Proxy Interviews Exposed: Behind the Bait and Switch

Proxy Interview
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With the continued rise of remote work, hiring managers and Human Resources (HR) professionals are facing a new obstacle: The proliferation of “proxy interviews”. These deceptive tactics not only jeopardize the integrity of the hiring process but create a significant security risk and increase hiring costs for employers. In this blog post, we shed light on “proxy interviews” and equip you with the knowledge to effectively contend with this growing issue.

Proxy Interviews Defined

A proxy interview occurs when a candidate sends a stand-in, or uses deepfake technology, to represent themselves in a phone or video interview. This fraudulent practice is intended to mislead hiring managers into believing they are interacting with the actual candidate. In addition to the “bait-and-switch” scenario defined above, fake candidates have also been known to use the following methods to artificially inflate their true capabilities:

  1. Lip Syncing: An orchestrated act where someone else in the room supplies answers while the interviewed candidate merely moves their lips, masking the act of cheating.
  2. Plagiarism: Particularly prevalent in employment tests, candidates resort to copying and pasting answers from online sources, compromising the authenticity of their responses.
  3. Back-Up Tactics: Fake candidates employ tactics such as having someone feed them answers or consulting a cheat sheet discreetly, evading the interview camera.
  4. Virtual Access: A dual keyboard and monitor setup allow another person to intervene, either taking the test or participating in the interview on behalf of the candidate.
  5. Remote Desktop Intrusion: Utilizing tools like Zoom or TeamViewer, candidates may employ someone else to take the employment test remotely, further complicating the verification process.
  6. Headphones Assistance: Candidates often receive guidance over a phone call, with someone providing answers to interview questions through discreet means like headphones.

Some of these tactics might be easier to detect than others. However, the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) explains, “there is a chance they could be indistinguishable from legitimate calls in the future.” So, it’s an important for hiring authorities to be aware and proactive. An ounce of prevention is always worth a pound of cure.

Increased Security Risk and Cost-Per-Hire

While some of the scammers might simply be trying to cheat the system, others could have a more malicious intent. In fact, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is concerned with a trend where threat actors are leveraging deepfake technology to infiltrate remote work positions, particularly in critical areas such as Information Technology (IT), database management, and development. Once hired, these malicious individuals are able to gain access to sensitive customer information, financial data, and proprietary knowledge.

In addition to the cybersecurity implications, the ramifications of a proxy interview extend far the cybersecurity implications. For instance, consider a scenario where a hiring manager, deceived by a proxy interview, selects an ill-suited candidate for a critical role. The subsequent onboarding and training investment, coupled with potential disruptions to team dynamics, results in significant financial losses for the company. In fact, our blog post on How To Contain the Costs of a Mis-Hire explains the wrong hire can cost your business 30% of the employee’s first-year earnings. Other resources estimate that the cost could range from nearly $240,000 to $850,000 per employee.

How to Proactively Combat Proxy Interviews

While interview fraud isn’t always rooted in malicious intent, it’s important for hiring authorities to adopt preventative measures and know the signs. Here are a few best practices to ensure are taking place when conducting remote interviews for a critical tech role:

  1. Video Interviews: Never rely solely on phone interviews. Embrace video as a standard part of your hiring process. Face-to-face interactions make it more challenging for candidates to use proxies and ensure a holistic assessment of what’s being communicated non-verbally.
  2. Utilize Online Platforms Wisely: Leverage professional networks and online platforms to cross-verify a candidate’s identity and professional background. Review social media profiles on platforms such as LinkedIn to ensure they have a professional headshot, skillset, and employment history consistent with the information provided in resumes.
  3. Thorough Background Checks: Implement background checks to verify the authenticity of a candidate’s skillset, credentials, and work history. Utilize reputable screening services to ensure the information provided aligns with reality.
  4. In-depth Reference Checks: Engage in comprehensive reference checks by directly contacting previous employers and colleagues listed on the candidate’s resume. Genuine references can provide valuable insights into a candidate’s actual capabilities.

Watching for the Signs

In addition to establishing the protocols above, there are several red flags that indicate a candidate might not be operating completely above board. Recruiters, hiring managers, and HR professionals can watch the following clues:

  1. Digital: Keep an eye out for Zoom/remote desktop icons, dual cursors during tests, or taskbar icons from communication platforms like Zoom, Skype, or TeamViewer.
  2. Body Language: Observe the candidate’s body language for unusual signs, such as extreme nervousness, excessive sweating, or frequent throat clearing – potential indicators of deception.
  3. Environmental: Pay attention to background noises, lighting discrepancies, or grainy video quality, which could suggest attempts to hide something or someone in the room.
  4. Technical Anomalies: Be wary of speaker echoes, delayed responses to questions, or compromised video quality due to bandwidth issues, especially when remote desktop access is involved.
  5. Behavioral Patterns: Watch for inconsistencies in eye, hand, shoulder, and cursor movements, both during general conversation and when the candidate is engaged in specific tasks like coding.

It’s also critical that employers establish a direct channel of communication between hiring managers, HR, and security professionals. Consider involving IT teams early on to determine how much access should be granted and how soon. New hires should be given gradual access to company data if necessary and only after meeting with a member of your IT team as part of the onboarding process.

Partner With an Outside Recruiting Firm

An experienced recruiter will help you quickly find the right candidate, especially when it comes to a hard-to-fill position that requires a unique combination of technical and functional skills. Contingency recruiting specifically offers a low-risk, high-reward arrangement that allows you to only pay once a candidate has been successfully hired. Along with well-established candidate vetting practices and background screening, partnership benefits include a cohesive a hiring strategy, access to deep talent networks, assistance with compensation negotiations, and more.

A reputable recruiting agency serves as an extension of your in-house talent acquisition team to work toward the same goal. You’ll be partnered with a dedicated professional who will augment your search efforts to engage only the most qualified candidates. Not only will this save you time, but it will also result in increased recruitment activity to build a community of talent that can easily be tapped in the future!

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