I was speaking to a highly experienced CRA candidate last week and noticed there was a slight discrepancy on his current resume as it related to the dates of his experience.  We had an older resume that showed he shifted from a perm position into a consulting role in October of 2016.  The resume he just sent me showed he shifted from that perm position to consulting in June of 2016. However, when I looked up his corporation on OpenCorporates, it showed he hadn’t formed his consulting business in July of 2017.  

So did he end his perm and start consulting in June 2016, October 2016, or July 2017?  What were the actual dates of his last perm employment? 

I asked him about the date differences, hoping it was just a typo, and his energy shifted. Significantly.  Were his actions fraudulent?  

Maybe…maybe not. I had to ask myself if I trusted the discrepancy to be an honest mistake. From my perspective, my job is to protect my clients by providing high-quality CRA resources, so the real question wasn’t if his actions were fraudulent.  The real question was if I was clear regarding his experience and employment history. 

The answer was no. I am sure there will be several reading this post who will be outraged at my decision not to move forward with this candidate, but how could I have, in good faith, moved forward?  Which story would I tell the client?

Every Hiring Manager is faced with this dilemma every single day. It is a tedious job to identify fraudulent CRA resumes vs those resumes that may just have some honest mistakes on them. It is important to note that the amount of fraud present in our industry may surprise you. For example, craresources had 655 new CRAs apply through our portal last year. 244 (roughly 38%) of those candidates were confirmed to have falsified all or part of their qualifications. In addition, studies show that 93% of people know someone who has lied on their resume. These statistics and the fact that rapid turnover can cost a company thousands means that the stakes of ensuring the detail on the candidate’s resume are accurate is incredibly high.

And in this industry, it isn’t just about the thousands in costs to deal with the high attrition level. It is also the potential impact on patient safety as well as the confidence lost with key stakeholders by onboarding a CRA who doesn’t have the represented qualifications.

Additionally, the difficulties continue to mount. COVID-19 has irrevocably changed the CRA hiring process, making identifying fraud even more difficult. If you are interested in exploring these changes, read our recent blog post on the topic.

For CRAs, it is essential to avoid simple, honest mistakes that may end up labeling you as a potential fraud risk, even when you are not. This post will detail common red flags that signify fraud so that hiring managers can learn how to identify fake candidates and CRAs can avoid the issue altogether.

Hiring Managers: How to Identify a Fraudulent CRA Resume

Fraudulent CRA candidates can go to extraordinary lengths to cover up their lack of experience or qualifications. Be aware that the fraudulence movement in our industry is organized. Fake companies are created (with websites and Google locations), there are organizations who teach these fake CRA candidates how to pass interviews, other organizations offer ‘substitute interviewers’, fake employment verifications happen, fake references are provided, and diploma mills provide verification of a fake degree.  

However, there are still ways to identify a falsified clinical research associate resume. 

When you are reviewing CRA candidate resumes, CRAs should have a buttoned-up brand with a career storyline to match. A buttoned-up brand means that their LinkedIn profile, resume, and other experiences should be consistent. Any inaccuracies or inconsistencies when comparing these resources should be a red flag for hiring managers. Depending on the severity of the inconsistencies,  it may make sense to immediately disqualify candidates. But all inconsistencies should at least incite further inquiry into their experience and qualifications. 

In accordance with this, pay close attention to the CRA candidate’s digital footprint. Can you quantify the experience they claim to have with any reputable online sources? In terms of candidate professionalism, how has the candidate behaved across social media networks? While their LinkedIn behavior is essential, you should also be mindful of how the candidate presents themselves across all social media channels and other public-facing platforms. Are they rude or disrespectful to others publicly? Are you okay with associating yourself and your company with this person? Even a cursory Google search of a candidate’s name can reveal information regarding their background and assist you in identifying someone who is either a poor quality candidate or possibly committing fraud.

Next, be mindful of gaps in experience. When identifying fraud, resume gaps aren’t necessarily a red flag. Good CRAs, especially contractors, could be waiting for the perfect project to commit to, and therefore take more time between assignments. Others may have significant gaps in their work history or have possibly left the industry for some time due to growing families, serious illness, relocation, etc. What is important is how they explain their time away. Do they have a straightforward answer with a reasonable explanation mentioned in their resume? Or are they trying not to call attention to the gaps?

