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Last month, we received a call from the director of human resources at a New York-based company.

The company was ready to hire a candidate, but there was something bothering the company about the candidate.

The candidate had a stellar resume, which included a short stint on Broadway and a degree from a top university, including time on the varsity football team.

He had contact with actors and actresses, presented himself well and was the best all-around candidate whom they had interviewed. He was also a veteran, having served in a “top secret” intelligence division in the U.S. Army.

But something still bothered the company. He was either too good to be true or his story was a figment of his imagination.

The company verified his degree, and the background check that was completed (using a different company) did not come up with anything.

The company still wasn’t comfortable. When it did its own research, the company was unable to verify that he had been on Broadway, had been a member of the football team or had served in the U.S. Army. When he was asked about providing proof that he served in the military, the candidate became a little cagey and was unable to provide anything that could prove that he had served.

The company asked us to help verify the military service. The candidate said that he had served several years in intelligence in a special unit within the U.S. Army. The company wanted an independent source to verify his military background.

The request was simple enough: submit the paperwork to verify his military status. But sometimes the simplest things can get complicated.

Two weeks went by, and then the National Personnel Records Center responded that the request had been forwarded to the U.S. Army Human Resources Command. Of the dozens of requests that we had sent before, it was certainly an odd response.

After weeks of trying to call the U.S. Army Human Resources Command, we had still not received a response. The command would respond to our requests by saying that it was “still being worked on.”

Understandably, the company wanted to make a decision one way or the other, and “still being worked on” was not much help.

With one last attempt to verify the military service, we were finally able to talk to a Freedom of Information and Privacy Act analyst, who gave us the news: Not only did the candidate not serve in a top-secret special unit in the U.S. Army, but he also never even finished basic training. He spent a total of four months in the U.S. Army after committing to eight years.

It’s still not known why he served only a few months or why he never fulfilled his commitment, but nevertheless, the company was able to finally make a decision and move on.

Lessons learned:

  • If you ever hear anyone tell you that he or she was in some undercover/top-secret group in the military or was a spy in the military and the records cannot be found, be skeptical … very skeptical.
  • Military service is a relatively easy thing to verify. It takes some time, but it can be done.
  • Information such as the dates of service, assignments and geographical location, duty status (discharged, honorably discharged, etc.), and military education as well as any decorations and awards can be verified.

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