Education Verifications: A New Age Hiring Tool

Education Verifications: A New Age Hiring Tool

It wasn’t that long ago – say 15 to 20 years – when someone searching for employment submitted a resume and references in response to a vacancy announcement. If the resume featured the required experience, the applicant was interviewed. If the interview went well and their references checked out, they were typically offered the job.

During this time, most people stayed fairly close to the community where they grew up or where they went to college and it was not a stretch to assume the prospective employer knew one of their past employers. It was fairly simple to verify a person’s work history and references. Rarely was an education verification considered.

Growth Brings Change

Today, many things have changed in society and these changes have substantially altered the hiring process.

Many more people are competing for limited employment opportunities and people move more frequently across state lines – even internationally – to get the right job. It’s rare today that an employer has personal knowledge about an applicant or the companies they have worked for or the schools they may have attended. Without this first-hand knowledge, employers must now take additional steps to ensure that the person who “looks good on paper” is actually honest about the claims they make on their resume, which is why so many employers conduct a comprehensive background check. These in-depth searches include employment verifications, criminal records searches, drug screening and education verifications.

Education Verification – A Potentially Overwhelming Situation

The education verification is probably the most tricky of all background checks because it’s a complex process on it’s own, trying to reach the right person and track down school transcripts (especially older records that may be stored off-site), but it’s made even more complicated by the existence of diploma mills.

A diploma mill (also known as a degree mill) is an unaccredited higher education institution that offers bogus academic degrees and diplomas for a fee. These degrees may claim to give credit for relevant life experience, but should not be confused with legitimate prior learning assessment programs. Diploma mills are frequently supported by accreditation mills, set up for the purpose of providing an appearance of authenticity.

The term “diploma mill” originally denotes an institution providing diplomas on an intensive and profit-making basis, like a factory. More broadly, it describes any institution that offers qualifications which are not accredited and/or are not based on proper academic assessment. While the terms “degree mill” and “diploma mill” are commonly used interchangeably, within the academic community a distinction is sometimes drawn. A “degree mill” issues diplomas from unaccredited institutions, which may be legal in some states but are generally illegitimate, while a “diploma mill” issues counterfeit diplomas bearing the names of real universities.

With so much potential for confusion, one can see how difficult it might be to conduct a legitimate education verification in a timely manner.

A Simple Solution

As diploma mills have emerged to help dishonest people appear more qualified for employment opportunities, another industry has also evolved – the background screening industry.

Today, there are about 1,800 companies in America that specialize in background screening (also known as pre-employment screening). These companies, large and small, offer technology-based tools and provide specialized services to help employers check an applicant’s background.

With trained professionals that have access to industry knowledge, these companies can quickly verify an applicant’s education credentials, saving the employer hours, if not days, of phone calls, emails, and frustration. Additionally, a few background screening companies have invested in the technology to obtain nearly instant education verifications from roughly 80% of the colleges and universities nationwide.

Leaving the process of background checks – including education verifications – to the experts will help employers make the safest hires while saving them time and preventing needless frustration.


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