Should Education Verification be Given More Importance in Employee Screening

“The moment I looked at the certificate, I knew it was fake. The signature of the then registrar (evaluation) looked doubtful. I’ve been with the varsity for 30 years and know what the signatures of ex-registrars look like. Moreover, the certificate read ‘University of Bangalore’ at the top, though it’s Bangalore University,” says RK Somashekar, registrar (evaluation).- The Times of India (September) University pro-vice-chancellor N Veeramanikandan of Kerala University said, “I’ve just completed a month in my post. During this brief period, I have come across at least six or seven cases of fake certificates.”- The Times of India (October) Degrees and certificates are available on sale. Open advertisements are posted on mediums which claim to provide degree certificates and marksheets from any varsity in no time. Economic slowdown has hit the job market hard and it’s becoming even harder to land the dream jobs. The wide and easy availability of forged certificates indicates towards an underground yet well-oiled machinery which is effectively catering to the rising desperation among the unemployed for to cash in on the leeway. Are universities aware of the issue? Is anything being done about it? At present, it takes around two years to deliver the degree certificate. Even verification takes more than a month. We hope the digital degree will address these problems as well as solve security issues,” said Satish Kumar, OSD, exam branch, Delhi University, in connection with the handing out of digital certificates for the first time in 2014. If such measures become a common trend among varsities, will that suffice the companies’ need to cross-check education details? Will your company lay lesser stress on education verification in the wake of such measures?

Creating a culture of confidentiality

 “Sensitive” is a word I hear all the time in the context of the work done by background verification companies. Random people one meets ask about our nature of work and, when told, their immediate response is that handling sensitive data and maintaining its integrity must be the backbone of the background screening business.

That hits the bull’s eye. If sensitive information is defined as something that must be protected against unwarranted disclosure, then the information that we in this industry generate is ultra-sensitive. It must be safeguarded for legal and ethical reasons, apart from individual privacy and proprietary considerations.

If information security in the context of background screening gets compromised, it has a severe effect on all three concerned parties — the employer loses proprietary data of current employees to competitors; the individual could have his personal reputation compromised; and, of course, the background screening company could find its hard-earned brand reputation in tatters. The challenge of information security is all the greater considering that it has to extend to all situations, ranging from physical theft to natural disasters. Hence, customers engaging the services of background screeners must look beyond pricing.

To gauge the efficacy of data protection in the background screening process, companies must ask themselves the following questions: – What are the physical and logical barriers to data access? – Is data access in the background screening company allowed strictly on a need-to-know basis? For example in my company, the verification teams are not privy to the name of the client(s) on whose cases they are working on at any point in time, thus ensuring a hard firewall. – Who in the background screener’s organization has access to negative reports? Not long ago, I interviewed a candidate who wanted a job with us after having worked with a competitor.

Nothing exceptional, right? Happens all the time. Well, this individual was carrying 50-odd candidate reports with him to help support his claim that his current employer was doing poor quality work. Imagine — 50 confidential and highly personal reports being bandied about in such cavalier manner. (Needless to add I did not meet this candidate again.) We need to also sensitize our clients on the need to be extremely careful about using sensitive information. A couple of years ago, one of our clients — easily among India’s top 50 companies — sent us a list of their employees whose background screening had to be initiated. The list should have contained employee IDs, name, email and contact address. That’s all.

The sheet we received had their compensation details too. Besides it had similar details of the top leadership hires done recently by the company. In dealing with confidential information, strict adherence to industry standards and government guidelines is a given, but my view is that confidentiality is more a culture-related thing — it goes beyond building technology barriers; it is about creating a culture in the company that respects data security and confidentiality. Organizations seeking enhanced information security should create a culture in which employees are loath to discuss sensitive information with anyone, no exception.

In the emerging global economy, background screeners will be required to continuously expand their business, which will require them to get into more collaborative efforts. As business grows and more collaborations take shape, information security will continue to assume greater importance. Clients will seek, and rightly so, tightening of controls and will need to know about how secure the data being shared across platforms is. In conclusion, I will say that accreditation to certifications related to information security systems will play a key role as our business grows and goes to the next level. However, information security and confidentiality must remain an article of faith for background screeners and those who work in our industry. Not a mere leap of faith.

