From the Irish Independent (free subscription required):

Once it was easy to fudge and exaggerate on job applications; but now, with a wealth of information online, employers are catching the spoofers. Willie Dillon reports.

Once upon a time, you filled out the job application form, attended the interview and carefully avoided the stuff your potential employer was better off not knowing about. If there were holes in your story or gaps in your CV, it wasn’t in your interest to point them out.
But then God created the internet and things got a lot more complicated. Nowadays, if a boss is suspicious that a job applicant is being economical with the truth, there’s a potentially easy way to check this out.

Frank Abagnale – who bluffed his way into jobs as a doctor and a pilot in the 1960s

Type the shifty one’s name in Google and see what pops up. Many employers do so routinely, and the results may not always tally with the applicant’s impressively polished demeanour and finely-tuned answers. The advent of the net means the liars, fibbers, wafflers and embellishers of the jobs world can now be exposed in all their legless, slobbering glory. Alan, for example, is 23, has a technical qualification, and is just home from a gap year in Australia. He hopes to get a job and buy a house with his girlfriend. His CV includes what he did in Oz, along with all the other stuff about how the trip broadened his personal horizons and helped open his mind to diverse cultural influences.

He knows there’s no point padding out his CV with made-up jobs and fake references. It’s obvious that a potential employer can double-check this kind of stuff on the net. He’s not going to fall into that trap. He’s not a fool. Unfortunately, Alan has forgotten about the travel blog he enthusiastically compiled during his year out. It contains dozens of pictures, taken by friends on digital cameras, of him clearly drunk in different bars. Scrolling through it, one could easily conclude – probably correctly – that the only thing Alan did during his year in Oz was to get blotto at every opportunity. The blog was compiled mainly for the entertainment of his mates back home. The problem is it’s still out there. And a prospective boss who googles him will probably find it immediately.

On his job application form, Alan listed ‘socialising’ among his hobbies and interests. A more accurate description would be ‘getting rat-arsed.’ The would-be employer might conclude that Alan will, at best, have punctuality issues in the morning and may not therefore be the most reliable worker. And bosses no longer just google a potential employee. Increasingly, they are checking whether the applicant has a page on Bebo, Facebook or MySpace and seeing what might be on that.

Rowan Manahan, author of Where’s My Oasis?, the bestselling guidebook to doing the perfect job interview, says these and other sites can yield a lot of information which the person might not have included on an application. Most of it will be entirely irrelevant to the employer, but some could be very revealing indeed.

“I may be looking to hire somebody who’s solid and dependable, in whom we are going to place a great deal of trust, and I find out that the person applying is a complete adrenaline junkie,” Rowan says. “I go to their Bebo page and see that they’re doing paragliding and bungee jumping and throwing themselves into volcanoes. I’m immediately going to wonder what kind of psyche drives that sort of thrill-seeking. Is that a healthy thing?”

Material about you on the web, he says, falls into two categories. The first is the stuff you put there yourself, such as a Bebo page or blog. You have control over what appears. However, others may have posted stuff about you without your knowledge – and this is what you need to watch out for.

“Let’s say I’m in my 20s – young, free and single. There could be some very angry ex-girlfriend on her Bebo space saying that I’m a deviant horror and a control freak with this or that peccadillo,” Rowan says. “I don’t even know it’s up there. Should that be used as a discriminatory tool against me? Of course not. Under employment equality legislation, it would be indefensible. But if I’m being hired by, let’s say, a Catholic charity to be their marketing manager or their fundraiser, they’re not going to want somebody with that kind of stuff about them out there on the web.”

Your past could also catch up with you in other ways. You may have embellished your CV, just a little. But the precise truth could be out there in cyberspace.People fudge things on their CV. They’ll exaggerate a job description. They were sales executive, but it’s eight years ago and the company went out of business. They say they were sales manager with a team of three working for them – exactly what the new job requires. Then I go googling and I find pictures from a golf society outing. It may not even have been your company’s outing. But there you are in your Pringle jumper and the caption has your name and title – sales executive. That’s the kind of silly stuff that catches people. Your credibility is now irrevocably gone. The big warning sign an employer is looking for during selection is inconsistency. That immediately calls a person’s credibility into question. It causes a little wrinkle in the brow – oooh, that’s not the impression I got of this person, what’s that about?”

According to Rowan, googling is merely an easier, simpler way of doing what many bosses always did, especially for very senior jobs. “Twenty years ago, the potential employer would have been running credit checks and checking the courts to see if the applicant ever had any judgements entered against them. They would check the companies office to see if the person had ever been banned from holding a directorship. Nowadays you can do nearly all of that sitting at your desk.”