Employee Education Verification

Resume embellishment is an increasingly common problem in hiring. In a survey conducted by CareerBuilder.com, almost 60% of other hiring managers had caught a job applicant fabricating some aspect of their resume — and academic degrees were one of the most frequent falsifications. This kind of embellishment is easier to understand when you consider that many companies hire applicants without performing any employee education verification.

A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 92% of surveyed employers do conduct employment background screening. But, according to the National Association of Professional Background Screeners, only 31% of employers check the education credentials of every candidate, and nearly 40% don’t perform employee education verification at all.

Below, we’ll touch on the reasons why proper education is crucial for your workforce. We’ll also cover why employee education verification is essential — and why it should be a fundamental part of your background screening process.

Why Well-Educated Employees Matter

While a college degree isn’t the only sign that someone has the necessary skills and qualifications to succeed in a job, it does give employers some valuable information about the candidate. For one thing, applicants with a postsecondary degree have demonstrated that they have the work ethic to see an endeavor through. This kind of perseverance and motivation reflects well on their ability to stick with long-term, challenging projects in the workplace.

A candidate’s educational background is also a great way for employers to determine whether that person has the kind of subject-specific knowledge they need to succeed. Many employees today need specialist knowledge that can’t be obtained outside of a two- or four-year degree program.

Beyond subject-specific knowledge, most liberal arts educations also teach their students a plethora of general skills — from critical thinking and analysis, to communication, collaboration, and more. Indeed, a survey from the Association of American Colleges and Universities shows that at least half of employers view liberal arts education skills as “very important” for their workforce, and another 30% believe these skills are at least “somewhat important.” Employees with postsecondary degrees, in other words, are likely to have the kind of skills that will help them communicate, adapt, and tackle problems in the workplace.

Lifelong Learning

It’s not just college degrees that matter, either. According to the Pew Research Center, 87% of adults in the workforce acknowledge that it’s crucial to continue training and developing new skills throughout their careers to stay competitive in a rapidly changing workplace. And, as more and more candidates receive four-year and graduate degrees, continuing education can be what sets someone apart from the pack.

From an employer’s perspective, continuing education shows that a candidate is staying on top of industry developments and keeping current with their skills and knowledge. It also shows that an employee is eager to learn and will be receptive to workplace training. Certification programs, e-learning courses, license renewals, and even conference attendance are all great ways to ensure your workforce is up to date and in the know.

Reasons Not to Skip Employee Education Verification

Employers who are already performing other types of background verification — such as criminal background checks and work experience checks — might be tempted to give education verification a pass. Not so fast, says the Society for Human Resource Management. Education fraud on resumes is rampant, and many people embellish their credentials.

This may seem like a problem limited to lower-level jobs, but the National Student Clearinghouse found that education fraud goes all the way to the top:

  • In a well publicized case in 2007, the CEO of Yahoo was forced to resign after it was discovered that he had only earned one of the two degrees listed on his resume. 
  • Even more astonishingly, Herbalife, Bausch & Lomb, and MGM Mirage have each fired a CEO for pretending to have an MBA he didn’t actually earn.
  • MIT’s former dean of admissions claimed to have multiple graduate degrees — when in reality she hadn’t even graduated from college.

As you can see, education fraud exists at all levels. It can cost your organization major credibility with stakeholders, resulting in lost revenue, reputation, and customers. It can also lead to unqualified or underqualified candidates being offered a position they’re not suited for, which can lead to major consequences down the road.

Education Fraud — An Ongoing Problem

Unfortunately, the problem of education fraud shows no sign of abating — and it’s actually easier than ever to fake a degree. According to the National Student Clearinghouse and The New York Times, there are over 3,000 diploma mills currently awarding degrees for as little as $100.

The names of these mills are often chosen to be deceptively similar to legitimate higher ed institutions, so they’re trickier to spot at a glance. (Think “Cambridge State University,” “Dublin Metropolitan University,” “Hartford University,” and so on.) Because many of these mills are located overseas, regulators can also have a hard time shutting them down.

