Employee Substitution: When the Interviewee Isn't the Employee
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Employee Substitution: When the Interviewee Isn't the Employee

2023-11-01 | Secure Screening | Employment Screening Back To Blog Posts

The Curious Case of Employee Substitution: When the Interviewee Isn't the Employee

In the recruitment world, it isn’t uncommon to come across stories of embellished resumes, exaggerated skillsets, and even fake references. But there's an audacious form of employment fraud that has begun to make waves in the industry: employee substitution. Imagine hiring John for his exemplary skills only to find Jane showing up on the first day of work, claiming to be the person you hired. As bizarre as it sounds, this is a reality in certain sectors.

What is Employee Substitution?

Employee substitution happens when one person goes through the interview process, gets the job offer, and then a completely different person turns up to execute the role. The person who was interviewed and the person who shows up for the job are often in cahoots, with the former usually possessing the skills and qualifications necessary for the job, while the latter benefits from the salary and position.

Why Does This Happen?

Several reasons can be attributed to this phenomenon:

  1. Skill Gap: The person willing to work might not possess the necessary qualifications or skills, so they use a proxy to get through the interview process.
  2. Dual Employment: The person interviewed may already be employed elsewhere and uses this tactic to gain an additional salary.
  3. Immigration and Work Restrictions: In some cases, the person who wants the job may have immigration or work restrictions. Using a proxy allows them to circumvent these legal barriers.
  4. Economic Reasons: In areas with high unemployment, this can be seen as a way to 'share' job opportunities among a group.

What Impact Does This Have On Businesses?

  1. Performance Issues: The substitute might not have the required skills, leading to poor job performance and affecting business productivity.
  2. Legal Consequences: Hiring someone without proper documentation or under false pretences can lead to severe legal consequences.
  3. Reputational Damage: Such incidents, when discovered, can damage a company's reputation, affecting client trust and future hiring prospects.

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How Can Companies Protect Themselves?

  1. Thorough Background Checks: Go beyond checking just the professional references. A comprehensive background check can unearth discrepancies in identities.
  2. Video Interviews: Using video interviews can allow you to familiarise yourself with the candidate's appearance and mannerisms, making substitution more difficult.
  3. First Day Formalities: Always check identification documents on the first day. This simple step can immediately detect if a switch has taken place.
  4. Ongoing Monitoring: Regular performance reviews and feedback sessions can help in identifying discrepancies in skills and knowledge.
  5. Culture and Onboarding: Foster a company culture where employees feel a sense of loyalty and integrity. A comprehensive onboarding process can also deter such practices as newcomers become integrated into the company ethos quickly.


While the idea of employee substitution might seem like a plot from a movie, it's essential for businesses to be aware of such practices. Being vigilant during the hiring process and fostering a culture of transparency can go a long way in preventing such fraudulent practices, ensuring that the person you hired is indeed the one contributing to your company's success.

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