Employee Background Checks, Education Fraud and Diploma Mills

               Some bad decisions are easy to correct.  Many are not.  Hiring the wrong person can be a very expensive ordeal and may be very disruptive to your business, co-workers and, perhaps worse, to your customers.  According to the Department of Labor, the cost of turnover is approximately 1/3 of the employee’s annual salary. 
               When employees steal, the average cost per incident is much higher than the losses due to outsiders, such as shoplifters or burglars.  The cost on average is $62,000 for a lower level employee and increases the higher up in management the employee is.  There is also the impact on the company reputation is an employee is not properly vetted and causes harm, especially in an event that garners a lot of media attention.  Just look at the impact a handful of employees are having on the entire organization of Penn State in current news. 
               According to one study, as many as 61% of resumes contain false information.  The three most common areas falsified are education, job titles and dates of employment.  In general, a call to past employers will help validate past job titles and dates of employment.  Human Resource departments are often allowed by policy to provide that much information and hopefully, you have a background screening that includes making those calls.
               That leaves education as a “high risk” area that is often falsified.  And that leads to the question, how risky is it to hire someone with exaggerated or falsified education?  That depends on the position, how critical the education requirements are to succeed and what is needed to help your organization succeed.  In my opinion, the most important aspect is that the candidate is truthful about the information on their resume or application.  If they are deceitful at this stage, how could you ever really trust them after they are employed?
               First, you must clearly identify what education is needed for each job description.  That base requirement helps to determine what kind of educational background you need to verify and helps guide the screening process.
               Second, confirm that a potential candidate meets the necessary requirements.  Sounds obvious, but dig a little deeper.  This means that you need to verify that the education meets your requirements.  Did the classes teach the basic skills or knowledge necessary?  Did your potential new employee pass the curriculum?
               Third, the college or university needs to be researched.  The education provided must be accepted or, at the least, the school must teach to a level that matches the industry.  In short, is the degree in question issued by a recognized or accredited college or university?  If not, the degree could be from a diploma mill – an institution that sells degrees without any education or curriculum supporting it.
               This all leads to the verification process.
               Start with the college or university.  Is it accredited?  If not, that does not mean that it is not a valid education.  Some schools choose not to be accredited as they feel it might conflict with their goals – religious schools are one possible example.  For colleges and universities in the United States, accreditation can be confirmed online through the Department of Education. 
               Search the Internet for information on the school as well.  If the university does not have information about the curriculum or education process – beware.  Some diploma mills go so far as to offer education credits for work experience and do not require a student to attend any classes, either online or in person.  There have also been programs set up that appear to be affiliated with legitimate universities, but have no connection.
               Next, verify that the candidate attended and graduated from the program.  Many universities will send an official or unofficial copy of the transcript directly to an employer.  This is even done for many professional certifications in order to confirm that minimum standards are met.  Within the European Union, the comparable transcript of record is used to verify class work and grades.  A copy of a degree provided by a applicant could easily be forged on a computer so rely on verification provided directly by the school.
               Education tends to be more of a dominant focus on entry-level positions where there is not a lot of work history to review.  However, many industries deal with compliance issues and some require verification of education for many positions.  Healthcare is one example.  Hospitals that want to be accredited by the Joint Commission or those that want to be eligible for Medicare / Medicaid funds must meet specific standards surrounding verification of licensing and background screening.  Sarbanes-Oxley requires that all officers of publically traded companies have background screenings done, including verification of education.
               Getting the right people onboard is one of the tougher decisions and is not easy.  A background screening that includes educational experiences is one piece to help build the right team for long-term success. 
Your biggest risks may not be your biggest worries.  About 33% of small businesses fail after becoming victims of crime.  Ordinary, everyday criminal acts – not high profile terror attacks or disasters. 

Get real solutions for real problems.  Contact eric@businesskarate.com to learn about security management coaching and how to help your organization thrive.


  1. Interesting..... But now a days every organization is having employees in huge number so it may be difficult to the organization to check its employees. There is a need of a screening company which checks the employee background

    employee background checks