August 30th, 2017 | Sterling

Tips for Discovering Deceptive Diploma Mills

A CV is how potential employers get a first impression of your skills, experiences and qualifications. Job hunters use a variety of CV types and styles to sell themselves, their education and their past work. However, it has been found that a resume doesn’t always tell the truth about a candidate’s job or educational experience. With an increasingly competitive job market, applicants are searching for ways to compete with one another and one of the common ways is by padding, embellishing, exaggerating and even downright lying on their CV.

While a CV might look great on the surface, it may not be as accurate as you’d think. CV lies that have appeared can run from minor embellishments to a candidate’s complete fabrications on their qualifications and experiences. One such way which job seekers have been seen to “beef up” a CV is to add additional educational degrees that they might not have earned or could have received from a diploma mill. According to a recent US study reported by Inc, 85 percent of employers have discovered applicants lying on their CV or applications.

What is a Diploma Mill?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a diploma mill as “a usually unregulated institution of higher education granting degrees with few or no academic requirements.” Diploma mills are organisations that claim to be a higher education institution but which offer illegitimate academic degrees and diplomas for a fee. These degrees may claim to give credit for relevant life experience, evaluate work history and require submission of a thesis or dissertation for evaluation to give an appearance of authenticity. Most diploma mills have very convincing websites and will provide their “students” with official-looking degrees and transcripts.

In the UK, “recognized bodies” or higher educational institutions are granted degree-awarding powers by either a Royal charter, an Act of Parliament or the Privacy Council. Institutions that are not recognized could be in offense of section 214 of the Education Reform Act 1988.  The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) keep a directory of higher education sites that are regulated in England.

There are some revealing CV signs that candidates, recruiters and hiring managers need to be on the eye out for when dealing with a diploma mill:

  • Get a Degree Based on Life Experience – Diploma Mills offer students credits for relevant work or life experience. Accredited universities could give credits for specific experiences relevant to a degree program, such as co-ops and internships, but not an entire degree.
  • No Physical Location – Diploma mills do not need a physical address or location. They do not need a library, research papers and publications. If there is only a P.O. Box address on the website of the university, then it could be a red flag that this is not an actual higher learning institution.
  • Tailor-Made Studies – Diploma mills offer custom study programs that are tailored to the student’s degree of choice and promises that the degree can be earned in a few months, weeks or even days. Legitimate higher learning institutions offer a variety of programs for students to pick from that take many years to complete. Plus, students don’t get to pick the name of their degree, which academic honours they receive and their grade point average.
  • No Homework Needed – If a school is offering a degree without doing any school work or exams, they could be considered a diploma mill. If an organisation does not have professors or teachers, this could also be an indication that it is not a “real” higher learning institution. All accredited universities, even online schools, require coursework and interaction with professors.
  • Flat Fee for a Degree – Many diploma mills charge on a per-degree basis. Real educational organisations charge by the credit, course or semester.
  • No Accreditation – While there are some higher learning organisations that do not share their accreditation for certain reasons, diploma mills usually do not have legitimate educational, provincial or territorial body or industry accreditation.

Education Verifications

How can a recruiter and hiring manager tell if there are educational inaccuracies on a candidates’ CV? An education verification service offered by a third-party background screening provider will be able to provide the correct answers. Education verifications confirm degree type, honours received and date of completion directly with the school registrar. Professional background screening companies maintain a database of legitimate educational institutions as well as known diploma mills to immediately identify them during the education verification process. Sterling actively identifies and monitors these types of suspicious educational institutions.

Having a misleading resume is only one of the risks that could lead to a bad hire. Find out more risks associated with lies found on a CV, which could lead to poor hiring decisions in our White Paper, How to Avoid a Bad Hire.

Learn How to Avoid a Bad Hire

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.