Alternatively, having no experience gaps can be equally suspicious. Often candidates will become anxious about the gaps they have on their resume and dishonestly stretch their experience start and end dates in order to close any gaps. While they may not be telling an outright lie about the kinds of experience they have gained, falsifying employment or assignment history is serious. This kind of dishonesty should be a deterrent for any hiring manager upon its discovery.

Is it possible to stop CRA candidates from falsifying all or part of their credentials?  Not likely.  However, being able to easily identify a candidate’s fraudulent representation of their qualifications early in the hiring process is essential when it comes to saving you valuable time and money in the hiring process. If you are a hiring manager still looking for ways to identify fraud correctly, read our blog posts on identifying the latest trends in how candidates commit fraudulence.  

As a side note, when you work with craresources, you gain access to our listing of ‘fake’ companies, interview templates, ‘tried and true’ vetting methodologies, and more.  

CRAs: How to Avoid Being Accused of Candidate Fraudulence 

A qualified Clinical Research Associate’s worst nightmare should be a false accusation of providing fraudulent credentials. The real shame is when the errors are honest mistakes, as these errors and mistakes can ruin your brand, thus negatively impacting your ability to work with reputable recruiting agencies as well as soiling your chances of getting your next contract. A simple (and honest) mistake may permanently derail your career. 

The first step to avoiding an accident misrepresentation, thus the perception of providing false credentials, is to unify your brand. For example, is your LinkedIn profile inaccurate or out-of-date, missing a recent profile photo, or otherwise vague? An inconsistent brand across your provided materials can cause hiring managers to be suspicious about the accuracy of your stated qualifications and experiences.

Additionally, don’t get hung up or concerned with the length of your resume or ask yourself, ‘can I put fake experience on my resume’ to make it longer. Said differently, don’t believe the myth that a one-page resume is best. Clinical Operations Hiring Managers not only want to see all of your applicable and relevant experience, they need to see it. Emphasize the quality of your credentials over the quantity of them: filling your resume with relevant information and describing your qualifications in terms of accomplishments, successes, and the impact your work had on the companies or projects to which you contributed. I once represented a VP that had a 52-page resume, and he got the job. He had patents, publications, and speaking engagements and was a part of many studies. It just depends on the formatting of the CV, and really the term ‘CV’ is the issue because it’s the abbreviated format and that’s what is used in the industry even though it’s a flawed term. If you have a CV that says you’ve been a CRA for five years, but that is all your CV says, your chances of progressing without appropriate details are minimal. As a side note, there is no need to inflate your experiences artificially, as a great behavioral interview will be able to identify these inflated examples. 

On the topic of resumes: never copy a colleague’s clinical research associate resume. Stealing their format and aesthetics may be tempting, but this can lead to several careless mistakes and copying errors when inserting your information. Even if copying another person’s resume isn’t explicitly fraudulent, any mistakes or incorrect information resulting from copying someone else’s resume will deter hiring managers and could result in a decreased chance of earning future assignments.

Lastly, consider the experiences you include on your resume. Should you include temporary or short-term positions or assignments on your resume?  How many jobs should you include on your resume? The simple answer is that you want to present a solid foundation for your skills. Were you a Clinical Research Coordinator, a Research Scientist, or a Nurse before you became a CRA? If so, including this relevant foundational experience on your resume will make you exceptionally more competitive. Also, candidates whose resume represents them in a Senior Clinical Research Associate position with no prior clinical experience can seem suspicious, thus potentially causing hiring managers to question whether or not you received classical training for the CRA role, or worse, whether you’ve had any real experience as a CRA at all. 

Avoid Fraud With craresources

Luckily; there are ways to abolish the risk of hiring candidates who have falsified all or part of their credentials in the first place. CRA recruitment is time-consuming and risky and craresources is here to help. We are a CRA resource provider dedicated to helping our clients mitigate the risk of hiring fraudulent candidates while, instead, finding the right high-quality candidate for their needs. Contact us today or visit our website to learn more about how craresources can help you optimize your CRA recruitment process.