Last week I posted an article. The Process and Pitfalls of Education Verification, about the ins and outs of education verification. I directed it toward recruiters and staffing groups as well as to human resources managers. Among other things, I wrote about various instances where employment candidates try to fudge on their degrees. I wrote about the different ways they may stretch the truth.
Alright, sometimes they just downright lie about having a degree when that isn’t the case. As I noted in the article, sometimes they were enrolled only, the proverbial two years of college, and sometimes they never set foot inside that school. While most degree verifications are pretty much a walk through, accessed either through the university registrar or a third party database, some can be problematic.
There are cases where the education verification or one’s inability to verify can be sticky points with clients and employers. Clients are impatient or they get upset, failing to understand that sometimes just because the candidate claims a degree, it doesn’t mean it’s true. Some employers believe the researcher is missing something, overlooking the records. Most of the time the researcher is merely reporting back the records obtained from the school’s registrar or the third party database.
We had such a case, recently. Our client is a staffing agency. His client, in the healthcare industry, was growing impatient with the process. He wanted to hire a woman who claimed a degree at a certain Southern university. The university from which she claimed the degree had been part of an even larger university but broke away in the nineties, around her year of alleged graduation, becoming an independent college.
Initial research yielded no records. And then the candidate informed her prospective employer that she had not gone to school under her married name, but her maiden name. Okay, so back to the school and the third party database, searching degree verification under a different name, entirely.
Nothing. As there was some question, as the candidate was none too clear from which school she obtained her graduation, the larger university or the breakaway college, it was time to pick up the phone and request from the registrar a more detailed explanation. Most registrar’s are accommodating once you establish you are very much for real and not trying to run some type of identity scam. Most in fact go out of their way to research the information.
This instance was no exception to the rule. The woman we called was terrific. She searched records for the supposed graduate under both names as well as the social security number. As she was the registrar from the breakaway college, she offered to call the larger university and ask the registrar there if he had any records. A half hour later she was back on the phone. They found records at the major university.. Good news. However, the job applicant was only recorded as having attended two years of school at the independent college. There was no record of her obtaining a degree.
Okay, so with no further recourse it was time to request from our client that his candidate submit a copy of her diploma. She did so. We looked it over and not being all that familiar with this particular university, we couldn’t tell at first blush if it was authentic or not. Bear in mind, this was not a diploma mill, where we could dismiss the diploma easily. With a legitimate college or university, we want to be as comprehensive as possible.
Having called the same woman at the registrar who helped us before, we then submitted the copy of the candidate’s diploma for verification. A few hours later, we received a call from the actual registrar. He was not a happy man. While he well understood our intention was to be as thorough as possible and to give the candidate the optimum benefit of the doubt, he found it distressing that someone was trying under false pretenses to claim a degree from his school.
“It is not authentic,” he explained. When asked for further reference to explain what was wrong with the diploma, he was gracious enough to do so. He explained that one of the insignias should have been oval and not in the shape it was. It should have been raised and in silver foil. Another insignia, in the left hand corner of the phony degree should have not have been there at all. The listing of the school’s name at that time of graduation was incorrect. The signatures of the University President and Department Administrator were forgeries, as that was not their handwriting sample.
He explained that the language used to confer the degree was inexact and truncated, missing some of the more formal language that is printed on an actual diploma. In all, he lamented it was not only a counterfeit diploma but a bad rendition of a counterfeit diploma.
We thanked him for his time and patience and for explaining the inaccuracies he found on the degree. He then informed us that the university legal counsel may be contacting us as they were not prepared to let this sit. This was interesting, as in so many other cases, the registrar will nullify the authenticity of the degree and leave it go at that. Not this man. It appeared he was considering making an example of this candidate. We thought he was justified and told him we would accommodate him however we could.
We then called our client and notified him that the school may be moving to take legal action on his client’s candidate. He thought that was a good idea, having suffered abuse from his client for being incapable of verifying this degree. To our client, it seemed only fair.
So here is a very real example of how things can go down with education verifications. Had we been less sentient, or had we been intimidated by the end user’s demands, we may have verified what essentially a bogus degree is. Somewhere down the line our client and his client could have been embarrassed for hiring someone who was not qualified for the position. Never a good idea.
So always take the extra time and make the extra effort to verify degrees. With the lousy economy and a highly competitive job market we see more candidates attempt to fudge their degrees. We just had another one today. But then that’s another story.