Blowing the Whistle: 

Blowing the Whistle

Blowing the whistle can be one of the most difficult decisions anyone can make. According to the Office of the Whistleblower Ombuds (a government site), blowing the whistle can have long-lasting personal impacts for the whistleblower as well as their loved ones. This makes the following detail something that I seriously appreciate because I feel her story will help many hiring managers in our industry.  

Not too long ago, someone reached out to me because a close personal friend of hers had participated in what she believed to be a Fake CRA program. To protect this whistle-blower, I am going to refer to her as Amanda. Here is her story: 

I Would Have Never Believed It…

Hi Angela – I happened to run across your article about fake CRA candidates being relatively (unfortunately) common in the market. Happy to provide more detail, but long story short, I know someone who went through a paid “program” to become a CRA. He did online classes for 6 months, was provided with a resume with 13 years of job experience that didn’t exist, and this person somehow made it through the interview process and got a 6-figure offer. 

This “program” also is somehow apparently able to get these candidates through the employment verification process (if one is even conducted). It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard of and I wouldn’t have believed it unless I saw the process happen right in front of me. 

While Amanda’s story is concerning, I also find it refreshing that the industry is starting to accept that CRA candidate fraudulence is a big problem.  

Blowing the Whistle on the Program

The impact of Fake CRAs on our industry.

While Amanda understood that her friend was being unethical by misrepresenting his experience, she wanted to know exactly what harm or danger he (or others like him) could cause. 

From a cost perspective, if a CRA is fake and has to be replaced, it costs the company money to remonitor the work. But what if the CRA is fake and not immediately identified or replaced? What if the FDA conducts an investigation and finds the study wasn’t monitored properly? 

And what about the safety of the patients involved in these studies? Do you want your mother taking a chemo drug that wasn’t properly monitored? It goes without saying, but in an industry where patient safety is paramount, do we really want to sidestep this issue? Isn’t having well-trained and highly qualified clinical research associates monitoring our studies critically important? 

Some might argue that poor-performing CRAs can cause similar issues. I agree. But why settle for either when you can avoid both?  

Amanda’s details on the program: 

I’d prefer not to share the name of the person I know who went through the program as it’s, unfortunately, a close personal situation. But I do hope that the program overall will be found out and shut down so that they don’t continue this cycle of fake candidates on the job market. 

I did see that there were about 30 students in the virtual class. They are given different versions of resumes tailored to different roles they are applying for under various English names. Upon offer, they give their legal name with the explanation that the name used is just an English name. I assume this is so they can pass a background check. 

The experience that was put in the resume of the person I know was with [ removed the list of CROs ]. 13 years of roles in total. He’s never worked at any of these places, or in this industry at all. 

In fact, he has never had a corporate job at all. Has been unemployed for the last 2 years and before that, helped with a small family business. 

Interviews Will Not Always Identify Fraudulence

What we find is that these organized groups spend considerable effort training these fake CRA candidates on how to pass interviews. Additionally, many of these programs offer substitute ‘proxy’ interviewers. Alternatively, they often have someone on standby to feed the answers to the candidate through headsets or on-screen messages.

We provide an extensive interview fraudulence checklist in another article but I do want to state this: even if a proxy isn’t used, if the person conducting the interview doesn’t dig deep enough, the candidate may seem highly qualified. We just recorded a podcast that speaks to how difficult it is to identify a fake CRA through an interview alone because these candidates have been taught how to answer the basics.

One of the reasons an employment verification may not protect you:

I’m not sure if they falsify the employment verification. Perhaps they create the resume by listing companies where they know people that they can pay off to falsely verify employment. Or maybe they just hope companies do not verify the employment history. 

[ Removed CRO’s name ] is one company that interviewed him. They conducted an employment verification and he didn’t get an offer so I’m not sure if they caught the lies or just didn’t end up having an opening. He has now been placed with a medical device CRO as a Senior level CRA. 

I hope this information helps to stop at least one of these programs from continuing. 

Amanda’s Story Isn’t Unique

Amanda’s story is one we are unfortunately quite familiar with. Currently, 50-60% of the CRA candidates applying to our open positions are found to be fraudulent. And for clarity purposes, we classify candidate fraudulence as someone who has completely falsified all or part of their credentials. It could include fabricating their employment history, stating they have a degree they haven’t earned, or providing false references. 

That is up from 21% when we first identified the issue over a decade ago. 

We Want to Hear Your Story

While our firm is actively providing checklists to companies so they can protect themselves against candidate fraudulence, I don’t believe those checklists alone are going to resolve the situation. If we want to gain control over the CRA candidate fraudulence that is plaguing our industry, we have to band together.

We have to dialogue about what is going on and share solutions to address the issue. What experiences do you have that would be helpful for others to hear? 

Blowing the whistle can be hard. But this topic is important to our industry and I will ensure your confidentiality. I hope to hear from you soon.