Most hiring managers expect a certain level of creative embellishment on a resume, but for those hiring within the clinical research space, outright fraud has unfortunately become a commonplace practice.
According to craresources, a large recruitment agency for clinical research positions, nearly 20 percent of people seeking clinical research associate (CRA) jobs are submitting resumes that are either partially or fully fraudulent.
Angela Roberts, head of CRA recruitment at craresources, said that helping fraudulent applicants excel in the industry has become an organized and lucrative operation.
“There are groups of people that work together, organizations, entities and online forums, that will help people fake and fraud resumes,” warned Roberts. “There are other organizations that, for a very large fee, will teach applicants how to pass an interview using the correct lingo and they’ll be able to skate through. Also, there are professional interviewers for hire that will take phone screens and video screens on their behalf so they can pass interviews as well.”
A search of the 40,000 CRA resumes in the craresources database showed that 7,000, or 17 percent contained falsified information. As a result, it is important that Clinical Research Organizations (CROs) take precautions throughout the hiring process, as many of these applicants have no background in the field at all.
While these CRA hopefuls can be convincing in their deception, Roberts says there are a few key things to look out for in order to detect a dishonest candidate.
Some applicants fake their previous experience by stating that they’ve worked for a company that has either been acquired or has gone out of business. Roberts says that this is one of the first things that craresources looks at when recruiting employees and can be one of the simplest ways to tell if someone is being honest or not.
“We had a lady that applied to one of our positions recently and she indicated that she had worked with a company that is very well-known,” continued Roberts. “She represented that she had worked for that company three years after they had gone out of the clinical research business. So that was obvious, we know she was not hired by them because they no longer did clinical research during that time period.”
Having previous knowledge of the industry will aid employers to identify relevant companies and weed out fraudsters right out of the starting gates.
Others let their imagination lead the way by saying they’ve worked for CROs that have never even existed. While this tactic may seem easy enough to spot, many of these fake companies have very real digital footprints and can be convincing to the untrained eye.
“These are companies that have never existed, but they have digital footprints, LinkedIn profiles, websites, they tricked Google into thinking they have an existence,” said Roberts.
In order to verify these organizations, Roberts recommends checking State Registrars to see if the company is listed and if they’re sponsor specific, checking to see if they’ve performed any trials.
Another common resume lie among job seekers is falsifying academic credentials. Roberts says CROs need to be diligent in order to recognize that a candidate is referencing a phony institution.
“Fake education is a huge issue out there. There are several resources that will help us understand if the institutions are real or if they’re diploma mills,” she said.
A diploma mill is a company or organization that claims to be a higher education institution but sells college diplomas and transcripts rather than the educational experience.
In order to protect against this practice, employers must confirm that the school listed has been accredited. Once that’s established, the next step is checking that the school offers the degree the candidate has supposedly received.
Roberts continued, “Even if the institutions are real, do they offer the degree that the individual is stating they have? We catch a lot of people that way.”
This can usually be cleared up by contacting the school to confirm that the applicant has completed the degree they have represented on their resume.
Other Red Flags
So far, the fraudulent trends listed in this article would clearly disqualify a candidate from the position if identified by a hiring manager. However, Roberts says there are some warning signs that are less obvious.
“There are some grey areas too that would make us suspicious but that we wouldn’t rule individuals out,” she said. “That might be no gaps in a consultant’s resume as an example, or long chunks of consulting with no clients listed could be something we’d want to poke at.”
While these concerns may not rule out a candidate completely, they should be addressed directly as the candidate progresses through the recruitment process. This is vital as the consequences of hiring an unqualified applicant can lead to serious issues for the CRO.
“All of this time, money is spent, patient safety is at risk, your sites have a lot of rework that needs to be done, data could be compromised and thrown out by the FDA or Health Canada,” she said. “It could be devastating to anyone that hires these individuals who have committed fraudulence and don’t know what they’re doing.”
Scarier still, Roberts adds that because a CRA is a largely independent position, unqualified employees may go unnoticed for longer periods of time.
“If companies don’t have proper assessment programs in place where they go out and do assessment visits with these monitors in the field on a regular basis, they might go months before they realize these monitors don’t know what they’re doing,” concluded Roberts.
Using these tips to identify CRA fraudsters early in the recruitment process is the best way to protect your company by disqualifying dishonest candidates before the first interview ever takes place.
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