Fake Degree Industry

Need For Stringent Education Verification HR managers beware! As if the situation is not bad enough. What with trying to find the right employee to fill the position; the incessant demands and issues of employees – recruitment staffs have to worry about ‘genuinely’ fake degrees and certificates.

The explosive growth of educational institutions – legitimate and bogus – is fuelled by the huge demand of an aspirational India.  This has created a piquant situation.  India’s booming IT and knowledge economy desperately needs these graduates but their quality and calibre is appalling.  This is borne out by the Nasscom report, which stated that only 25% of the graduates from technical institutes and 10 to 15% from colleges are employable.

As a recruiter or employer there is a high probability that the applicant you are getting is of a decidedly unreliable nature.  To start with the UGC has a list of 21 fake universities, and then there are the hundreds of ‘colleges’ that are either teaching shops or diploma mills. A diploma mill is an institute that grants degrees and diplomas requiring no study.  They claim to be genuine education institutes.  However, they are neither recognised by official educational bodies nor are they affiliated to any university, though many state otherwise.

Many of them are nothing more than one room establishments in run-down buildings above chai shops.  They operate in the back lanes of Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Delhi and nearly every city in this country.  A ‘student’ or purchaser of their degrees can claim (to prospective employers) that they are degree holders.  How would a prospective employer know if a degree is genuine or false, when there are over a 1,000 universities in the country? Another fraud flashpoint is the foreign degree.

ASSOCHAM estimates that more than five lakh students go abroad, every year, to study and acquire degrees in engineering, medicine and management.  No one knows how many students are the clients of diploma mills. The current official list of overseas diploma mills numbers 69.  There are always more undiscovered than are known because there is no complete list.  The other trick that diplomas mills use is their names.  Very often they sound like famous or well known institutions.

One example is Columbia State University, Louisiana, USA, and then there is Stanton University.  To the untrained ear or eye they could easily be mistaken for the genuine and famous universities of Columbia in New York or Stanford. The glorious 20th Century phenomenon is the Internet.  It has leant itself to the spread of education – the distance learning experience.  And with the light comes the dark side.  The web sites offering phoney (but looking like the real thing) diploma and degrees are too numerous to count.  A study in the US alone, states that there are 300 such sites – and business is booming for them.  The industry is estimated to have raked in more than $500 million dollars in the last year. Fake degrees, forged certificates and mark transcripts, fake universities and colleges and diploma mills are sufficient to give any HR executive grey hair.

Sadly, a very low percentage of companies verify degrees and check educational qualifications.  Even then they could so very easily miss the depredations of the diploma mills. An individual with bogus qualifications could be hired for a sensitive position and cause irreparable damage and loss to the company.  They could very well be terrorists and pose a security risk. The responsibilities of an HR executive go beyond what they once were and what is written in their contracts.  It is not an easy life.

Employee Fraud in the Office

The Need For Continuous Employee Screening “Last week, nine Sprint employees were charged with misusing their access to the telecommunications giant’s systems to redirect phone charges to other customers by “cloning” their cell phones — to the tune of more than $15 million in fraudulent charges in the first six months of this year. ” The above case has a very important message for companies in this country. We are the world’s leading BPO provider and it is essential that incidents like these do not become commonplace. The continuing success of the industry and of the country depends on the good reputation that has been built up. Today technology is all pervading. Information Technology governs and drives most aspects of business.

While it has made industry more competitive and efficient, it has also made it that much easer for online insider employee fraud and abuse. Data theft and other fraud activities by employees are on the rise. Companies, and by inference HR departments, have to keep a closer watch on the activities of their staff. What is just as important is the need to have strict and strong security systems in place. The security has to be, both, the human and technological varieties.

Some standard practices like separating duties, regular rotation of responsibilities must be implemented. Regular and continuous employee screening should become customary. Most companies assume that once they have conducted pre-employment screening, staff will remain pure and uncorrupted. This sort of thinking can be very dangerous and prove harmful. A whole host of reasons can change the situation of an employee and employers have to keep a sharp look out for danger signs. A sudden change in lifestyle where the person seems to be living beyond their earnings or financial crisis can be indicators to possible inducements to carry out fraud activities.

