During 2002, the company screened 2,700 job applications across a range of sectors. Fifty-six percent of the applications over the course of the year were found to contain lies or omissions, but the figure rose to 70 percent for IT contractors.
Most of the discrepancies were harmless omissions or honest mistakes, but the company said that fears of recession have been leading job applicants to increasingly cover up redundancies, sackings, previous jobs and poor academic histories--as well as a minority who invent employment histories.
IT job applicants are more prone to alter facts because of the recent history of the sector, said Richard Prior, TRAG deputy chief executive: "One of the things that stands out in the IT sector is that there are a lot of start-ups and entrepreneurial activity. A lot of it ends in failure and bankruptcy. It creates the context in which people wish to write things out of their past."
While applicants are not legally obliged to include every company they have ever worked for, a CV should be a full account of the applicant's career to date, TRAG said. The job application investigation process flagged up many harmless inaccuracies such as forgetting to include periods of employment, but more serious instances of misleading the employer were also uncovered.
In the research, IT contractors were three times more likely than the average applicant to not declare directorships, as the majority of contractors run their own company. Undeclared directorships for all applicants screened ran at 14 percent, and at 43 percent for IT contractors. Undeclared addresses for all applicants were nine percent against 18 percent for contractors.
In general, lies and inaccuracies on CVs grew 15 percent over the course of 2002, from 54 percent in the last quarter of 2001 to 62 percent in the same quarter a year later. Women in their late twenties and men in their late thirties both had high rates of discrepancies, with nearly two in three of their CVs (65 percent) containing lies or omissions.
Four to five percent of applications in all sectors were found to have blatant lies. TRAG described these as fundamentally dishonest people who would not be capable of doing the job they applied for and who, once hired, would be likely to set about causing damage and defrauding their employer.
Prior said some of these deliberate liars were covering up serious problems, as was the case with one applicant who used a fictitious employer on a CV. "We also found that he had been sentenced to a period in prison in Belgium for attempted murder. He was applying for a position in a U.K. financial services company, in which he would he would have been in a position of significant trust," said Prior.
Apart from uncovering time spent in prison and instances of fraud, TRAG investigations discovered several job applications with Middle-East terrorist connections applying for work in the U.K..