Who amongst us has not riled at the high cost of education at one time or the other and lamented how their hard work and learning at school bears no correlation whatsoever with the work they do today? Does that mean degrees have no value whatsoever, and buying a degree off some diploma mill or claiming false credentials is not a serious offence? I should hope not!
High profile cases such as these help illustrate the scope of this scourge (last estimated at 13% of all degrees), which is threatening to grow exponentially. With the use of an extended workforce, transcending national boundaries, employers today have access to talent which is truly global. They also have the bogey of fake degrees and false credentials staring them in the eye. Online entities which provide fake degrees are proliferating and companies which offer fake credentials are mushrooming equally fast.
Background checks will have to make sure that an applicant’s credentials are legitimate and not acquired from a ‘fake diploma mill’! Such degrees usually purport to accept one’s ‘life experience’ and answers to a set of questions before awarding a Bachelor’s or Master’s – for a few hundred dollars! These phony institutes even provide transcripts, letters of recommendation and verification services at fax and email addresses; all of which are all equally faked! Once these fake credentials help a person to get a foot in the door, it is just a matter of time and patience as the person gradually amasses the experience and grows into the role (as illustrated by our examples above).
The million dollar question here is – how do recruiters recognize fake credentials or use the background checking process to expose them? Remember that about 64 percent of candidates overstate accomplishments, while 71 percent misrepresent the number of years they held a position. People with fake credentials are shown to be more likely to pursue temporary positions in the belief that the background checking will be less rigorous for a short-term assignment. In fact, staffing agency processes tend to be more exhaustive as they are conducted by professional recruiters on behalf of a client, and the agencies recognize the severe consequences of making a mistake. In contrast, employers filling permanent positions often leave background checks to hiring managers, and most companies fail to conduct any type of background check on independent contractors or project-based service teams!
The best recruiters take the following approach:
In each case, value judgments must be made as to the level of effort that is warranted when conducting background checks. Factors such as the nature of the position, tenure of the assignment, and policies of the company offering the assignment must be considered. One must also take into account the degree of deviation from the truth. While you would likely reject a candidate who claimed a non-existent academic degree, how would you handle a candidate that added three months to a work experience to mask a period of time when the individual had been downsized and was looking for employment?
There is hope in thinking that online research and resources like LinkedIn (which encourage people to connect with other students from their alma mater or to join their prior employers’ alumni associations) make it easier for those with genuine credentials and that much harder for the rest of them!
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