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Angling for Candidates in KC: How to Avoid the Catfish

by Addie Linn | Oct 02, 2018

Too much time on their hands? Seriously, what’s going on in people’s lives that makes them create fake profiles and use them to apply for real jobs they’re not even interested in pursuing? It’s called catfishing – after reality shows popularized the practice of looking for love online with a fake profile. Now it has infiltrated the recruiting world, especially within the tech industry.

We’ve been hearing a lot of fish stories lately and thought you might benefit from a roundup of the insight on this topic. We’ve served up the background, ideas for protecting yourself and a few thoughts on making sure your company’s not guilty of something similar.

It’s not all about looking for love
According to MTV, catfishing is pretending to be someone you’re not by posting fake information. In recruiting, catfishing happens when a candidate creates a fake profile or infuses their profile with fake info to lure you in. At best, it wastes your time. At worst, it can lead to a disastrous hire. And if you think you’re out of reach, consider this: extrapolating from Facebook’s estimates of fake profiles, a ClickZ article suggests LinkedIn has 16 to 33 million fake profiles. There’s even a Twitter site devoted to helping recruiters rat out the fakes: Check @FakeCandidates for some fresh finds. 

Desperate job seekers or nefarious motives?
It’s easy to guess why people do it. They can’t find the job they want on their own merits, so they pad their experience, try to attract you with unverified credentials or put various profiles out there hoping one of them will hit. Some even go so far as to present the profile of a more accomplished friend – even having that person complete online assessments and interviews for them – before pulling the ole switcheroo. 

But they may have different motives. Some individuals may be using the practice to trash the career of a rival.Competing recruiters are getting in on the game, too, using fake profiles to build contact lists and connect with other recruiters in hopes of honing in on their sources. 

Do your research to spot a fake
You already know the classic signs of a fake online profile. Obvious spelling and grammar errors, suspicious employer names, a lack of connections, strange gaps in experience, a missing profile photo or pictures that look like fashion ads. But what if it all looks great on the surface? Here are some ideas for digging a little deeper:

  • Check the candidate out on multiple sites – LinkedIn, Facebook and Google. Do a Google search to look for consistency among their public personas.
  • You can even analyze a candidate’s LinkedIn photo to check for a fake or multiple profiles with the same image. To capture the photo’s URL, right click on it. Then paste it into Google’s image search bar.
  • Talk with people you know at the companies they say they’ve worked for.
  • Call the candidate. Fakes often don’t answer the phone. If you do reach them, you can ask a few questions to help verify their authenticity. Try communicating in a more casual way before diving into the technical qualifications.
  • Conduct your usual reference checks.
  • Always trust your gut. If it simply doesn’t feel right, there’s probably a clue hiding somewhere.

Look in the mirror
Here’s another interesting twist on the topic: Could you be catfishing, too? Some of the bloggers we checked out suggested that recruiters might be practicing their own form of fake profile posting. It happens when you’re over-selling a job or publicly touting company values that don’t reflect the reality of the work experience. It might be time to check your own practices, as well.

Ghosting: Another mysterious trend
While it’s not the same as catfishing, ghosting often gets thrown in the bag of bad behavior among job candidates. It also comes from the online dating world: Ending a relationship by withdrawing all communication. Given today’s candidate-driven market, this seems to be happening more frequently.

Having candidates seemingly disappear into the wind or fail to show up can be both embarrassing and frustrating. Whether “ghosters” are simply overwhelmed by the number of opportunities before them or exercising their newfound power to “stick it to the man,” who may have done the same to them, there’s not much you can do to stop it. Like the catfishing cautions, you’d be wise to take steps to verify the candidate’s profile and confirm interest and motivation before you put too many of your own cards on the table.

TeamKC is all about helping recruiters boost their success. To learn more about how you can be involved contact Jessica Palm

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