We should all learn an important lesson in the wake of the celebrity college cheating scam, in case you have been stuck under a rock a group of individuals (predominantly celebrities and the wealthy) paid large sums of money to a middle man acting as a tutor to cheat on college entry exams like the SAT.  They then conspired with college university coaches from University of Southern California and Stanford (to name a few) to fraudulent claim the student was an athlete (which has lower requirements when applying to theses colleges) furthermore aiding them to get accepted.   Aside from the obvious egregious act of cheating and taking away a potential spot to a student that actually deserves to be admitted, an important take away is something we always stress to our clients “Trust, but verify your new hires”.

Vetting an applicant’s resume should be common practice among organizations screening programs.  Whether it’s verifying previous employment to determine experience in a certain industry, or a degree which is a prerequisite for the position verifying a candidates credentials.  Ensuring that the applicants are being truthful and honest is how any employee/employer relationship should start out.  Conducting these types of verifications have a very low risk (may take up to 72 hours to verify candidate information from a reliable source) and high reward (consistently verifying credentials and experience in a uniformed fashion will ensure retaining the highest qualified applicant and reduce any claims of discrimination among job positions).

In recent years 75 unaccredited universities have been shut down for providing fraudulent degrees and or certificates in exchange for a fee.  However, in the case listed above majority of the colleges involved in the scandal were very large and prestigious accredited educational institutions, not a “fly by night” degree mill.  How would an education check on a background screening report handle this type of verification?  Students that were admitted through this scam would have still needed to complete the coursework and earn their degree, if they completed it successfully than the background check would reflect that they in fact received the degree.  However, if they didn’t complete the coursework/degree and still claimed to have graduated on a resume than the background screening company would attempt to verify the degree and find out that they never graduated.

Historically, education verifications posed a problem to employers due to the time it takes to track down the school, and locate the department that handles these types of verifications (usually the registrar).  Additionally, schools required a signed disclosure form from the subject of the report authorizing the release of information.  Today, with the evolution of third party education verifiers like the National Student Clearinghouse employers can receive confirmation of a degree and enrollment instantly (in most cases).  Keep in mind there is a “pass through” fee to get the information needed.