In addition to the problem of diploma mills, some candidates attend institutions that operate more like traditional four-year colleges but have not been accredited by a reputable organization. Like diploma mills, these unaccredited colleges often sound real — for instance, California University of Business and Technology in the United States and Addison State University in Canada — but the quality of education is considered to be substandard by professionals.

Finally, some diploma mills and unaccredited schools actually claim full accreditation by working with an “accreditation mill.” Because there are multiple legitimate accrediting bodies in the United States, and because accreditation mills often base their websites on those of the real organizations, they can be difficult to distinguish at a glance. 

Given the scope and sophistication of degree fraud, it’s more important than ever that employers use the right screening tools and processes in their job search.

How to Conduct Employee Education Verification

To make sure your prospective hires have the education they claim, employers need to verify a number of things:

  • The employee received a degree from an accredited institution. As mentioned above, some candidates may attend colleges that sound real – like International American University or the London College of Technology and Business – but they’re not considered to be legitimate educational institutions. Students may still attend classes and receive grades and transcripts, but the quality of their education is generally considered to be substandard by legitimate academic accreditors.
  • The degree is not from a diploma mill. Unaccredited and substandard institutions exist to grant college degrees for a fee. For as little as $100 and no or nominal coursework, students may walk away with a “degree.” Some diploma mills are sophisticated enough to choose real-sounding names and provide official-looking transcripts for their “students,” so it’s extra important to verify the authenticity of the employee’s degree through other means.
  • The institution’s accrediting body is legitimate. Since some diploma mills are “accredited” by illegitimate organizations, it’s also important to check that the college or university has been accredited by a valid organization — for instance, the New England Commission of Higher Education, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the Higher Learning Commission, etc.
  • The employee actually finished their degree. In some cases, students attend a university and complete coursework — but they don’t actually finish their program or graduate with a degree. For this reason, it’s not enough to just verify that an employee attended a certain institution; it’s also important to verify conferral of the degree.
  • There is no outright fabrication. While rare, some candidates may invent the name of an institution or degree program altogether.

If the candidate is also being considered on the basis of academic honors (e.g. summa cum laude, participation in national honor societies like Phi Beta Kappa), those details must be verified as well. Education verification can be a lengthy process, often involving both online research and numerous follow-up phone calls to verify.

To complicate things, many higher ed institutions don’t respond to direct requests for degree verification. Even worse, diploma mills can provide falsified records for students who have purchased a diploma — so simply obtaining a transcript is not enough to authenticate the candidate’s educational history.

Given the wide range of opportunities for educational embellishment or fraud, it’s no wonder that many employers skip the education verification process altogether. However, it is possible to get fast and highly accurate information on your candidates’ educational credentials. With the right screening tools, you can quickly verify that your employees have studied where — and what — they say they have, giving you peace of mind that you’ve chosen the best candidates for your organization.

How Can We Help?

At PeopleG2, we offer the tools to help you conduct accurate employee education verification — all while providing a quick and positive candidate experience. We know that different organizations, and even different positions, can require drastically different educational backgrounds. Our solutions are intuitive and flexible to help you get the best results in your hiring process.

With the “Great Reshuffle” underway and job openings at a high, we know that hiring moves faster than ever. We also know that remote, contact-free screening is vital for growing your team during the pandemic. At PeopleG2, our tools help you avoid unnecessary delays and get the information you need to hire with confidence and trust.

To provide you with reports that are fast, helpful, accurate, and legal, PeopleG2 employs a consistent approach aligned with industry best practices and compliance standards. Our advanced verification filters and highly qualified researchers dive deeper into candidates’ backgrounds and address discrepancies quickly, so you get the most thorough results possible.

In addition to employee education verification, PeopleG2 offers a wide variety of background check services, including:

  • Criminal background checks
  • Drug testing
  • Sex offender registry search
  • Employment certification
  • Identity and previous employment checks
  • DMV and MVR searches
  • Social media screenings
  • And more

Find the Perfect Fit for Your Team. We’ll Do the Rest.

Book a demo with us to learn more about how PeopleG2 can make your employee education verification — and your entire background screening process — simpler, quicker, and more cost-effective.

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