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Personal Background Checks


Over two years ago we blogged about the case of an employee involved in workplace violence at The Ohio State University. The OSU employee shot and killed one person and wounded another resulting in a flurry of questions about why the background check did not reveal that this man had a criminal record. It turned out that the employee had intentionally given an incorrect date of birth so that his past record would not be discovered. The moral of the story was that date of birth is vitally important when it comes to a background check and without it, mistakes like this can occur even if a background screening company does everything right. Without the correct date of birth, the background screening company that performed his background check was unable to find his criminal record.


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Things are quickly winding down for the year at EmployeeScreenIQ, and we’re excited (much like Ralphie from A Christmas Story) for what’s to come in 2013. We’ve had quite a few blog posts this week that you might have missed in the hustle and bustle of the end of the month and the end of the year. Something I would like to highlight in particular is that our Employment Background Screening Trends Survey is awaiting your participation (and even better, we’ve extended the deadline through January)! As proven in 2011, our survey is a great resource for us and others in our industry. I’m not even sure where to begin wrapping up this last week because there are an overabundance of exciting stories on our blog.  I recommend taking a ten minute break from your work and scroll down our blog page. Some of the stories from this past week include, Recruiting On Social Networks: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of 2012, an important update with ban the box in Pittsburgh and the results of a CareerBuilder survey showcasing the costliness of bad hires. Thanks for reading throughout this year and happy holidays!


Recruiting On Social Networks: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of 2012

Social MediaSocial recruiting has seemingly moved up on HR’s list of priorities when it comes to hiring-and not only seeking job candidates via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but also searching profiles for reasons to remove a candidate from the process. If a potential employee has a public profile, HR can easily scan their page. However, this becomes a problem if employers are requesting user names and passwords to look at a candidate’s private profile. See More


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We’ve encountered countless stories of job applicants lying on their resume, whether it’s been education or employment, somehow these tricksters have gained employment or even entered Ivy League schools based on resume lies. Several months ago the news was buzzing with the story of the Yahoo CEO, Scott Thompson who deceivingly listed that he earned a degree in accounting and computer science. The latter degree claim was a lie. Earlier this year it was discovered that the CEO had only received a degree in accounting from Stonehill College and built his career based on this lie.

Another fascinating fabrication from 2010 was the story of Adam Wheeler, who elaborately created a resume not with little white lies, but blatant claims of attending schools he never did and earning test scores he never received. Wheeler was admitted into Harvard and even attended until his lies were uncovered.

It’s troubling that if Thompson and Wheeler got away with lies like these, there are definitely employees that are slipping through the cracks all the time. Whether it’s a huge lie like these two or something smaller, it’s disconcerting that either these companies are not completing employment background checks or these background checks are not being done thoroughly.

A recent Careerbuilder survey revealed intriguing statistics from employers saying they’ve made costly hiring mistakes in the past year.  [...]

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Resume Lie story







EmployeeScreenIQ finds a 52% discrepancy rate between the information an applicant claims on their resume and the information we verify with employers and academic institutions. While over half of these resumes have some sort of discrepancy, the problem could be as minor as an incorrect date of employment or as major as the applicant claiming a degree they did not receive. This was the case of Jordan Miller, former Director of Social Media at University of Michigan, who claimed she had a degree in Journalism from Columbia. It was recently revealed that Miller never received the degree.


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There are new cases of employees failing to disclose information on job applications every day.  This particular story as reported by News Channel 5, hits close to home as EmployeeScreenIQ is located in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. The two employees, Patrick J. Gallagher, Grounds/Maintenance Worker, and Michael J. Gallagher, Safety & Health Coordinator, provided misleading information on their job applications-one did not disclose his criminal history in full, and the other listed false education information.

However, while there was a failure for the two employees to provide this information, one must also question if background checks were completed, and if so, how thorough were the background checks if this information was discovered years later? An eight page report was provided on the News Channel 5 website which includes the details of this story, but it does not detail if there was a previous investigation or background check completed, prior to these allegations. The allegations were:

  • Patrick failed to disclose his criminal history on his application for a position with Cuyahoga County.
  • Michael falsified his original application as well as an application for promotion with the information that he earned an Associate’s degree from Cuyahoga Community College.


