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Is Academic Verification Critical When Hiring Your Next Team Member?

Is Academic Verification Critical When Hiring Your Next Team Member?

Your company is hiring a new team member. So, is academic verification critical? Depending on the position, it may be a smart idea.

What Is Academic Verification?

Academic verification confirms a person’s educational credentials. This includes dates of attendance, degrees earned, majors, minors, concentrations, and GPAs. In other words, does someone have the exact education they claim to have?

Why Should You Check an Employee’s Academic Record?

  • Validate Qualifications

    Would you go to a doctor who didn’t have a medical degree? Or would you hire an accountant who only completed a handful of college classes? Employees who don’t have the correct qualification could harm customers, mishandle projects and, ultimately, damage your business. Verifying their academic records provides an added layer of security.

  • Check for Integrity

    When someone misrepresents themselves on their resume or application, it isn’t a good sign. What else are they lying about? Academic verification ensures honesty.

  • Protect Your Reputation

    Employing an individual who isn’t qualified can create an embarrassing (if not dangerous) situation. When the story hits the headlines, your organization will look irresponsible. After all, if you aren’t taking time to properly vet your employees, where else are you cutting corners?

Do You Need to Verify EVERY Employee’s Education?

The thoroughness of a background check often depends on a person’s position. For example, a CEO requires more extensive screening than an entry-level cashier. Therefore, it usually makes the most sense to run academic verification if the role requires a degree. Nevertheless, be sure to design a uniform program. Haphazard checks could get you into trouble with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This especially holds true if you inadvertently apply more rigorous screening to specific groups such as women versus men.

When Is the Best Time to Run Academic Verification?

Most companies conduct academic verification when they hire a new employee. However, there are other situations where it may be appropriate. For instance, if someone receives a promotion from cashier to office accountant, double-checking their qualifications is a sound business practice. Additionally, sometimes catch-up screenings are necessary. Let’s say a business recently instituted a more comprehensive background check program. To hold everyone to the same standards, they should apply the same screenings to current and new employees.

Do People Lie About Their Education?

Although the idea of someone lying about their education sounds farfetched, it DOES happen. Sometimes people create degrees out of thin air, but exaggeration is more common. High profile cases include:

  • Scott Thompson – The ex-Yahoo CEO claimed computer science and accounting degrees from Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts. He only had an accounting degree.
  • Marilee Jones – Jones was Dean of Admissions at the ultra-prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology for 28 years. She said she held three degrees. In truth, she had none.
  • Ronald Zarrella – Bausch & Lomb’s now-retired CEO told people he had an MBA from New York University. While he took classes at NYU, he never received a degree.

What If Someone Shows Your Their Diploma?

A candidate may add a copy of their diploma to their application materials or bring it to their interview. Is this enough proof? Not necessarily. Unfortunately, those pieces of paper could be the work of a diploma or degree mill. Diploma mills claim to be higher educational institutions. Yet, they award degrees with substandard or no academic study. Counterfeit diplomas are another problem. Someone also could create a fake a degree from a legitimate university.

How Do You Conduct Academic Verification?

Academic verification should be a two-step process. First, confirm the U.S. Department of Education accredits the school. Second, call the institution to fact-check your candidate’s claims. Ask not only about attendance but also about graduation rates and degrees. Remember, someone could be telling the truth about attending a university but exaggerating their accomplishments. If you’re running academic verification on your own, it’s nice to let your candidates know. You don’t want to snoop around behind their backs. However, if an individual outside your company is conducting academic verification, you MUST let your candidates know. In these situations, the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) applies. Since most organizations combine academic verifications within a more comprehensive background check, proper authorization usually is part of the process. Contact your legal team or a PBSA-accredited background screening provider if you’re unsure about the rules and regulations.

What If There’s a Problem?

You’re running academic verification, and you’ve discovered inaccuracies. Now what? Your first action should be to double-check the information with the candidate. There could have been a mistake. (When you’re using a third-party provider, the FCRA requires you to undergo a specific pre-adverse and adverse action process.)

On the other hand, if the candidate falsified information, refer to or create a company policy. Does a lie lead to automatic dismal or simply disciplinary action? This varies from company to company. Even the high-profile cases listed above were split. Marilee Jones was asked to resign, while Ronald Zarrella lost a $1 million bonus but kept his job.

Is Your Company Interested in Running Academic Verification in WNY?

Metrodata Service would be happy to help. We offer an academic, professional license, and employment verification services, so you can guarantee your team members are qualified. Start hiring smarter. Contact Metrodata Services today!

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