Truth or Consequences

Why it’s crucial to vet and verify job applicants

by Bill Aston

Most businesses and organizations recognize the importance of having established procedures that include requirements and acceptance criteria. It’s a fundamental building block for ensuring services and products meet customer needs. Most customers have no patience for services or products that don’t meet their expectations.

Some organizations consider the phrase “meeting expectations” akin to trying to hit an unidentified target. In this case, the phrase refers to claims made in advertisements and brochures used to promote a product or service.

When dealing with services and products, the methods used to verify whether requirements and expectations have been met include, for example, in-process and final inspections, documentation reviews and product audits. When performed by competent individuals, these methods can reduce the likelihood of delivering nonconforming products to the customer.

Consider the ways advertisements and other literature are used to promote products and services versus how a résumé supports an applicant’s competencies. There are definite similarities. When a potential employer reviews a job applicant’s résumé, the résumé becomes a critical part of the vetting process. It determines whether the potential employer moves forward with an interview or rejects the applicant.

Some people will do what-ever it takes to get that initial job interview—even if it means being deceitful. A 2017 Washington Post article highlighted survey results that revealed that in 2015 and 2016, 56% and 88%, respectively, of the résumés submitted to job search organizations misrepresented applicants’ competencies.1 To describe lying as embellishment may sound less harsh, but the result is still the same—it’s lying. An employer is deceived, a candidate is hired to perform work that he or she doesn’t have the required competencies to deliver, and poor decisions are more likely to be made based on inexperience and lack of training and job knowledge.

Depending on the criticality of the job duties, organizations, customers, the public, the environment, and the health and safety of other workers could potentially be put at a higher level of risk.

Not all embellishments are gross overstatements of fact. But for some employers, an exaggeration of the facts reflects poorly on the candidate’s honesty and trustworthiness. So why would an applicant take that chance? Some candidates may believe the risk of being caught is low compared to the reward of gaining an edge over other potential candidates.

Embellishments have consequences

Job opportunities in the oil and gas industry are excellent, particularly for quality professionals with specialized auditor, quality assurance and quality control manager skills. This includes knowledge of American Petroleum Institute (API) Q1, API Q2 and ISO 9001 quality management systems (QMS), API product specifications and critical processes, such as welding, nondestructive testing (NDT), heat treatment and coatings.

A commonality shared by each of these areas is competence. Competence is an established level of required education, training, skill and experience, as determined by an organization, industry, standard, specification, customer, legal requirement or other interested party.

The consequences of an applicant who purposefully submits an embellished résumé or fake credentials can have a significant negative impact. For example, it could affect an organization’s ability to make fact-based decisions when the source of information is an employee who lacks the required job competencies to make sound conclusions.

The likelihood of an employee who lacks essential job competencies delivering nonconforming services or products increases the risk of loss to the customer, organization and public. The results could be devastating, especially if the product involves critical service-related product (SRP) intended for use by an upstream services provider at a well rig site. Examples of SRPs include blowout preventers, drill pipe and casing, drill bits, master valves, Christmas tree assemblies and other critical equipment that must function as designed to avoid potential losses, such as nonproductive time or even disaster.

On a localized scale, increased costs associated with warranty claims, recurring nonconformances, loss of QMS certification or product monogram licensing may be indicators of people who don’t meet established requirements.

Vet and verify

Most organizations have established processes for vetting and verifying candidates. Some organizations manage this activity internally through HR, while others outsource it to an agency specializing in personnel verification. Regardless, the primary focus is to confirm an applicant’s stated competencies. Unfortunately, some organizations don’t realize the importance of this and rely only on their opinion of a candidate. This could be a huge mistake if the job requires someone with specialized skills, training or experience.

Of course, there are situations when an organization decides to hire a candidate as a trainee. On-the-job training is provided as part of the employee’s development. In these cases, a training certificate may be all that’s needed at the time of vetting. However, when a candidate seeks a job that requires specialized skills or certifications, it’s wrong for the candidate to claim certification based on a training certificate.

What’s worse is submitting false documents as evidence of competence for the job position, such as candidates who provide phony certifications from Exemplar Global, the American Welding Society (AWS) or the American Society for Nondestructive Testing (ASNT), and people who claim competence as an ISO 10725 or ISO 17021 auditor but have no evidence of training or audit experience with these standards. It’s important to know that most certifications can be quickly verified online using a verification portal found on websites for ASQ, AWS, ASNT, Exemplar Global and the Professional Evaluation and Certification Board.

Certification vs. certificate

Some individuals are honestly confused about the differences between a certification and a certificate or were wrongly informed that their certificate is a certification. It’s of equal worth for organizations that review résumés and certifications to have a firm understanding of these differences as well.

Certificate. A certificate only provides evidence that a training course, workshop or seminar was attended—it does not provide confirmation that any required level of knowledge or skill was achieved. Certificates don’t include a date of expiration or period of validity, and do not require renewal. Examples of certificates include:

  • Certificate of achievement.
  • Certificate of attendance.
  • Certificate of accomplishment.
  • Certificate of completion.

Certification. A certification is issued to confirm that a person has met a required level of competence demonstrated by completion of a defined number of classroom training hours, practical examination or work experience (qualification based), as supported by documented evidence. The requirements for certification are based on industry standards, specifications or other criteria. Certifications have:

  1. An assigned certification number.
  2. An issue or expiration date.
  3. A specified period of validity, such as three years from the issue date.
  4. Specific requirements that must be met for renewal, such as attending training or maintaining an audit log.

Stay vigilant

The demand for competent, transparent, honest and trustworthy personnel will continue. Hopefully, more organizations will help expose the existing practice of submitting fraudulent certifications and embellished résumés that misrepresent the competencies of individuals. Don’t let embellishment and fake credentials become the new normal.


  1. “Pros and Cons of Exaggerating on a Résumé,” Washington Post, Feb. 17, 2017, https://jobs.washingtonpost.com/article/pros-and-cons-of-exaggerating-on-a-resume.

Bill Aston is the managing director of Aston Technical Consulting Services LLC in Coldspring, TX. He is an ASQ senior member, ASQ-certified quality auditor, Exemplar Global master auditor, Professional Evaluation and Certification Board-certified lead auditor and trainer, and an American Petroleum Institute (API) API-U trainer. Aston is a voting member of API Quality Subcommittee 18, as well as U.S. Technical Advisory Group to ISO Technical Committee 176. He is a regular contributor to QP’s Expert Answers department and ASQ’s Ask the Experts blog.

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