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Discrepancies in applications

August 22 2006 - A recent survey checked 2487 job applications for the financial services industry for discrepancies, embellishments and false information. Conducted by Powerchex, a pre-employment screening firm, the research looked at applications from a total of 1029 women and 1458 men over a six month period. Employment histories, dates, university degrees, professional qualifications and criminal records were verified and checked against information provided by job applicants. With results compiled by the Shell Technology and Enterprise Program, the research was undertaken to discover any trends in discrepancies and the most common embellishments in job applications.

The survey found that 25 per cent of applications had at least one major discrepancy. While the majority of applicants falsifying information did so only once; some submitted forms with up to four major discrepancies. There is no significant difference between men and women in this respect.

The most common discrepancies overall relate to:

  • employment titles or duties (12 per cent)
  • employment dates
  • bankruptcy or county court judgments
  • academic qualifications
  • reasons for leaving previous employment
  • compensation received
  • directorships held
  • criminal record (less than 1 per cent).

The authors found that 37 per cent of applicants had gaps in their employment history and suggest that giving false information about dates (9.5 per cent of discrepancies) is probably intended to conceal this. The least common discrepancy identified related to criminal records which the authors link to applicants being aware that this can easily be checked against an existing database.

The survey found that the tendency to have discrepancies on applications increased with age, possibly suggesting that older workers feel the need to embellish in order to compete. Discrepancies were found in 28 per cent of applications from those aged 51-60, compared with 22 per cent of those aged 21-30. An alternative explanation might be difficulty in remembering the details of a complex employment history.

British applicants gave false information in 32 per cent of cases overall (38 per cent of men and 26 per cent of women), compared to 25 per cent of their non-British counterparts.

The trend towards job hopping is reflected in the survey, with 72.5 per cent having held at least two jobs in the last five years. Income had an interesting effect with people earning between £80 001 and £90 000 most likely to give false information (40 per cent) and those earning between £60 001 and £70 000 least likely to do so (9 per cent).

If the authors are correct in the assumption that all discrepancies identified are deliberate - and that is surely questionable - this survey indicates that one in four job applicants to the financial services sector are prepared to falsify information on their job applications in order to gain employment.


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