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RECRUITMENT: Fabricated experience, education and qualifications

A top lawyer who held numerous posts was recently found to have fabricated his entire education and qualifications. How can you avoid falling victim to liars and cheats during your recruitment process?

>Top grade liar

Until recently, Dennis O’Riordan enjoyed a high-powered legal career in the City of London. His CV and public profile both stated that he had attended Oxford University as an undergraduate and a PhD student, where he gained first-class honours degrees. “Doctor” O’Riordan claimed to have then moved to Harvard, and been admitted to both the New York Bar and the Irish Bar, having successfully completed all the necessary exams.

Living in Fantasyland

With the help of his long list of academic achievements, O’Riordan managed to get his foot in the door at a number of large law firms – in fact, he held a number of important posts with some big hitters. The trouble was, however, that O’Riordan’s entire education and qualifications were nothing but a complete fabrication.

Phoney applications

What’s even more surprising is that none of the law firms he worked for noticed anything untoward – O’Riordan’s fraudulent background was only discovered when he applied to work at an unnamed barristers’ chambers, which presumably ran robust qualification checks.
Incredibly though, recent research, by employment agency Adecco, shows that O’Riordan isn’t unique – one in ten job applicants routinely lie about their qualifications; 9% create false job titles; 7% embellish their university education; and 5% mislead potential employers about their working history.

Don’t be a victim

So how can you avoid being hoodwinked by a potential employee during your recruitment process? Firstly, you should take at least two references from previous employers (see The next step ); secondly, you should confirm that the applicant holds all the professional qualifications that they’ve stated in their application form or CV and, where relevant, they actually attended their stated university.

  • Tip 1. Don’t accept copy certificates as these may be forged. Instead, having sought the applicant’s permission, write to the awarding body or institution and ask them to confirm the position. We’ve created precedent letters that you can use for this purpose
  • Tip 2. For further protection, always make an offer of employment subject to the receipt of confirmation regarding qualifications that is satisfactory to you.
  • Tip 3. That way, if the applicant refuses to give their permission for you to run checks on their qualifications, or education, or a problem is revealed later on, you can withdraw the offer of employment and the applicant won’t be able to sue you for breach of contract. However, you should allow reasonable time for the enquiries to be made and only go down this route if you have solid grounds to do so.

Always insist on verifying stated qualifications with the awarding institution and make any offer of employment subject to these being confirmed to your satisfaction. If the applicant won’t allow any checks, or they come back unconfirmed, simply reject their application.

For further advice and assistance contact Adrian Berkeley on 0161-371 0011 or

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