Listing education credentials on a resume is something pretty much everybody does, but it turns out the same can’t be said for fact-checking those claims. Many big name companies have fallen prey to people who have flat-out lied about schools attended, degrees earned, and licenses and credentials passed. And we’re not just talking entry-level positions here. We’re talking executive level positions at high impact companies.


Can’t quite wrap your ahead around the fact that liars could slip through the ranks and land in C-suite territory? Take a look at these examples.

David Tovar – Resigned from Wal-Mart after lying about graduating from college

Sandra Baldwin – Left her post with the US Olympic Committee after putting false info on her resume

David Geffen – The billionaire entrepreneur lied about attending UCLA to land his first job as a Hollywood agent

Click here for a list of seventeen successful executives who have lied on their resumes.

Why does this keep happening?

The simple answer is that by the time a person reaches management or executive status, other people take them at their word and don’t perform the proper investigation into their background. Another answer is that many companies maintain the same hiring standards for ALL employees; they don’t differentiate between regular employees and executive level. But with higher level positions, comes greater responsibility. It’s like that old SpiderMan line: “Remember, with great power comes great responsibility.” Companies MUST go above and beyond the typical screening process when it comes to hiring or promoting an executive.


How can companies prevent this from happening?

The most immediate change employers can make to hiring C-suite candidates is to accept the fact that these folks are different, and they should be treated differently. Standardization at this level isn’t acceptable and, in fact, can put your company at greater risk if a liar or criminal sneaks through. Human Resource Executive Online has a wonderful, lengthy article about the importance of extensive C-suite background checks. At a minimum, HREO recommends:

· Credential verifications, both direct and indirect, to actively identify gaps and misstatements

· Broad-based news searches that cover paid, subscription-based sources

· Corporate and regulatory reviews

· State and federal litigation searches, both online and manual, for civil, criminal and bankruptcy actions

· Interviews with former staff, colleagues and bosses, identified during the research described above—not references provided by subject

Specifically, there are other places that employers can look to verify information or spot inaccuracies when it comes to a candidates education. The National Student Clearinghouse can verify high school, degree and certification credentials. The U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation is also a valuable resource if you’re suspicious about a school’s legitimacy. You can use their accreditation databases to make sure the school’s listed on a person’s resume pass muster.

Some companies may even ask to see a candidate’s diploma to determine its authenticity. Official diplomas often have distinguishing features like raised seals that make them difficult to forge. Finally, employers should ALWAYS request an official transcript to make sure what a candidate has written down or told them is true. A transcript confirms an applicant’s attendance, graduation, courses taken and grade point average, or GPA. The transcript should arrive directly from the school’s registrar in a sealed envelope.



The Final Say

Of course, the biggest takeaway from all of this is that you need to treat your executive level candidate’s differently from everyone else and perform the most thorough and extensive background check possible on them. This entails everything from a full-fledged background check from a nationally-accredited firm like Active Screening to an in-depth investigation of everything we previously mentioned. If you’re not doing these things, you’re putting your company’s reputation on the line.

To read more about why lying on your resume is bad news, check out our post:

Honesty in the Hiring Process: Liar, Liar Pants on Fire! 

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