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Degrees - Can You Fake Them? As a Business, Can You Afford Not to Check?

Nandita Raghuram

Connie Ma/Flickr - Diplomas like this may be hard to fake, but what about faking it on your resume?

Faking degrees can have serious consequences and could land you in jail, but how can recruiters ensure their candidates' CVs are legitimate?

The following story reads like a recruiter’s worst fear. According to Recruitment Buzz, Manchester local Wade Jordan scored a position at QIAGEN, a top global research firm, using a fake qualification - a spiffy MA from Manchester Metropolitan University in Human Resource Management.

Then, he proceeded to dupe the company out of almost £50,000 in fraudulent expense claims for things like travel expenses and training courses.

Never Fake It ‘Till You Make It

Jordan’s been sentenced to jail for three years, but recruiters shouldn’t breathe easy just yet. His story is hardly unique. According to Inc., 53% of CVs include incorrect information on resumes while 34% contain out and out lies. Does that surprise you? It shouldn’t.

The job market is competitive, and some recruits will do whatever it takes to get to the top, including exaggerating or fabricating the truth.

Barry Hetherington, from Know Your Candidate told Recruitment Buzz that “this story is a stark warning to all employers that employee fraud is a real threat and can cause significant financial and reputational damage to their firms.

Given the ease with which a convincing degree certificate can be purchased from an online diploma mill or produced on a PC, it’s staggering that firms leave themselves open to this type of fraud by not checking qualifications properly.”

Anyone with access to the Internet can purchase a college education from a degree mill or conjure one up on the computer with a modicum of skills in programs like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator.

While Inc. notes that most people lie about simple things, such as employment dates, salary history, job titles, and qualifications, any type of dishonesty will still impact the company. When you don’t perform proper background checks, everyone stands to lose.

Employee fraud can cause lower productivity, high turnover, reduced morale, negative press, and unhappy clients. Worst of all, these issues can lead to big profit losses.

Employers aren’t the only ones hurt by exaggerations. If you’re caught, even small lies can ruin your chances of getting hired. You’re not safe once you start working, either. Sooner or later, your experience, or lack thereof, will become apparent.

And as Firehead notes, companies can always ask for proof of education and certification at any time after hiring you. Not only should you keep copies of your diplomas and certificates on hand, you should make sure they’re real.

How to Make Sure You Hire Honest Candidates

Employers have a few options to make sure they’re hiring truthful people. As Firehead explains, there are several free resources out there that let you screen your employee. One of the first places to start is with former employees. See if their employment dates ring true. If they don’t, you know you’re dealing with a suspicious candidate.

You can also check an applicant’s references, but try going beyond the numbers an employer lists out and do some digging to locate other former colleagues. LinkedIn is a great tool to find mutual connections to contact for dirt.

Plus, a candidate’s profile will also help you verify employment dates and skills listed on their CVs. People are less likely to lie on social media, because it runs the risk of discovery.

Degree Verification

Verifying degrees may prove harder though. With university costs rising, fabricating education could become more widespread, according to The Guardian. In a survey of students and graduates conducted in May 2012, more than two-thirds believed buying a phoney degree would be tempting.

Luckily, the Higher Education Funding Council of England and Universities launched an online service allowing companies to verify their employee's qualifications. Known as the Higher Education Degree Datacheck, the tool had 458 schools in the UK onboard at the time of writing.

Most schools let candidates print out enrollment verifications via their registrar, a service that companies can request. One service, Accuscreen, performs similar checks on criminal history and driving records.

HireRight, Know Your Candidate and PeopleG2 also offer employment screening, conducting checks on employment identity, credit reports, criminal records, and driving records.

In fact, there are so many tools out there that recruiters have no excuse to not corroborate qualifications. Plus, most services are customisable to your budget and needs.

Follow the Law

Be careful, though. Forbes urges employers to follow the law. Some background checks require that the applicant fills out a legal release. If you’re unsure, don’t bend the law as you see fit. Instead, work with your legal department and proceed with caution and don’t single one candidate out. Be consistent and use the same checks for every potential hire.

After the check, keep the lines of communication open. If you find discrepancies, talk with the candidate to avoid miscommunications or mistakes. And remember, you don’t have to use background checks to find faults. Sometimes, they can reveal positive areas in an employee’s history.

While you may not be able to verify every last detail of employment history, you can still weed out suspicious candidates using these strategies. All potential employees feel the pressure to stand out in any way.

They should not get noticed for the wrong reasons. Even fudging small discrepancies should be considered a red flag. Recruiters, you don’t want to hire someone with the propensity to lie. Otherwise, you’ll end up in the same position as QIAGEN, paying high costs for a very expensive oversight.

Nandita Raghuram

Nandita Raghuram is a Chicago-native living in Brooklyn. She spends her free time exploring her neighbourhood and writing nonfiction essays about what she finds. She loves books, food, and checking out the newest Google Doodle.