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Why should an employer verify an applicant's education?

Unfortunately, not all applicants are honest on their resumes and employment applications, and this may include embellishing or outright lying about their education. Studies continue to show an increase in the number of discrepancies between what is shown on education records and the information provided by the applicant. There have also been news stories of fraud—from a well-known electronic retailer's CEO to a cable network television personality, illustrating that falsification of education and credentials is a problem employers need to take seriously.

In addition to lying about education, some employees obtain documentation from diploma mills, which may appear to be valid. Diploma mills are illegitimate colleges or universities that provide degrees for a fee with little or no coursework required. The services of diploma mills can be quite extensive, including not only very legitimate-appearing diplomas but also verification services as well as transcripts and letters of recommendation.

Recruiters and employers are encouraged to verify credentials directly through the educational institution or by using a background screening service. Many colleges and universities have a degree verification program or refer employers to the National Student Clearinghouse, where employers pay a nominal fee for the verification. Another option is to ask the employee to have a certified college transcript sent directly to the employer from the school. However, using transcripts or contacting the school directly will not necessarily weed out false information from a diploma mill, for example, if the school is fictitious. If there is ever a question as to the authenticity of the information provided, employers should refer to the U.S. Department of Education's accreditation database or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation to determine if the educational institution is legitimate.  


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