When Mary Willoughby was looking to hire a technology director, she went online to check out the leading candidate.
On his page on MySpace, a popular social networking site, the applicant talked at length about his interest in violent films and boasted about his romantic exploits.
Based on what she saw, Willoughby, the human resources director for a New York nonprofit that provides assistance to people with disabilities, decided to keep her search open and ultimately offered the job to someone else.
"It's not that he did anything wrong," Willoughby says of the young man she passed over. "But we're an organization that serves the disabled. We decided that this was not a good fit."
Several high-profile cases of resume fraud, widely reported by the media, underscore the problems that can occur when an applicant is not adequately vetted. Earlier this year, a previously well-regarded Massachusetts Institute of Technology admissions officer was forced to resign after admitting she lied about where she had gone to school. Last year, RadioShack Corp.'s chief executive, David Edmundson, was forced from his job for lying about his credentials.
Eager to keep their own companies' names out of the headlines, many employers are trying to be more vigilant. A recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that nearly half of the HR professionals who responded run a candidate's name through a search engine like Google or Yahoo! before making an offer. About one in five of those HR professionals who conduct such searches said they have disqualified a candidate because of what they uncovered.
Looking for Trouble
Many employers do online background searches to identify fraudsters before they are brought on board. And even if a search turns up nothing negative about a candidate, it may help an employer show due diligence and fend off a negligent hiring …