Cheating and fraud is pervasive today and no culture or industry is off limits. Many individuals’ desire to get ahead or at least get even, overwhelms their moral compass and so little white lies are told or minor transgressions are committed. Last week for example I wrote about job candidates who misrepresent their abilities during phone interviews by looking up the answers to the questions that the interviewer poses. Research also shows that more than half of hiring managers have caught lies on a job candidate’s resume. Recent news now indicates that fraud in the college application process, particularly among international applicants, is growing.
By far the largest number of international students arrive from China. Their ranks in the U.S. college system have grown to 300,000, far more than the 67,000+ enrolled a decade ago. A U.S. college education is very attractive to Chinese students and employers because with it comes the promise of English-language fluency. Lack of English skills is why the fraud begins. Compared to China, the U.S. college application process is far more complicated and non-English speaking families engage the assistance of third party consultants to complete the process and ensure their child’s application is on par with those of America students.
How deep goes the fraud? One Chinese student paid three consultants who wrote her personal essay and created the teacher recommendation letters for her. In her words, “I did feel slightly guilty but all my friends did the same thing.” Unfortunately most of these students are unaware that their applications could be considered fraudulent and result in expulsion. Their consultants often fail to disclose that little disclaimer. Additionally the students fail to consider that misrepresentation of themselves hurts their chances of finding a campus that truly suits them. As Timothy Brunold, the University of Southern California’s Dean of Admission suggested, “They [admissions consultants] are attempting to game our system and subvert our attempts to select students who present the best fit for our institution.”
An estimated 8,000 students have been expelled since 2013 for poor grades, academic dishonesty or having others take their English-language proficiency test for them. What many students don’t understand is that once they set foot on campus they are required to take an additional English-language test and if any part of it is failed, the students’ graduation will be delayed in order to accommodate extra language classes.
How are U.S. colleges starting to combat this level of fraud which comes from many countries, not just China? With video interviews. Viewing a student applicant’s recorded video allows schools to better assess a student’s English speaking ability in addition to getting a feel for the candidate’s personality. “If you believe in all the fraudulent claims, and there certainly has been some documentation out there, then the one true equalizer is getting an unscripted interview with a limited English speaker. That will put anyone’s mind to rest,” remarks Kregg Strehorn, an assistant provost at UMass.
In much the same way that video interviews help you identify candidates who may be misrepresenting their abilities on paper or during a phone interview, video reveals college applicants fluency in English. Unless applicants are desperate enough to hire an English speaking imposter, video will uncover a student’s true colors.
Here is a list of commonly asked phone screen questions designed to reveal your job candidates’ goals, strengths and potential fit for your organization.
- Why did you leave your last job?
- What are you currently earning?
- What are your strengths?
- What are your career goals?
Nothing too surprising there. These questions while sufficient to whittle down your pool of candidates won’t trip up too many. Seasoned job candidates will have canned responses all ready to answer those questions. “Why should we hire you?” another commonly asked question, won’t tell you if your engineering candidate has any experience with metrology equipment or if your software programmer possesses knowledge of mobile web development. Naturally, specific job-related questions must be asked but if you can’t see the candidate, how can you tell they aren’t cheating? How do you know the candidate is not looking up the answers?
According to a 2014 study by Careerbuilder, 58% of managers have caught a lie on a candidate’s resume with the candidate’s skill set being the most often embellished fib. Candidates willing to lie on their resume might also be willing to pull a Pinocchio during the phone screen by searching online for the appropriate response, especially if you have asked a technical question.
Recently our company had the opportunity to screen a PHP software developer candidate who was referred to us and highly recommended. Since the candidate lived three hours behind our time zone, we chose to set the candidate up with an automated video interview rather than phone screen the candidate at an inconvenient time after hours. We uploaded a number of PHP developer questions for the candidate to answer which would give us a feel for the extent of their knowledge. Additionally the video would provide the hiring manager with a greater sense of the candidate’s energy level and personality.
The candidate completed the video interview overnight and in the morning we eagerly logged into the system to review this “highly recommended” candidate’s interview. Unfortunately the candidate was stumped by the first programming question asked. With furrowed brows we stared at the screen waiting for the candidate to say something. Several awkward seconds passed and we knew the candidate had nothing. I momentarily felt for the candidate and then they went for their smart phone and our jaws dropped. The highly recommended candidate whose resume reflected a skill set that would surely enable them to answer our first question, tried to search for the answer online!
The candidate ended the first question without a response but the nightmare was just beginning. Aware they were on camera and robbed of their opportunity to research the answers, the candidate proved unable to respond to several of the remaining interview questions. A follow-up phone interview confirmed what the video already exposed. The candidate confessed that they often Googled the necessary answer when stumped during a phone interview.
We avoided a potentially bad hire by using video. Today’s culture in many ways encourages embellishment and in some ways, cheating. How will you protect your organization?