Telstra should be the last company shamed by an exec with fake credentials

You wouldn't let an unqualified surgeon operate on you, so why should we let companies get away with hiring staff who aren't qualified to do their job or, worse still, fabricate their job history? Recently reports suggested that Telstra CTO Vish Nandlall had left the telco after allegedly falsifying his CV.

June 6, 2016
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Editorial
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Written by
Financial Review
Kevin Baum
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Published by
Financial Review
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Credentials
credentials, verification, identity, qualifications, CV, resume, recruitment, politicians, dual citizenship, fake passport, misrepresenting qualifications, stolen identity, fake identity, licences, licensed, permits, tickets, insurance, police check, national police check, NPC, working with children check, working with vulnerable people check, LinkedIn without the lies, fabricating job history, falsifying a CV, resume fraud, references, referees, compliance
Telstra should be the last company shamed by an exec with fake credentials

You wouldn't let an unqualified surgeon operate on you, so why should we let companies get away with hiring staff who aren't qualified to do their job or, worse still, fabricate their job history?

Recently reports suggested that Telstra CTO Vish Nandlall had left the telco after allegedly falsifying his CV.

While we still don't know the exact circumstances behind his departure, it shines a light on Telstra and the ability of it and other companies to properly verify a job candidate's credentials.

Nandlall told iTnews he was returning to Canada for "personal reasons" and denied the allegations. However this is not the first time Telstra has been left red-faced after hiringemployees with falsified qualifications. 

However this is not the first time Telstra has been left red-faced after hiring employees with falsified qualifications. In 1993, Bruno Sorrentino joined the telco as head of IT and director of research but was promptly fired when it was revealed that his non-existent PhD was about as real as his chances of future employment.

Major international cases of resume fraud highlight its widespread nature; we're talking about the CEOs and CFOs of major companies who have had to resign after their falsified CVs have come back to bite them.

Even corporations such as Yahoo have suffered from false resumes. In 2012 the tech giant's then-CEO Scott Thompson was stood down after it was revealed that he lied on paper about holding a computer science degree.

Common occurrence

With the problem pervading top positions in some of the world's largest companies, it'd be a safe bet to assume a large portion of your everyday job applicants have lied on their CV too.

And if you were a betting man or woman you'd be right: research conducted by Accu-Study last year found that 78 per cent of all resumes are misleading and over 50 per cent contained actual falsifications.

Another study from Powerchex, a pre-employment vetting service in Britain, concluded that a quarter of financial services job applications had at least one major discrepancy in their CV.

Pause for a second to think about the consequences of this: the electrician who just did your wiring could be winging it (faulty wiring is one of the most common causes of house fires in Australia).

What about the co-pilot flying you to your next holiday. Did they lie about their hours in the cockpit?

When Myer's newly appointed general manager of strategy and business development, Andrew Flanagan, was fired in 2014 because his job history was faked, people were shocked. There was a media storm and it damaged Myer's reputation. The HR sector is rife with having to deal with resume fraud and credentials falsification. It's a very real breach of public trust because there is a general expectation that when people perform duties they are suitably licensed and qualified to perform the tasks and take their responsibilities seriously.

Flanagan claimed to be former general manager of strategy and business development for Inditex, the Spanish retailer that owns international fashion brand Zara.

But the company denied that he was ever employed.

Quest Personnel, the recruitment firm that referred Flanagan, had contacted two referees believed to be executives from Inditex and Tesco (another former employer listed on Flanagan's CV).

Despite the public embarrassment, recruitment firms are still a positive force for the HR sector. As entities dedicated to matching employers with suitable employees, they are more thorough and targeted in their background checks than time-poor employers rushing through multitudes of applications.

Tech solution

Nonetheless, recruitment agencies are not an option to all employers. There needs to be a more sustainable and widespread means to minimise resume fraud.

One part of the solution is simple: Universities should start to open their databases to employers and companies like ours looking to verify a candidate's academic credentials.

My company has been working with universities and employers to act as a broker between the two. With employees' consent, we could provide secure verification checks of their qualifications to potential employers.

Health practitioners have to have their skills registered and made publicly available on the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency website. Why shouldn't this apply to others?

The second part of the solution is more difficult: how can employers verify a candidate's career history with references that can— as the Myer-Flanagan-mess demonstrates — be completely falsified?

There are a few steps that can be taken, starting with a healthy dose of scepticism when dealing with overseas references, particularly when they are from countries that are difficult to verify.

Also keep an eye out for qualifications from unusual universities and any discrepancies between a CV and a LinkedIn profile.

While there's no foolproof way to make sure candidates are the star employee they may claim to be, there are a number of precautionary steps that employers can take to avoid putting their organisation at risk.

Resume fraud doesn't just happen to big name corporates; it's a matter of public safety that's more common than you think.

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