When you are completing background checks on prospective employees, education verification is an integral part of the process.
Some candidates may embellish their educational histories and degrees on their resumes. If you do not verify the education of your candidates, you risk hiring unqualified and untruthful employees that could harm your business and its reputation.
In a survey conducted by ResumeLab, 36% of respondents admitted lying on their resumes. Out of people who admitted lying, only a third were caught.
This tendency to misreport on applications and resumes means that employers who hire people without completing thorough background checks might hire unqualified people and be at risk for claims of negligent hiring.
At iprospectcheck, we conduct education verifications as a part of the background checks we provide to employers in many different industries, including healthcare, transportation, finance, and manufacturing. Our education verification services can give you the confidence that your employees are fully qualified for their positions.
To help you understand the education verification process, we have written this guide with relevant information on the topic.
What Is Education Verification in Background Checks?
Employers complete education background checks to verify the certifications, training, and educational histories claimed by candidates and to identify potential misrepresentations.
Consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) often complete education background checks on behalf of employers. These services can help to verify whether applicants have earned high school diplomas, vocational certifications, or undergraduate and graduate degrees.
An education background check reveals the dates of attendance, majors, and degrees of candidates at high schools and universities in the U.S. and other countries. These types of checks are not used to verify professional licenses. Instead, those types of background screening services are available through professional license verification.
Education verification services are important because some applicants misrepresent their qualifications, embellish them, or inflate them to try to secure positions for which they are unqualified. Some applicants will claim to have attended schools that they did not or to have earned degrees that they never earned.
Why Should You Verify an Applicant’s Education?
Education verification is essential for many employers. Having a formal education is a critical part of a candidate’s ability to perform many jobs. As an employer, you should verify that your candidates have the abilities, skills, and knowledge levels needed to perform the functions of your positions. A key indicator that an applicant possesses the necessary qualifications is his or her educational background.
While modern technology has propelled society forward and made business operations simpler, it has also led to a proliferation of websites that sell documentation of degrees without providing an education. These companies are called, “Diploma Mills”.
This makes it easier for candidates to produce fake credentials when they are applying for jobs.
Education verifications provide employers with the ability to find trustworthy, qualified employees, and avoid potential liability. When you request education verification services as a part of your background checks, you can feel confident that the people you hire are relevant and qualified for the positions that you have available.
Some of the benefits of education verification services include the following:
- Receipt of real data enabling you to hire the best applicants for your company
- Accurate and fast results to accelerate your company’s hiring process
- Making sure to find qualified people to protect your company against wasted money and time
- Prompt detection of misrepresentations and document fraud
- Guaranteed privacy compliance and data security in the hiring process
With iprospectcheck, your organization can feel confident that the results you receive from education checks are compliant, reliable, and accurate.
How to Spot a Fake Degree on Your Applicant’s Resume
Spotting a fake degree from a diploma mill is not always straightforward. You might not be able to tell from a resume if the listed educational institution is accredited.
However, there are red flags that you can watch for that could indicate the listed degrees might be fake. Look for the indicators described below.
Degrees Listed Out of Order
People generally progress through education in a specific order, including the following:
- High school diploma/GED
- Associate’s degree or Bachelor’s degree
- Master’s degree or Doctoral degree
If a candidate claims to hold an advanced degree without a Bachelor’s degree, or if he or she claims to have a Bachelor’s degree but no high school diploma or GED, that could indicate that the claimed credential might be from a diploma mill.
Degree Earned too Fast
Another sign that a claimed degree might be fake is when the applicant earned it in too short of a time.
In general, it will take students from three to four years to earn a Bachelor’s degree. A Master’s degree will take one to two years, and a Ph.D. normally takes four or more years.
If an applicant claims to have earned a degree in a much shorter time or lists several degrees earned during the same year, you should take a closer look.
Degree From a Geographically Distant School
While there are many accredited online degree-seeking programs, you will still want to dig further when an applicant claims to have earned a degree at an institution located far from where he or she works or lives.
You can check to see whether the institution is accredited. If it is not, the credential might have been purchased from a diploma mill.