If companies discover fraud being perpetrated by their employees, they need to take actions to ensure that there is no repetition. Merely punishing or dismissing the erring employees is not enough. Companies need to constantly improve and upgrade their security and control work processes or else they could suffer loss of customer confidence and trust. Information security and employee screening should be strategy to a company not knee-jerk, part-time activities.

Resume Fraud – Exaggerated job titles and responsibilities

There is no nice way to say this – but people lie on their résumés. Especially in areas they can get away with it. Previous experience is such an area and therefore a prime candidate for falsification and exaggeration. Job titles and responsibilities don’t mean the same thing from onpany to another. In rare cases where they do match, the functions or level of reporting will differ. ‘Fine-tuning’ a resume is quite difficult to uncover. It takes a combination or all the instruments of the employee screening process – reference checks and interviews – to pick up the deception. It is done to embellish relevant experience and highlight the applicant’s suitability for the position.

The intensity of competition for jobs pushes people to look for even the tiniest advantage. The resume job title, responsibilities and functions are the basis for assessing the suitability of a job applicant for the position. It is one way of ensuring that the prospective employee meets the overall criteria for the job. Any exaggeration or misleading descriptions can result in an unqualified person handling sensitive information, high tech or hazardous equipment causing losses to the hiring company. While there are many ways to present job titles and responsibilities in the resume and debates on the subject continue to rage. The best way is to be truthful and the job description honest.

Clearly mention the title followed by the list of responsibilities that the job entailed. This will ensure a strong resume and any reference checks will come back with positive feedbacks. It also ensures that the hiring HR person will understand what the responsibilities, duties and functions were. It removes any chance that the work history is fabricated.

Today every business has to compete locally and globally and they cannot sustain employing unqualified people or those with skills that do not match the requirements of the position advertised. It will affect efficiency and ultimately the profitability of the company.

Things to Evaluate Before On-Boarding a Background Verification Partner

Background verification is a crucial process for any organisation regardless of the industry they belong to. You should not blindly trust whatever information an applicant has provided in their resume. If it turns out he/she had provided incorrect information at that time, it could create unnecessary problems for the business. Since this person may, in the future, play an integral role in your company if he/she is hired. Therefore, pre-employment check processes are a must in the hiring process.

Just like how you, as an employer, would go to great lengths to prove applicants’ reliability, you should do the same when choosing a background verification partner. In fact, you should be more careful when choosing a vendor to work with for employee screening because, after all, they are the ones who decide which applicants are trustworthy. Therefore, you should always follow due diligence before coming to a decision.


1Top 10 questions to take into consideration before choosing a background verification company

You have to be sure of the kind of services the vendor offers. What exactly are their capabilities? Are they dedicated to just background screening or offer diverse services and pre-employment verification just happens to be one of them? It’s always better if they have a focused service provider.


2. Is the background screening company providing quality output?

You must consider the kind of output the vendor provides and the process to receive that kind of output. Background verification output must be accurate and easy to understand. Service delivery must be tech-enabled.


3. Is the pre-employment check company compliant with data security?

With so much focus on personal data security, it is crucial that the background verification vendor is compliant with ISO or other equivalent standards for information security and quality management. Make sure they follow a strict procedure for data security to ensure that all information and details of your job applicants are safe and secure.


4. Is the background verification company skilled and experienced?

You will also want to take into consideration the years of experience the employee screening company has. Expertise and knowledge in various domains adds to the credibility. Looking at the portfolio of services, success case studies and client portfolio can yield useful insights.


5. Is the background verification company using reliable technology?

Always inquire about the kind of underlying technology used to deliver the results. Is the vendor using reliable, state-of-the-art technology? Does technology deliver convenience, peace of mind and faster results to the customer?


6. Does the background verification company have industry foresight?

It is important for any background verification company to have industry foresight since it is a constantly evolving industry influenced

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