Sometimes it’s difficult to know if you’re reading real news or the Onion…
A candidate for the Florida state House recently was publicly shamed into admitting that she lied about her education, and was compelled to drop out of the race. Melissa Howard claimed to be a college grad, but a local news site reported that, in fact, she wasn’t. Opting to take an unusual path of defense, Ms. Howard reportedly flew to Ohio’s Miami University to get a copy of her transcript and prove the story wrong, and posted a photo of herself seated next to what was supposed to be her diploma.
Life sometimes comes at you fast. Miami University quickly issued a statement saying that Ms. Howard did not graduate from the school with the bachelor’s degree in marketing she claimed to have earned. In fact, the school said that they do not even offer such a degree. And not only was the “degree” bogus but the University’s general counsel said that the graduation date of 1996 shown on the “diploma” was phony; Ms. Howard was not even enrolled that year. According to the school, she attended Miami University from 1990 to 1994 without graduating.
As HireRight noted in its 2018 Employment Screening Benchmark Report, which surveyed nearly 6,000 human resource professionals from small-, medium- and large-sized firms worldwide, many people misrepresent, exaggerate or lie about their education. It’s a popular place on the resume to provide false information; 23% of organizations polled said that background checks revealed misrepresentations in educational credentials.
Perhaps it’s because, according to our survey, only 51% of organizations verify a candidate’s education.
And some job candidates apparently know this. Hloom, a resume resource organization, asked 2,000 people in the U.S. to “come clean about their own resume fabrications. We asked respondents to categorize common resume embellishments as real or white. Interestingly, 5 of the top 10 real lies relate to education: alma mater, academic degree, college major, GPA, and college minor.”
Just how easy is it for a candidate to get a “degree”? As HireRight related a couple of years ago, a cat named Colby Nolan was awarded a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Colby’s roommate, a deputy attorney general in Pennsylvania, was investigating a diploma mill in Plano, TX calling itself Trinity Southern University, and paid Trinity $299 to get Colby his degree. The cat not only received an official-looking diploma bearing the signatures of Trinity’s President and Dean and celebrating his 3.5 GPA, but was informed that for just $100 more and a few clicks of the mouse (ouch), Colby could get his MBA. Nine lives and two degrees? That’s one smart cat.
In 2010, in prosecuting a case against another alleged diploma mill, attorney Mark Howard obtained a degree for his dog Lulu from Concordia College in the US Virgin Islands. Lulu “graduated” with higher marks than the defendant’s key witness.
Clearly, many candidates—including C-level executives—lie about their education. Demonstrating due diligence by validating education references will keep an employer at the head of the class.