The job market gets more competitive every year, and as it does, more and more job candidates are falsifying their resumes in order to get a leg up on the competition. In recent years, a number of high-profile examples of resume fraud have made headlines. It seems that everyone from college football coaches to elected officials have lied about, or fraudulently obtained, their education qualifications.
Perhaps no case was as prominent as that of former Deputy CIO of Homeland Security Laura Callahan. In 2003, it was discovered that Callahan had obtained academic degrees listed on her resume from Hamilton University, a known diploma mill based in Wyoming. Diploma mills award diplomas and other documentation that appears to be legitimate. However, diploma mills are actually illegitimate educational institutions that trade degrees for a fee with little to no actual coursework or study needed. Callahan was ultimately suspended with pay in 2003 until eventually resigning in 2004. The investigation into Callahan’s qualifications led to the discovery of 28 other senior government employees who received their qualifications from diploma mills as well.
The problem with diploma mills and other forms of educational fraud, including outright lying about academic qualifications, is that it can lead employers to unwittingly hire candidates who lack the qualifications necessary to perform the job for which they were hired. Without the proper training and qualifications, these employees put their employers at risk of being sued for negligent hiring.
Why Is Education Fraud on the Rise?
The competitive job market has made educational qualifications more valuable than ever. In today’s job market, even a job as an office secretary may require a college degree. As such, it’s no wonder that many job candidates would at least consider embellishing their qualifications, if not outright lying about them. In addition to needing certain qualifications in order to obtain entry-level positions, the need of certain degrees or certifications to advance within a company has become more important as well. Once again, many candidates feel that embellishing their accomplishments in order to obtain a higher paying position is worth the risk of being caught. After all, lying on your resume isn’t illegal and oftentimes the only repercussion for the employee is losing their job.
What Can Employers Do to Combat Education Fraud?
Even though nearly 70% of U.S. employers now run criminal background checks on potential hires, many still don’t attempt to verify their employees’ education claims. However, as resume fraud continues to climb, that is slowly starting to change.
Every year more employers are checking applicants’ education background to identify those applicants who have inflated or outright lied about their qualifications. In doing so, employers are able to weed out candidates who don’t actually have the degrees or certifications they claim to have. This not only saves employers from facing negligent hiring suits later on, it also weeds out the most dishonest applicants.
According the Society for Human Resource Management, employers should use a trusted background screening company or contact schools directly in order to verify education credentials. Employers have a number of options when it comes to verifying employee and job candidate education claims.
National Student Clearinghouse
For a small fee, employers can verify the education background of employees and candidates through the National Student Clearinghouse. Using the clearinghouse can protect against more advanced diploma mills that offer “official transcript” services as part of their degree for sale services.
The National Student Clearinghouse allows employers to verify high school diplomas, university degrees and many certification credentials. Additionally, employers can check the accreditation databases maintained by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation if they suspect that a candidate obtained their credentials from a diploma mill or unaccredited institution.
Original Copies of Diplomas and Certificates
Requesting a copy of the original diploma, degree or certification that an employee received upon completing their education is another way employers can verify the veracity of education claims.
Most official documents from education or certification programs contain raised seals or other features that make it clear they are an official record and not just a copy.
Official transcripts are another way employers can verify claims an applicant makes pertaining to their education qualifications. Official transcripts allow employers to verify enrollment dates, courses completed, degrees awarded, grade point averages and other information regarding the applicant’s education history.
Obtaining official transcripts varies by school. Some schools will only release official transcripts at the request of the student, or former student. Whether the employer or the employee requests the transcripts, there will be a small fee in order to have the transcript sent. Official transcripts should be printed on paper bearing the institution’s raised seal and sealed by the school’s registrar. Transcripts should be mailed directly to the employer’s address.
Background Checking Services
Finally, employers have the option of outsourcing education verification checks to a third-party background checking service. The service will contact the institutions listed on an applicants’ resume and verify attendance and any degrees or certificates they were awarded. These services act similarly to those of criminal background checking services.
No matter how you decide to verify an employee’s education qualifications, the important thing is that you do verify them. Not only will it ensure you are hiring an honest and qualified candidate, verifying their qualifications can protect you against negligent hiring claims in the event problems arise with the employee’s work later.