May 25, 2023

How To Spot Fake Candidates


Partner at Hirewell. #3 Ranked Sarcastic Commenter on LinkedIn.

Scams. So hot right now.

Non-recruiters may be shocked to find out: fake candidates exist. They apply for your jobs. And they can burn you.

Any experienced recruiter has dealt with it. Our brains built “the filter.” The same way anyone can spot a scam email (or sales email, honestly.) You know a fake candidate profile when you see it.

For new recruiters and new hiring managers & executives? They gotta learn the hard way.

My colleague Don Effler put together an internal training recently. Most of what’s below is his work.

I was going to include images of fake profiles, but that’s  the challenge: you can never be 100% sure. Some real profiles lack detail that makes them appear fake. And I’m not trying to get sued here…

But let’s dive in. Why do fake candidates even exist?

3 varieties:

👉REAL people with FAKE resumes. They create fake work histories to get higher paying jobs. Common in corp to corp contract/freelance work.

👉FAKE people created by fully remote (overseas) firms. It’s hard to authenticate and/or manage people you’ll never meet. There’s a finite amount of real workers. Fake ones are unlimited.

👉FAKE people created by hackers to gain access to company information and pull further scams (e.g. Ransomware).

To reiterate: you can’t be 100% sure a profile is fake. But you can look at individual red flags and make a reasonable judgment.

Plenty of real people have a couple of the things listed below. But they rarely have a lot of them.

LinkedIn Profile 

🚩A picture without a face (e.g. cartoon character, obscured face, etc.)  

🚩Looks like a stock image (reverse image search to check) 

🚩Small number of LinkedIn connections 

🚩No full name listed 

🚩Only “Big Company” experience. (Harder to validate up front.)

🚩Limited or no details on education  

🚩“Dropped Out the Sky” e.g. 1st job is an experienced role with no degree or internships 

🚩You’ve seen similar profiles with slight variations 


🚩Strange communication. Sounds like they’re reading from a script or Googling answers

🚩Generic description of companies and projects 

🚩Strange phone numbers. Don’t line up with current or past Locations 

🚩Lack of knowledge of the company they’ve worked for 

🚩Lack of knowledge of the location they are in

🚩Only available for one type of communication (only Phone or only Zoom) 

🚩No video during Zoom 

🚩100% remote, no exceptions. Even in their own location, for positions they applied to. 

🚩Claims “confidential information” to avoid straightforward questions

Interview Process 

🚩Still no video during mid-process interviews 

🚩Asks about taking on more than one job

🚩Interviewers are skeptical or have strange feedback e.g. suspect different people did technical interview vs the prelim screen

Advanced Stages

🚩Requests to use own laptop for work 

🚩Refuses drug tests or background checks 

🚩No references 

🚩Dates don’t line up with experience level (e.g. ID makes their years of experience impossible)

Partner at Hirewell. #3 Ranked Sarcastic Commenter on LinkedIn.

More blogs from James Hornick

See all Talent Insights Blog entries....

Our Latest Featured Episode

Our Shows