Similarly Named Schools
If an applicant claims to hold a degree from an institution with a name that is similar to a well-known university in a different state, you should check further. There are some legitimate, accredited institutions that have similar names to prestigious institutions.
For example, Columbia College in Columbia, Missouri sometimes gets confused with Columbia University in New York but is not nearly as prestigious. However, it is regionally accredited. Some diploma mills issue false documents with names that are similar to well-known institutions but do not exist and are not accredited.
You should also investigate further if an applicant claims to hold a degree from an institution in a foreign country. While this might be challenging, you should definitely investigate further if an applicant claims to hold a degree from an institution in a country in which he or she has not lived.
What Does an Education Background Check Show?
Education background checks will show you whether the claims that an applicant has made about his or her educational history and qualifications are true.
Your education background checks can help you to verify the claims your candidates have made on their resumes or applications and to identify misrepresentations before you make a hiring decision.
This will include a verification of the schools a candidate attended, the dates when they attended different schools, and any certificates or degrees that they earned.
In some cases, an education background check might also show the candidate’s major and any honors that he or she received.
Do education verifications show GPA?
Consumer reporting agencies typically do not include GPA information on the education background checks that they provide.
If the positions for which you are hiring require GPA information, you should consider asking your candidates to supply official transcripts to verify their GPAs.
The FCRA and education verifications
The Fair Credit Reporting Act or FCRA is a federal law that limits the types of information that can be provided by CRAs to employers.
While this law limits the reporting ability of CRAs for providing information about certain convictions, judgments, arrests, and other similar information, it does not limit the reporting of educational history information.
For example, the FCRA restricts CRAs from reporting liens, judgments, and arrest records that are older than seven years for most candidates other than jobs with salaries of $75,000 or more.
However, this time limitation does not apply to an applicant’s educational history. Your education background check can cover as many years of a candidate’s life as needed.
How do Employers Verify Education?
As an employer, it is important to check an applicant’s claimed academic credentials even if he or she claims to have earned a degree from a well-known institution. Some prospective candidates might be likelier to falsify their educational attainment instead of their employment history because many employers are less likely to complete education verification than employment verification.
DIY Education Verification
If you decide to try to verify an applicant’s credentials on your own, the process can be lengthy as you will need to complete the following steps:
• Contact the claimed educational institution.
You can submit a request to the registrar at the claimed educational institution to confirm an applicant’s attendance dates, major, and any degrees that were conferred. If you get permission from the applicant, you can also request a certified transcript.
However, you should not stop there.
Some diploma mills offer verification services at an added cost to their customers. While someone might answer the phone, answer your questions, and send you a transcript, that does not mean the school is real.
• Research the institution.
If you are unfamiliar with the school, you should research it online. You will want to check to see if the institution is accredited by a recognized accrediting agency.
Universities and colleges that are accredited have to go through a rigorous review to demonstrate their educational programs’ quality.
While some diploma mills claim to be accredited, they use bogus agencies to provide their accreditation. Do not take a claim of accreditation at face value. Instead, you can look up an institution on the U.S. Department of Education’s website to check its accreditation status.
You can also check to see if an accrediting body is legitimate on the website of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
• Analyze the college’s website.
Some diploma mills have .edu addresses and polished-looking websites. However, that does not guarantee that an educational institution is legitimate. You can still look at a school’s website to look for several signs that it is a diploma mill.
If the school charges tuition by degree instead of by semester, course, or credit, it is likely not a legitimate institution. Similarly, if the college does not have specific degree requirements or has very few, it is unlikely to be legitimate. Finally, look for whether the school offers degrees based on life or work experience or if it is new or has changed its name recently.
• Check lists of diploma mills.
Diploma mills are opened all the time, meaning there is not a comprehensive list available online. However, you can contact the registrar at a college or university in your area to ask if that school would accept credits transferred from the claimed institution.
• Ask the candidate to provide proof of accreditation and his or her degree.
If you are unable to find sufficient information from accreditation sites and the claimed institution, ask your job candidate to provide you with the institution’s accreditation and a certified transcript.
