One In Five UK SMEs 'Duped' By A Job Candidate

One-Fifth of Small Businesses Have Received A False Reference From a Jobseeker


Fergal Dowling, Partner | +44 (0)121 214 5476

One in five small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK has been duped by a job applicant when trying to fill a vacancy, with false references being a particularly prevalent problem.

This perhaps surprising revelation comes from the Close Brothers Business Barometer, which is compiled following a poll involving SME owners and senior managers from throughout Britain.

Results of the survey showed 56 per cent of respondents had been contacted by a fraudulent candidate between one and five times during the past five years, with one in ten receiving more than ten fake references.

Those applying for mid-level positions were found to be most likely to send in a fictional reference, with 51 per cent of those received by SMEs coming from such jobseekers. The issue is also prevalent among those trying to secure an entry or low level role, as 45 per cent of false references came from such applicants.

Furthermore, the results showed that 56 per cent of employers were unaware that websites are available that allow job hunters to pay for a reference to be written for them, with these often taking on a fictional form.

For instance, these could be used to make previous experience seem more impressive, disguise breaks in employment or cover up poor references that have been given in the past.

Chief executive officer of Close Brothers Invoice Finance David Thomson commented: "The scale of reference falsification is quite surprising, but also alarming. Employee fraud could pose a significant threat to a small business, in terms of its image, reputational damage and ultimately financial wellbeing.

"Managing the risk of employee fraud should be high on the list of priorities for all businesses and it merits attention in a firm's overall risk management strategy," he added.

Mr Thomson continued by saying that SMEs need to make sure they are aware that such dishonesty does unfortunately exist, so employers should adopt a wary approach when reviewing job applications and references.

Expert Opinion
While the recruitment process is incredibly important for all businesses, it is a particular concern for SMEs which tend to have a smaller workforce than larger competitors and need to ensure that every employees have the relevant talent and skills to push their organisation forward.

"With this in mind, the findings of this research are of course worrying and it is vital that small businesses understand the importance of being aware of such issues. SMEs should not go it alone when it comes to introducing risk management and recruitment strategies, and speaking to legal advisers is absolutely essential.

"Employment law advice can be key to ensuring systems are in place which are robust and based around ensuring that a talented, engaged workforce can be established and maintained."
Fergal Dowling, Partner