Verifying Educational Background: No Longer an Option

As it becomes more competitive to find a lucrative position, employers are a in a vulnerable position when it comes to making sure they have selected the right candidate with the right credentials. There are many instances where neglecting to conduct a pre-employment background check can result in an embarrassing situation that ends up costing the company time, money and credibility. When hiring for high-level management positions, it is especially important to conduct and education background check to make sure the recruitment efforts in finding the right candidate were not done in vain.

In most companies, a pre-employment background check is automatic and can help to verify places of employment, job titles and the type of tasks they completed. This may or may not include education records. In recent years, falsifying education has become popular because it was not customary to verify education during the pre-employment screening process. If the individual had certain schools or degrees on their resume, it was assumed that the information was accurate. With the fake resume of Yahoo’s CEO Scott Thompson emerging, along with a number of high-level executives such as British chef Robert Irving, MIT dean Marilee Jones, IBM President Jeffrey Papows, Notre Dame’s head coach George O’Leary, and Bausch & Lomb’s CEO Ronald Zarrella, the opportunity for education fraud is very high.

Problems surrounding an educational background frequently occur when applicants have lied on their resume claiming they have obtained a degree in a certain specialization or at a certain school when they have not. Although they may have gone to the school, they may not have finished. In these instances, those individuals may feel that if checked, it will show that they were a student and the degree will not be verified.

How does this affect business owners?

Hiring someone who does not have the education or experience outlined on their resume can pose unexpected problems for a business owner such as:

    • Unrealistic expectations
      As a business owner, hiring someone who has the knowledge, skills and abilities is key. Hiring someone based on their education and experience is a given, and the employer has the utmost confidence the employee can deliver. When the candidate is not truthful on their resume, this creates an opportunity for subpar performance, especially if the business owner is expecting someone who has the educational background and foundation to get the job done.
    • Legal ramifications
      If an employee causes harm or financial liability to another person or organization as a result of having lied on their resume, the business owner may have consequences as a result of not doing a thorough pre-employment screening to verify the employee’s experience. For large corporations, this can mean stock will drop, costing the company millions, or if someone lies that they attended accounting school and did not, they may make a mistake on a client’s tax forms or financial statement, costing them thousands of dollars through no fault of their own.
    • New recruitment costs
      The time and money invested in finding qualified candidates are costly. Business owners spend quite a bit of money on advertising or using a search firm, background fee costs, and interview costs. If the position is a high-level management position, this could also mean travel costs, which include airfare, car rentals, hotel and food. The higher the position, the more money a business owner stands to spend on recruiting an employee that is capable of handling the job.

How can education fraud be avoided?

During the pre-employment screening process, education credentials can be requested, either through the candidate, or the school. All candidates should sign a waiver giving the company permission to conduct these searches as part of their background check. An education background search can be conducted through the National Student Clearinghouse, through official transcripts which are mailed directly to the employer, and pre-verification services. Even if a potential candidate provides a copy of their degree, it is best to conduct an education background check, as even diplomas are now being falsified. With transcripts and real diplomas, most of them have raised seals that assist in distinguishing them from a copy. Care must be taken to ensure every document turned in is authenticated and true.

If business owners are doing their own reference and education background checks in-house, using a letter for request of educational records may be in order, with the applicant’s signature attached. Some institutions may provide the information over the phone, but in most cases, having a signed document will hold more weight. When conducting these checks, it is important to know about the institution in question, such as whether or not they offer the degree the applicant stated they have. If they have changed the name of the degree, it’s best to inquire. Also find out if the institution is accredited, because if not, their degree is virtually worthless.

As with the case of high-profile employees who did not have the education to support their position, neglecting to do the proper research can have negative implications on a business owner that may be hard to shake for a while. Keeping accurate reference records for each applicant is important to ensure the company is doing its due diligence when recruiting. It is best to go through all records at least every six months to make sure all verifications are in order. If there are any records that are incomplete, that would be a good time to go ahead and complete the file to make sure there won’t be any unexpected surprises.

Understanding the importance of conducting an education verification is crucial, especially when hiring for high-level management positions, and specialty positions where having an educational foundation is needed. This helps protect the company, and raises the standards of excellence within the organization.

For more information on conducting educational background checks and pre-employment background screenings, contact an associate at VerifyProtect today! Give us at a call at (610)-355-2331 or send an email to

Kristina Taylor
In 1989, Kristina began her career as a customer service representative at the newly formed American Tenant Screen, Inc. Ten years later, she pioneered tenant background screening on the Internet. As a long-standing member of the National Multifamily Resident Information Council (formerly the National Association of Screening Agencies) Kristina gains insight into the trends of the tenant screening industry to better understand the current and future needs of their clients.

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