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Eliminating fake qualifications from recruitment

4th May 2021
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False credentials presented by job candidates is something that has been around forever, but with easier access to online services providing these false credentials, organisations are more at risk than ever before. This infiltration of these fake degrees into the workplace should be a considerable cause of concern for companies worldwide.

In today’s hiring landscape and the global migration of skilled workers, employers run the risk of hiring candidates with false credentials. Diploma mills – an unregulated institution of higher education granting degrees with few or no academic requirements - play a significant role in unqualified and fraudulent candidates slipping through the hiring process unnoticed.

The pandemic has caused an increase in online learning, as individuals reassess their circumstances and what they want from their careers. In addition, many have been working from home and their access to the internet unfortunately allows diploma mills to flourish. Alongside this the technology and practices used to create realistic yet false diplomas make it more difficult for employers to detect fraudulent certifications.

Fraudulent degrees, ‘professional’ malpractice (due to under qualification) and reputational damage to companies associated by employment have become commonplace., based in Pakistan as “the world’s largest IT company” is the most infamous diploma mill in the world, having sold qualifications such as master’s degrees, doctorates and PhDs to buyers, including NHS staff, nurses and a large defense contractor. Looking at this on a global scale, it is estimated that diploma mills award 500 fake Ph.D. degrees monthly.

Fake credentials and degrees don’t discriminate what industries they pillage. Particularly within high-risk industries, having unqualified employees work for you affects your organisation’s reputation, resources, clients, brand, not to mention the implications can even be life-threatening. A fraudulent nurse administering medicine to a critically ill patient, an unqualified engineer designing a 50ft residential tower, or a dishonest financier acting as a wealth manager for a top client’s account is not a standard to associate with.

With this in mind, here are some red flags to look out for when spotting fake degrees:

  • Unreasonable timeline to obtain a degree. Do the dates on the application match up with the standard length of time it would take to complete a bachelor’s or a master’s degree?
  • Logical timeline. Has the applicant gone from high school to a doctorate with no bachelor’s degree or work experience?
  • Does the name of the issuing authority look unfamiliar? When in doubt, search for the title of the ‘issuing authority’ online alongside the words ‘diploma mill’. This could give you an answer very quickly as to whether the credentials are legitimate or not.
  • If the university has a physical location, see whether the applicant’s address was near enough for daily commuting to classes.
  • All potential employees should be verified, particularly in high-risk positions. So, contact the institution directly. Does the phone number work? Is the person on the end of the line knowledgeable about the course, dates, timeline, student, transcripts, etc.?

When recruiting internationally, employers should therefore have thorough and streamlined hiring processes to eliminate the chances of any dishonest credentials or applicants making their way through the recruitment pipeline. State-of-the-art recruitment and verification tools enable a long-lasting, transparent and trustworthy relationship to prosper. Companies can also reduce the time-to-hire and mitigate diploma mill risk by only sourcing candidates from pre-verified pools of talent available.

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