When Candidates Lie About Their Education

| Reading Time: 3 minutes
April 25, 2018
Written by Brittany Watson

Everybody lies. From toddlers to politicians, lying is simply part of human nature. While some lies are innocent enough, others can have dangerous and far-reaching consequences.

You may remember this news story. In 2002, the New York Times published an article on Ronald Zarrella, the now-former CEO of Bausch & Lomb, an eye care product company. Zarrella had been working for the company several years when it was discovered that he had lied about his education. Zarrella had claimed to have received an MBA from New York University. Turns out, while he did attend the university’s business school, he never actually graduated. Although the company decided to keep Zarrella, at the time, he ended up leaving the company 6 years later as the company experienced continued product recalls and product liability lawsuits.

False academic history makes up 33% of all resume lies

Although most cases of falsified academic history are not as newsworthy or damaging as Zarrella’s, the problem of “education exaggerations” is quite common. A 2014 survey by CareerBuilder found that 58% of hiring managers surveyed reported discovering falsified information on resumes and, as it turns out, lies about education are one of the most common. In fact, false academic history made up about 33% of the lies found on resumes and applications.

Common education exaggerations

While most job candidates don’t lie outright about their education, exaggerating academic history is a common practice, which is why education verifications are one of the standard services we recommend to our clients. One of the most common education discrepancies we come across is candidates claiming a degree that they have not yet completed. They may have completed 3 or even 4 years of coursework towards their degree, but still need to complete one summer course or retake a failed course in order to graduate. So when the application asks for the candidate’s highest level of education, they tend to list a degree, even if they don’t have it quite yet. Below are a few other common education discrepancies we come across:

  • Claiming a high school diploma when a GED was obtained
  • Listing a higher GPA than what was obtained
  • Claiming an Associate’s degree when a technical diploma or certificate was obtained
  • Claiming a degree from a university when it was obtained from a community college
  • Providing a high school diploma obtained from a non-accredited school (diploma mill)

Why candidates lie about their education

If candidates know the consequences of getting caught (losing a job offer, termination, or worse), why do they still lie about their education? Unfortunately, candidates often think that exaggerating about their education is worth the risk, if it means getting them through the door of your office. Candidates know that their resumes are often run through automated systems to filter out applicants that don’t quite meet requirements. Even when their resume is reviewed by a hiring manager, if it doesn’t stand out, it will end up in the trash bin. Mediocracy simply won’t cut it when there are hundreds of candidates for one position, and candidates feel the pressure. In fact, the internet is full of resources that teach candidates how to “embellish” their resume to get an interview. They often assume that, once they have a foot in the door, they can correct anything that wasn’t quite true on their resume. Interestingly, one thing we find when performing education verifications for our clients is that candidates who exaggerated information on their resume will often correct that information when completing the background check questionnaire.

The importance of verifying education

Hiring a candidate who does not have the proper education can result in serious consequences, from profit losses to lawsuits. In the case of Ronald Zarrella, Bausch & Lomb faced falling stock prices, product recalls, lawsuits, and negative media coverage that seriously damaged their reputation with both investors and consumers. Hiring a candidate who does not have the proper training and education is risky, at best. As the employer, you may be held liable for not verifying your employee’s training and credentials. But that’s where InCheck is able to help. When verifying education for our clients’ candidates, we always verify the information through the primary source to ensure the information we are reporting to you is as accurate and up-to-date as possible.

If education verifications aren’t already part of your background check process, let us know. We’d be happy to add this service for you so you can be confident that your candidates have the right training and education for the position with your company. To learn more, visit our services page or contact us today!

Disclaimer: This blog is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.

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