Recruitment & Hiring

Sacked executive faces court over allegations a false CV scored her a high-paying SA public service job

Emma Koehn /

A former manager at South Australia’s Department of Premier and Cabinet has faced court this week over allegations she secured a $245,000 salaried position with a CV that fraudulently claimed she had worked with top technology companies.

The Australian reports Veronica Theriault appeared via videolink in the Adelaide Magistrate’s Court yesterday, charged with deception and dishonesty dealings.

She was hired in 2017 in a chief information officer role with the South Australian government, which The Australian reports carried a salary or more than $240,000, but was later let go following allegations that there were significant mistruths in her CV and application, as well as a suggestion she had acted as her own referee under an alias.

In September 2017, seven weeks after taking the position, the chief executive of the South Australian Department of Premier and Cabinet, Dr Don Russell, confirmed Theriault’s role had been terminated, reported CIO at the time.

“I have established an urgent inquiry into the recruitment process that resulted in the employment of Ms Theriault,” he said.

On September 22, 2017, the South Australian Independent Commissioner Against Corruption confirmed a 44-year-old woman had been charged with deception and dishonesty relating to documents in her application for public sector employment, as well as being charged with abuse of public office.

A 40-year-old man was also charged with aiding and abetting the woman’s alleged offering. The Adelaide Advertiser reports this man is believed is Theriault’s brother, who she is accused of offering contracts to through her role.

Theriault will next appear in court in April to enter a plea, reports The Australian.

Read more: Nine out of ten Aussies have error-laden CVs

Employers tend not to check references, says expert

Private employers have also had their fair share of the spotlight when it comes to candidates securing high-paying jobs with questionable claims on their CVs. Back in 2014, the “Myer Liar” case involved a high-paid official at the department store let go from his role after it was found his references did not stack up.

The worker, Andrew Flanagan, plead guilty to deception charges and was issued a community corrections order including 400 hours of community service.

Recruitment expert Ross Clennett tells SmartCompany that while high-profile cases involving questions about workers’ credentials make headlines, it is likely Australian companies are failing to properly check the bona fides of potential talent “all the time”.

“My guess is it would be happening every day in every company, where people desperate for hiring are making decisions without any background checking,” he says.

In general terms, Clennett says it can be hard for smaller operators to find the right person within a big corporate to confirm whether a potential candidate actually held the role they say they did.

It can be a big maze, because a lot of big companies will be reluctant to provide more than a statement of employment history,” he says. 

However, he believes no matter the size of the business, employers should be able to fact check the credentials of workers even in the way they structure interview questions.

When you put someone under the microscope to provide very specific examples of what they’ve done and the outcomes, you should start to see signs if they’re not telling the truth — particularly at the manager-level,” he says. 

“If you’re digging down and you’re asking people about what they’ve done before, they should be able to come up with specifics.”

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is a former senior journalist at SmartCompany.

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