How to Spot Scams in Technical Recruiting: The Resume

Mark Looi
9 min readDec 12, 2022
Image by vectorjuice

Remote work has opened up untapped global sources of talent and offered individuals greater flexibility in their work and lives. Unfortunately, it has also ushered in new ways for unscrupulous individuals or agencies to take advantage of the high demand for skilled workers by fraudulently placing unqualified contract workers. Remote work is often accompanied by online interviewing, where the candidates are never evaluated in person. This article is the first of several that examines some of the scams that we have encountered in the course of evaluating tens of thousands of job applicants. The majority of applicants are straightforward and honest, but a significant minority or their agents have turned technical recruiting into a viper’s nest.

The motivation for this trickery are the lofty rates that can be charged to a duped company — from $10,000 to $20,000 or more per month for a contractor. Even if the contractor is incapable of performing the job, it may take months to discover this, especially in specialized technical roles or if there is a long ramp up time before the worker can be expected to produce measurable results (such as in business development or sales roles). During that time, the agency or contractor books billable time for no useful work. Once discovered, of course the contractor can be discharged promptly (though usually subject to an additional notice period) but the company is back where it started, now saddled with the loss of both money and time.

There can be a number of unwitting victims, starting with the company, but often intermediaries such as recruiters, recruiting firms, and even the contractors themselves, lose out:

  • Recruiters spend valuable time playing cat-and-mouse games with unqualified candidates and their agents, who are embellishing or even making up experience and skills.
  • Companies are taken for their money and time; company employees become frustrated, untrusting, cynical, and unmotivated to interview, seeing the process as unproductive and unpleasant.
  • Contractors are sometimes pushed by their unscrupulous agents into interviews and jobs that they know they cannot succeed at; some are unethically promoted by front runners.

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Mark Looi

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