JOHN G. SELF, Founder
JohnMarch Partners | Advisors in Executive Search
DALLAS, October 9, 2008 — I have been telling my healthcare colleagues over the past couple of years that at long last, candidates seem to have gotten the message – that career/resume misrepresentation is a bad idea.
After some notable, very public examples – the Notre Dame football coach and the former CEO of Fort-Worth-based Radio Shack to name two in long and distinguished list of career management fraud – I saw a decline in the resume game-playing in the candidates I was reviewing for senior level healthcare positions. I was hopeful, that maybe, just maybe the candidates who were tempted to fabricate credentials or lie about their accomplishments, had gotten religion and/or realized that there was a good chance they would be caught.
Apparently, I was being overly optimistic.
Matt Levine, Vice President of Dallas-based CheckPast, a national firm that JohnMarch Partners uses to verify credentials, employment history and background issues, said this week that resume fraud was steadily increasing and this year was at about 25 percent of all the candidate investigations they conduct. For a firm that conducts about 100,000 background checks each year, an astounding fact is that 25,000 people lied.
Now in fairness to the candidates, the lies concerned not just academic or professional credentials, employment or salary, but also problems in their backgrounds that the candidates failed to disclose during the interview process – events like murder, rape, child molestation, serial sexual harassment, multiple DUI convictions, etc.
My personal favorite example of a colossal background snafu occurred in one of my searches for a public company. An otherwise qualified candidate with an apparent impeccable record of performance was being considered as a CFO. In case you do not know, a corporate officer in a public company cannot have a felony conviction. This guy’s story seemed to check out. His references were stellar. Then came the background report. CheckPast found not one, but four felony convictions. When I initially confronted the candidate, he angrily and arrogantly denied the information. It was not a pleasant telephone call. He finally relented when confronted with overwhelming evidence that he in fact, had been a very bad boy: terroristic threats, aggravated burglary of a residence, assault with a deadly weapon and, the big one, attempted murder. His aggressive string of expletive laced denials gave way to a weak, tiny voice in confession: “It was a bad divorce…”
Here is where healthcare service providers should be alarmed. There are so many other background problems that all too often go undetected. Hospitals, afraid of a lawsuit from former employees, are reluctant to give future employers a heads up about poor performance, bad behavior or even suspicions of homicide. This was the case with an RN on the east coast who was passed from hospital to hospital where he killed more patients because former employers were afraid to share information or their strong suspicions. Some community hospitals, desperate for nurses, pursue what appears to be a don’t ask, please don’t tell me approach in recruitment.
From the drug addicted surgeon with multiple pending disciplinary actions who gets a new job because his former hospital failed to disclose the problems, or the former vice president who was the subject of repeated complaints for sexual harassment, problem employees are the equivalent of a tacky gift – and in some cases a grave threat to patients — that is passed on to some unsuspecting and undeserving soul.
The accumulated case law on reference reports would suggest that legal fears concerning litigation is just that – a fear.
Perhaps when more healthcare organizations who were unknowingly duped in the reference process turn around and sue the offending party, our industry will be able to do a better job protecting employees and patients from the hundreds of thousands of dishonest applicants.
In the meantime, JohnMarch will continue being aggressive in vetting candidates backgrounds.
Our clients and their patients deserve to know.
John G. Self, Chairman of JohnMarch Partners, is the Firm’s senior client advisor. He is a former investigative reporter and crime writer for a major daily newspaper. Candidates and clients say he is one of the most thorough executive recruiters working in the healthcare industry.