The candidate should ask the school to send the transcript directly to your company instead of the applicant hand-delivering it. You can then check this information against the list of accrediting bodies and the claims your applicant has made.
Partnering with a 3rd Party Background Check Provider
The easiest approach to verifying the education of an applicant is to partner with a third-party background check provider like iprospectcheck. We are able to perform education verification much faster than it might take you on your own and can return the information to you in as little as a few hours. We can also verify the legitimacy of your applicant’s claimed education history.
To do so, you will need to do the following:
- Notify the applicant that you intend to complete a pre-employment background check.
- Get the applicant’s signed consent to perform the background check.
- Get the applicant’s full name that he or she graduated under as well as his or her current full name.
- Get the educational institution’s name and address.
- Get the dates of attendance.
- Ask for the degree field and the type of degree.
After you have gathered this information, you can order education verification through iprospectcheck. We will verify the degrees and credentials your applicant has claimed by checking established, reliable databases and checking with the institutions.
How Can I Verify an Applicant’s International Education?
The process iprospectcheck uses to verify an applicant’s international educational background is similar to what is used to verify a candidate’s educational history at schools and universities in the U.S.
We can check the educational records of applicants who have earned degrees at colleges and universities in more than 100 countries.
Other providers might not have access to the same types of databases that iprospectcheck uses to verify records from hundreds of countries. Working with iprospectcheck can give you the confidence that a candidate’s claimed international educational qualifications are accurate and qualify him or her for the job.
How Long Does Education Verification Take?
How long it might take for you to complete an education verification check will depend on the method you use.
If you try to do it yourself by contacting each institution that the applicant has claimed to have attended, the process can take a long time. Trying to complete an educational background check on your own might also leave you with incomplete information if an applicant has failed to list some institutions on his or her resume. Sending requests to high schools, colleges, and universities and waiting for their responses can take weeks.
When you work with iprospectcheck, we can return education background checks in as little as two to four days. Because of our access to education databases and our use of cutting-edge technology, we can return results much faster than other providers.
How Far Back Do Education Background Checks Go?
As previously mentioned, the FCRA does not place time restrictions on how far back an education background check can go. A CRA can check the educational qualifications of an applicant across his or her entire lifetime. Working with iprospectcheck to complete background checks can help you to ensure that the reports you receive comply with all relevant regulations and rules in the area in which you live and work.
What are the Legalities Around Education Verification?
When an employer hires a CRA to complete background checks, all federal and state laws and regulations must be strictly followed when the information is used to make hiring decisions. Employers must be aware of the requirements under the FCRA and regulations enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or EEOC.
The Federal Trade Commission enforces the FCRA. Under this law, employers must notify applicants that they will conduct background checks. They must also obtain consent from each applicant before conducting background checks. If you receive adverse information in a background check report that could impact your hiring decision, you also must comply with the adverse action process under the FCRA.
The EEOC enforces federal anti-discrimination laws. These laws prohibit actions that could have a disparate impact on members of certain protected groups. When you conduct background checks, you should consistently perform them on every applicant regardless of race, national origin, religion, gender, color, disability, and other protected characteristics. Depending on the location in which you are hiring, there also may be local laws that you will need to follow.
You need to make sure that you comply with all of the local, state, and federal laws. At the same time, hiring someone who falsely claims to possess certain educational qualifications can place your company at significant risk of reputational harm and potential liability.
Working with a provider like iprospectcheck can help you to conduct background checks that fully comply with the relevant laws and regulations.
iprospectcheck: Your Trusted Partner for Fast, Accurate, Compliant Education Verification Services
Verifying the educational histories and qualifications of your prospective employees is an important part of ensuring that you hire the right people.
When you complete an education verification check with iprospectcheck, you can receive complete and reliable information about your candidates’ claimed levels of education, degrees, diplomas, and certifications.
At iprospectcheck, our education and employment background checks comply with all relevant laws. Partnering with us can provide you with the knowledge that you are receiving accurate and reliable information about each of the employees that you hire.
To learn more about the education verification services we provide, contact us today to receive a free consultation.
DISCLAIMER: The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Consult your counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.