Employers can’t afford not to conduct background checks (Editor’s notes)

Academic credentials shouldn't be taken at face value

“I’ve found that when you want to know the truth about someone, that someone is probably the last person you should ask.”

That nugget of wisdom came from the mouth of Dr. Gregory House, the brilliant (and socially awkward) diagnostician played by Hugh Laurie on the hit TV series House. His character generally assumes the worst about people, doesn’t trust a word his patients say and believes only in scientific fact. He’s a lovable curmudgeon who lives by the philosophy that “everybody lies.”

When it comes to conducting background checks on job candidates, HR practitioners might do well to embrace House’s philosophy. The recent bust by police in Ontario of a counterfeit ring that was producing, among other things, fake university degrees and transcripts (see related story link below), shows the importance of conducting thorough background checks.

The quality of the documents being produced by this ring in Markham, Ont., were so good that they even fooled officials at universities. That means the academic credentials a candidate hands over, as proof of his attendance at a university or college, might not be worth the paper they’re written on. If university officials can’t spot the fake, what hope do hiring managers and HR professionals have?

For organizations that already conduct background checks, it’s a salient reminder of the importance of contacting schools directly to double-check academic credentials. For employers that don’t bother, or think it’s not worth the time and money, this bust should serve as a wake-up call that some jobseekers will say and do anything possible to land a job. Given how hard it can be to fire a worker, employees need to take the time to conduct due diligence up front. Lying on a resumé and providing fake academic credentials can be grounds for dismissal, but why even go down that road in the first place?

Plus, there’s more to background checks than just verifying academic credentials. Employers can also check to see if the candidate has a criminal record. In some cases, it may be appropriate to run a credit check on a prospective employee. Checking in with references can also reveal valuable information that isn’t on the resumé.

Many HR departments don’t have the time or expertise to start digging around a candidate’s past. But that’s not a roadblock. There are many third-party vendors in the market that will conduct a thorough background check quickly and for a reasonable fee. Many employers will sign contracts with background checking firms, thereby reducing the costs even further.

Waiting a couple of extra days, even in tight labour markets, to ensure that candidate truly has the credentials he claims to is time and money very well spent. The cost of not thoroughly checking out a potential employee is simply too high to ignore.

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