Higher Education or Just a Diploma Mill? Best Practices for Education Verification

Ann: “Cutting Edge, this is Ann.”

Customer: “All the little darlings are headed back to school. So, I was wondering. What are the odds that someone didn’t graduate or get the degree they say they did?”

Ann (who has a black belt in Google Fu): “Would you believe that, according to Glassdoor, 28% of resumes and applications contain phony degree claims?”

Customer: “THAT’S MORE THAN ¼ OF MY EMPLOYEES!” (Starts looking around his office, muttering “which one of yous. . . “

Ann (trying to be helpful): “It’s easy enough to verify–” (Client has put phone down, is off roaming the halls trying to decide on sight who might have committed fraud.)

Misrepresenting one’s education or credentials is one of the most widespread abuses in background screening.

And it happens at all levels:

  • Scott Thompson, former CEO of Yahoo! Falsely claimed a bachelor’s degree in accounting and computer science from Stonehill College but his degree was in accounting only. That could be a big deal for a company like Yahoo!
  • Ram Kumar, Research Director for Institutional Shareholder Services, falsely claimed a law degree.
  • Kenneth Lonchar, former CFO of Veritas, falsely claimed an MBA from Stanford
  • Ron Zarrella, CEO of Bausch and Lomb, falsely claimed an MBA from New York University
  • Bryan Mitchell, Chairman of MCG Capital, falsely claimed a BA in Economics from Syracuse University.

Is there a best practice for education verification?

You bet. There are handful of procedures that will make education verification quick and easy.

  1. Get the applicant’s name when they received the degree. Schools generally don’t keep records by Social Security Numbers. They will have a record by name under which the individual graduated
  2. Get the year that the applicant graduated. Record searching by the schools can be very different if your applicant graduated in 2015 or 1985. That year can be a big help whether the records are on microfiche or at their fingertips on the computer.
  3. What degree did your applicant earn? It helps to know if we are appealing to the school of engineering or the school of liberal arts. Or the law school. Or the school of business.
  4. Where is the school? Do you have any idea how many Central High Schools there are in this country? (About 131).
  5. Have the applicant physically sign the Authorization Form. Educational institutions are the about the last bastion that requires a “wet” signature. Most won’t accept a typed signature as permission to release information.

The biggest school lesson to be had is to always do your homework and verify the education of your employees.