Back to Latest Posts

Education Verification

Ethics in the Search Field – I was ready to move on from the Ethics topic BUT just ran into another ‘questionable’ situation.  You be the judge on this Education Verification situation . . . . . please write/respond!

If you tell us something, we will check it out.

Your LinkedIn profile, your work-related bio, your resume, your words – we like to get to know candidates.  We are expected to do our due diligence.  We are entrusted to fill leadership roles by our clients.  We stand behind our candidates.  That means we need to get to know the candidates we present.  

Each conversation is an opportunity to get to know someone.  When we decide to interview a candidate, ‘we’ are making a commitment – we, as executive search professionals, like what we see, and the candidate likes what they see (in the opportunity – and hopefully in us). 

Step #1 in our pre-interview process– verify education!

Before we interview a candidate, we verify the education they list on their resume (and LinkedIn profile).  There are times when the two sources do not line up and we, of course, clarify that.  To verify education, we use an outside service (National Student Clearinghouse).  Most colleges and universities have contracted with them.  The process is simple, done electronically and is safe/confidential. 

The negative part of this process – we need to ask for personal information from the candidate.  We need either a social security number or birthdate.  We are very careful with this information . . . . . we have a protocol in place to destroy the information/delete it from our systems when the verification process is complete. 

Many people do not have the degree they say they have. 

Past articles have been written on the percentage of candidates that do not have the degrees they list on their resume.  This type of situation was made ‘famous’ when it was discovered that the football coach at Notre Dame - George O'Leary - did not have the degree he stated he had (late 2001 timeframe). 

We don’t see it often, but we do see it.  And it just happened – we think. 

The candidate refused to let us verify her education after she agreed to it. 

To verify education, we need a signed Consent For Release form giving us permission.  The e-mail that accompanies the form explains what we need to move forward.  The form is not a surprise . . . . . we explain this to the candidate before sending it.  The candidate knows it is coming. 

A candidate for a senior leadership role listed a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree on her resume.  We set up an interview.  I sent her the Consent form (as we had discussed).  She came back with a comment that she was uncomfortable submitting the information.  I offered her an alternative . . . . . go through the interview process (with me and eventually the hiring manager).  If everything lined up, we would then verify.  She again refused and pulled out of the process. 

At the advice of my colleagues, I went back to her one more time and offered her alternatives – to call me with the information, scan and e-mail diplomas or have the college send sealed transcripts.  Her ‘response’ – she ghosted me. 

My conclusion is that we found a lie (or two).

We have had many candidates (over 26+ years) withdraw from consideration at this point in the process.  We get a voicemail at 2:00 a.m. (who calls anyone at 2:00 a.m.?) saying they decided to withdraw.  We get the occasional e-mail saying they withdraw.  Some tell us that they lied on their resume.  Others simply fade away after the withdrawal communication. 

What is your conclusion in the above-referenced case?  (You know my conclusion but I want you to be the judge.)  E-mail me at OR at  What are your thoughts?  I promise to respond to each of you – and depending on volume, I will publish the findings.