Lying on Resumes: Tips to Catch False Education Claims


Resume fraud has been an issue plaguing society since the feudal system. In a competitive market and strong economy, everyone is looking for ways to stand out against the competition. Lacking work experience, skills, or education may drive some to pad their resume with little white lies or fill large gaps in their resume with completely false information. No matter how it’s done, lying on resumes is a significant problem that can cost companies time and money.

False Education Claims Widespread in Resume Fraud

The most prevalent form of resume padding, outside of the seemingly harmless creative wording or “skill enhancing,” is the misrepresentation of educational history. The Department of Education defines diploma mills as an entity that “offers, for a fee, degrees, diplomas or certificates that may be used to represent that the individual has completed post secondary education, and requires little or no education or coursework.” They may also lack accreditation from an accrediting association or the Department of Education. 

Diploma mills are a huge industry, gaining $500 million in profits in 2015. Hope Restle and Jacquelyn Smith writing for Business Insider put together a list of 17 successful executives caught or admitting to resume fraud . They either lost their jobs or were severely, monetarily punished for lying about their education on their resumes. John Davy, former CEO of a New Zealand television studio, was fired once it was discovered almost his entire resume was fabricated. His resume stated he held a degree from Denver State University which was found to be purchased online, and he also claimed to have worked for the British Columbia Securities Commission where no record of his tenure existed.

Hiring a third party company to perform resume and identity verifications is the simplest way for HR departments and hiring managers to confirm the validity of resume claims. A background screening company may have greater access to records and databases while outsourcing this type of work would ease the pressure of time and undue stress on your staff.

To aid you in identifying false or misleading educational background, we’ve put together a few tips on what to look for before sending all applicants through a verification process.

Catch Lies and Verify Applicant Education

Dates - First check out the dates that the degree or degrees were obtained. The typical progression is bachelors, masters, and PhD. If you see they received their PhD before their masters, or something to that effect, chances are they paid for their diploma - and I don’t mean with copious amounts of student loans.

Location Information - Scan the resume for location information corresponding with dates.  If multiple states or cities are listed in the same time frame, it should be cause for pause, unless their degree came from an online school, or they worked remotely for a company in another city.

Time Frame - Look at the timing of the degrees. If the degree progression doesn’t raise any red flags, look at how long each degree took. Typically BA/BS degrees take 4 or 5 years, Masters and PhD’s 2 to 3 years each. So if they only list a year or two for each degree, it’s worth investigating further.

Proof of Degree - Ask the applicant for proof of their degree or transcripts from their university, college, or high school.

Contact School - If you feel dates and time frames don’t line up, you can contact the school and they will provide you the dates attended by the applicant for verification.

Check Accreditation - Some diploma mills are so well put together there will be a person available to answer your questions regarding attendance dates. You can always check with the Department of Education to see if the school is accredited with a higher education system.

Resume padding, particularly false educational claims, is an issue facing all levels of the professional world and it needs to be caught. Without a large monetary investment, you can investigate suspicious resumes by hiring a background screening company, such as Critical Research. Our verification services check for use of diploma mills, and also verifies personal and professional references.

For more information regarding our verification services, please contact us or visit our verifications page.