How to Spot Scams in Technical Recruiting: The Impersonator

Mark Looi
5 min readDec 26, 2022
Mask of Xiuhtecuhtli (British Museum) Wikimedia Commons.

After validating the resumes of candidates and dodging the tricks of front runners, it’s time to interview promising candidates. This step leads us to yet another scam, impersonation. Impersonation can assume different forms:

  • A hidden party or the candidate searches for answers that display on a second window or monitor while listening in on the interview questions.
  • A hidden party in an online interview provides notes or hints to the interviewee more-or-less real time.
  • A hidden party speaks for the candidate while the candidate lip syncs the words!
  • One person interviews and performs successfully, then a different person shows up for the job.

As hard as it might be to imagine the sheer brazenness of these scams, we have witnessed the first three in the course of numerous interviews — not often to be sure, yet enough to be gobsmacked by the audacity, or perhaps desperation, of the perpetrators. The effort, planning, and conspiracy required to pull off most of these is significant, suggesting it must be successful at some level. Still, it would seem more fruitful for the candidate to put their efforts towards improving their skills than in ways to cheat.

Instances of Impersonation

In one interview, the candidate started to look off screen, away from the camera, and her answers seemed to miss the point. Rephrased questions led to still more formulaic responses. As the interview progressed, we became increasingly suspicious. One of the interviewers noticed the answers seemed like answers from Google searches. For example, when she was asked to tell us of specific experience with some technology, she recited the definition of the technology. We tried this a few times asking about different subjects her resume had mentioned and got the same runaround. In the end, we concluded she or a confederate had been searching for answers on a separate monitor and reading them out, often missing the real meaning.

In another instance, we interviewed a candidate who had a good Internet connection, but when we began the questioning, there was a lag of one or two seconds between the words we heard in reply and the candidate’s lip movements. To be…

--

--

Mark Looi

Entrepreneur, technologist, business strategist, history buff, photographer, with a diverse range of interests.