calls as a primary means of reaching out to potential candidates and conducting initial interviews. However, can the recruiter really know for sure they are talking to their candidate? In some cases, no.
If this appears daunting to you, be advised that there are some ways to spot these scammers. At least, for now. To quote the FBI…
“…the actions and lip movement of the person seen interviewed on-camera do not completely coordinate with the audio of the person speaking. At times, actions such as coughing, sneezing, or other auditory actions are not aligned with what is presented visually.”
In other words, if a candidate’s mouth and words do not match in a video interview, you might be a victim of fraud. Other things I suggest you look for are looking for are inconsistencies in the information provided. When interviewing them, the data on their resume, LinkedIn profile and cover letter should be in sync. If it is not, be suspicious. At best, they are not scamming you and simply have a bad eye for detail; which should also be concerning. Drilling down on details about their past experiences, asking about specific accomplishments and references is a good way to trip up a scammer as well. Likewise making passive comments based on items spotted on their social media profile is another soft method of verification. Finally, one go-to method that never fails is to randomly ask for a screenshare. Fake candidates would have to immediately close any chats or documents they have open in order to maintain their cover. If the quality of their answers dramatically declines when sharing their screen, chances are you are conversing with an unqualified imposter, and should stop wasting your time.
All this being said, you may be wondering if the practice of fake interviewing is illegal. It is, but only under certain circumstances. Ben Michael, an attorney at Michael & Associates, has commented on the legal challenges of taking on fake interviewers.
“Legally speaking, it can be hard to pin down interview fraudsters with anything specific – unless money has changed hands or they’ve signed or submitted documents claiming to be someone they’re not,” Michael says. “In the vast majority of cases, these kinds of people are caught as soon as someone else shows up to the first day of work, in which case the best course for the company is to simply fire them and blacklist them.”
If a fake interview wastes only your time, be grateful. It could be far worse. Companies should be vigilant when interviewing for roles that include access to a customer’s personal identifiable information, financial data, corporate IT databases and/or proprietary information. Last but not the least, do not easily dismiss red flags during background checks. Scammers often apply for jobs with stolen identities. Better safe than sorry is more than an idiom, it is good business prudence as well.