The Problem with Candidates’ Self-Representation

It’s quite common for recruiters to identify likely candidates from their LinkedIn profiles. In fact, many online applications offer the option of using that rather than manually filling in all the fields; it can even substitute for a resume in some cases. While this is convenient all around, it gives applicants an incentive to embellish their record.

According to the findings of a LendEDU poll, more than a third of LinkedIn profiles are likely inaccurate. Nearly a quarter of respondents conceded, “There are a few lies.” Another 11 percent admitted, “My profile is almost entirely made up of things I have never done.”

What do they usually lie about? Most – that is, 55 percent – lie about their skills. Less than half that amount – 26 percent – lie about the dates of their work experience. Then there are the ones who make up their work experience altogether, something 10 percent admitted. Educational accomplishment seems to be less of a concern, as only 7 percent lied about that.

Current Solutions

Given the high cost of hiring someone, savvy hiring managers often find it worthwhile to invest the extra time and money in some form of background check. These can reveal certain red flags, though they will not reveal all the lies about the responsibilities and skills involved in the jobs the candidate has actually held. (Looking to start a new career in tech? Check out How I Got an IT Job Without a Tech Background.)

Some companies, for example, have a policy of not giving out any information about former employees other than confirming that they did or did not work there. That means it would be impossible to discover if the candidate’s self-representation would be confirmed by supervisors and colleagues.

Even worse, some candidates get their misrepresentation to be ratified by offering contact information for employers or coworkers that actually lead to their friends who will back their fabricated claims. These lies may never be discovered until the performance on the job indicates that the person is not who he or she claimed to be.

Where Blockchain Comes In

Given that manual checks are imperfect at best, CIELO, a strategic recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) partner envisions a paradigm shift: “In the future, a candidate could have all of their personal information – prior addresses, previous employers, past compensation data, certifications, degrees, transcripts, Social Security number, visa status – pre-validated and stored on a secure blockchain application.”

In addition to the advantage of trustworthy verification, this would save time and money. Background checks often cost a few hundred dollars and can take several days to complete. In contrast, when all the information is set in the blockchain, there is no cost or delay involved in retrieving it.

Better Than Etched in Stone

While we’re not yet at the point where all information concerning candidates is held securely in a blockchain, there are some companies that are offering at least some such verified records. They include SkillZ and Skillchain.

Christian Ferri, President and CEO of the blockchain holding company that offers ICO consulting services, BlockStar, is on the Advisory Board for Skillchain, which verifies degrees and certifications on the basis of the Ethereum blockchain. In a phone interview, he shared insight in how blockchains already are contributing to recruitment.

In the case of Skillchain, Ferri explained the information on the blockchains depend on incentivizing schools to report their degrees and verify candidates. Fixing these records in the blockchain means the “information can’t be forged,” he said. “Once something is on the blockchain, that stays.”

That kind of blockchain serves as “a trusted verification of certificates, degrees, diplomas and more in an easy, accessible way,” he said. If such systems are then extended to a candidate’s work history, he believes it would “bring more transparency into the process while providing recruiters a trusted track record of the candidates.”

Building the Blockchain Record

What would be involved in setting up a comprehensive candidate record in blockchain? “Setting up the system per se wouldn’t take much,” Ferri, said. “What can require some time is the integration with data sources and the mechanics to allow for only quality data to be stored on the blockchain.”

Creating “a brand new chain” could take years to build. That component could be cut down to months if it's based on “a system that already exists,” like Ethereum, “and build on top of it.” In that case, the time-consuming part would be working through the “mechanism by which you assure the information is accurate.”

One possible approach would be to use oracles. He explained that oracles could be “people or companies or computers that are assigned” the task of “verifying specific information.” For example, Ripple relies on Google and Microsoft to serve as oracles to validate its transactions.

The other approach is the release of coins or tokens that would serve as the incentive for the act of verification.

In the Works Now

Coins are the incentive of choice for participation and specific action from job seekers on the blockchain-based recruitment platform, Job.com. The reward of coins at the early stage would incentivize the participation of candidates who will submit their resume and be matched with open positions using AI and machine learning. But further down the road, the company also aims to use blockchain for verified records, not just at schools, but at jobs. (For more on hiring trends, check out How Machine Learning Is Impacting HR Analytics.)

According to its co-owner, Arran Stewart, the ultimate goal is to extend the blockchain capability to Job.com “to drastically improve the resume and referencing verification process.” Going forward, they intend to pick up information that will “create a global record of achievement for candidates that is securely stored and verified on the blockchain.”

That would solve the problem of misrepresentation and the unfair advantage that some candidates gain by lying about the extent of their skills or work experience on their resumes. However, it won’t solve all problems that persist in the hiring process.

I asked Ferri if he believes that utilizing blockchain for candidate data could help reduce biases in hiring. He answered that the problem with bias is that it is a function of the people involved, and so is “technology agnostic.” But he was still optimistic that enabling “the right information” to come through “at the right time to the right person” will help everyone gain “a fair shot.”