Russian Spies and HR Concerns

The arrest of the alleged Russian spies, and especially Anna Chapman, highlights a few HR-related truths that too many employers ignore.

The first, and most obvious, is that pretty girls get interviews.  I spoke a few months ago at a technical school on Long Island.  One of the career counselors lamented that he would send out graduates’ resumes to numerous employers and that, while the majority would get interviews, only a minority would actually be offered a job the first time out.  I then asked him if he would consider the women who were being offered jobs at their first interview “attractive.”  He smiled, nodded, and said, “I never thought of that!”

Of course looks may get someone an interview, and even a job offer, but the offer will not come in a void.  It depends on the resume.  Ms. Chapman’s resume is posted on LinkedIn which is a good source that HR professionals should not ignore.  This is not just for finding talented candidates to fill positions.  Just as importantly, once they have the candidate and their resume, they should compare it to the profile on LinkedIn.  Discrepancies could indicate a problem, and definitely require questions.

According to the British newspaper The Guardian, Chapman’s LinkedIn profile is bogus.

NetJets Europe, where she claims to have been in “Sales,” says she was a secretary.  Barclays Bank where, according to her Profile she was a “Slave,” at first claimed to never had heard of her but later confirmed that she had been with their small business banking division.  The confusion over her employment status was apparently the result of her having stated on her LinkedIn profile that she was with their investment banking division.  And, apparently, London’s Navigator Hedge Fund, where she claims to have been “Head of IPO,” doesn’t even exist.

KIT Fortis Investments, where she says she was a “VP,” is apparently a Russian equity asset management firm.   No mention of whether or not she actually worked there, although something tells me that any references would be questionable…

Of course, Ms. Chapman did not need a resume.  She apparently started her own real estate company.  But this case, from the HR perspective, does highlight a serious problem: foreign reference checking.

Most employers rightfully demand that candidates provide them with references, preferably supervisors, from their previous employers.  Whenever I have had a candidate who has worked abroad make it to the reference checking stage of an interview, the client has always told me to just check local (US) references.  The exception is for Canadians.  Apparently it’s worthwhile checking references if you can dial direct at no charge!

Of course, dishonest candidates also know that employers, especially small and mid-sized firms, won’t check foreign references.  But those are precisely the references that need to be checked.  (Real references, not those on LinkedIn which, in Ms. Chapman’s case, are probably phony.)  You won’t be catching a spy, but you might very well be avoiding a bad hire.