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Canadians overwhelmingly say they're 'completely honest' when job hunting


If one of your goals for 2018 is to find a new job, chances are you’ve updated your resume. But be honest: have you stretched the truth on any of your roles or skills? Did you put someone other than your actual boss down as a reference?

Just how legitimate people’s resumes and references are—as well as how important are references really are when it comes to someone getting hired—have long piqued Lee-Martin Seymour’s curiosity. He’s CEO and cofounder of Xref, an online platform for data-driven reference checking.

“Candidates fake their references, they change their role titles or sometimes make up roles,” the Sydney, Australia-based Seymour says. “With mobile phones, with email, with people controlling identities, it’s very easy for candidates to fake their references.

“They might fake them by completing [reference sections of a job application] themselves, asking references to embellish certain things, or they might be asking friends,” he says.

To shed light on what’s really going on with job-seekers’ resumes and references, Xref commissioned research firm Maru/Matchbox to compile survey data for its Xref Recruitment Risk Index: a 2017 Canadian Industry Perspective. The report follows similar research conducted in other countries.

On the positive side, Canadians seem to be an honest bunch.

“In Australia, 70 per cent of candidates told us they had, in one way or another, exploited areas of the recruitment method; that could be faking references,” Martin says. “In Canada, 93 per cent of candidates have said they were completely honest.”

That said, there’s apparently a case of “ask a friend syndrome” when it comes to Canadians’ approach to selecting people who will vouch for them workwise.

The report found that exactly 50 per cent of Canadian job-seekers said it’s more important to choose someone who will give them a good reference rather than their direct manager—with 17 per cent of respondents admitting to asking a friend who was completely unrelated to their previous place of employment to provide a reference. Meanwhile, 38 per cent had been named by a friend to provide a reference on their behalf.

But does having a solid reference even matter?

It turns out that, despite 86 per cent of HR professionals saying their organizations strongly value the reference checking process, only 34 per cent said their organization does it consistently across the company for every new hire.

What’s more, 34 per cent of Canadian job seekers said they didn’t know if their assigned reference was ever even contacted. Nearly 20 per cent knew they definitely were not.

Then there’s the question of reference integrity.

When HR personnel actually follow through with reference checks, they say they often feel duped. According to the report, 82 per cent said they believe a lot of people who provide references aren’t being fully honest; 68 per cent reported believing that they were being lied to.

Other study highlights:

– 60 per cent of HR professionals said they check out candidates online, searching their social footprints. At the same time, 35 per cent of Canadian job seekers are hip to that game and intentionally restrict their social content while job hunting.

Facebook was the most visited platform for such investigations, the site being used by 79 per cent of the HR professionals surveyed. LinkedIn and Google followed, both being searched by 66 per cent of the respondents.

– Job-seekers put the same references down on different applications an average of 4.4 times.

Fifty-eight per cent of HR pros who have agreed to be a reference say it’s inconvenient to be contacted multiple times for one employee, while 41 per cent would prefer not to provide references at all.

– 44 per cent of Canadian job seekers surveyed report feeling anxiety due to reference checking delays; 33 per cent reported not taking a job or finding an alternative job because the recruitment process took too long.

– Canadian job-seekers aged 30 to 49 were the most self-professed exaggerators, with this group being almost twice as likely to admit they have exaggerated qualifications and work experience compared to the national average (12.5 per cent versus 7 per cent). They were also three times more likely to ask a reference to pretend to be someone they are not (9 per cent versus 3 per cent) or ask a reference to exaggerate experience on their behalf (12 per cent versus 4 per cent).

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