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When it comes to Halloween, there is endless fun in choosing who to dress up as and portraying someone who is the complete opposite of yourself. Halloween is the opportunity for not only children, but also adults (if you’re lucky like EmployeeScreenIQ and were able to dress up today) to go all out to shock, and perhaps appall others with your costume of choice.

When it comes to employment background screening, unfortunately, your candidate may not be as obvious with who they are. They may not be wearing a Michael Myers mask and carrying a butcher knife to their interview, but applicants might have something to hide. Whether it’s a past criminal record, or a “white lie” on their resume, an employer would never know what kind of skeletons could be hiding in the closet without verifying the truth behind their façade.

You should also keep in mind that an applicant may be intentionally covering up a record and flaunting the appearance of the “perfect candidate.” However, with so many resumes, candidates, and interviews, it is impossible to perceive every fallacy. Of course, you can’t be suspicious of everyone, but the only way to find out—uncover the truth and continue screening your candidates.

Happy Halloween everyone, enjoy your day!

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Canterbury Degree

What do 30,500 unsuspecting Americans and I have in common?  We’ve all purchased fake degrees from a diploma mill (see mine above).  However, in their case, they didn’t know that the degree was fake.

The Eastern District of Michigan federal court has ordered the proprietor of Belford High School and Belford University to pay $22.7 million as part of a class action suit brought on by the 30,500 people that bought the phony diplomas.  And while this would seem to be a victory for the class, that money is most likely long gone.

I’m having a hard time understanding how this many people could have been scammed, but would assume they were promised legit course work after they forked over $249 each.

And these people will now be victimized again if they include this “educational experience” on their resume and a potential employer conducts an employment background check.

Check out the full story below:

$22.7 million ‘diploma mill’ judgment for Flint woman, other plaintiffs, only a small victory, experts say

The business of “life experience degrees” took a blow when Pakistani businessman Salem Kureshi and his companies Belford High School and Belford University lost a $22.7 million federal class-action lawsuit earlier this year, but experts say the judgment will have only a small effect on what is a billion-dollar, international Internet scheme.

The lawsuit, which was originally brought against by Flint native Carrie McCluskey, alleged that Belford High School takes students’ money by offering them an accredited high school diploma, but that Belford High School is not accredited by legitimate accreditation agencies and that the diplomas are not valid.
“Getting a GED can really help you start your life,” McCluskey, told the Flint Journal after filing her lawsuit in November 2009. “People who want to give you fake ones are saying they don’t care where your life will go. They’re just out for your money.”

“I’ve known for a long time that Belford was completely fake,” said George Gollin, a professor of physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a former elected official on the Board of Directors for the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

“I would think that there are close to 200,000 fake degrees being sold every year, with the majority of those – at least 100,000 – coming in the U.S.”

Gollin has worked for years with retired FBI agent Allen Ezell and John Bear, an authority on distance education, as part of a watchdog group that helps bust up what he calls “diploma mills and scams by con artists.”

“I went to the Belford website originally to apply for a political science degree and I got one based on my life experiences involving watching television and reading newspapers,” Gollin said. “I wanted to see how far it would go and ultimately I got offered a doctorate in thoracic surgery at Belford University based off of my life experiences.”

Ezell, an FBI agent for 35 years, co-authored the book Degree Mills: The Billion-dollar Industry That Has Sold Over a Million Fake Diplomas and for 11 years was the head of the FBI’s DipScam task force charged with disbanding diploma mills.

On Oct. 24, 2011, after nearly two years of fighting the case, Kureshi submitted a declaration to the court, which stated in part that “The lawsuit has become cost-prohibitive to continue to defend. As a result, neither Belford nor I will continue to defend this case and, on behalf of myself and Belford, I consent to a default being entered against myself and Belford.”



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I have been neglecting my blogging duties as of late and for that, you should be grateful! However, every so often I come across something that I feel passionate about. Today is one of those days as I have just come across an article that every job seeker should read. It’s about choices.

In this story, Steve was presented with an option. Lie on his resume and pretty much be guaranteed a job, or tell the truth and actually prove himself and his skills. Steve was more than qualified for a job but a recruiter told him that unless he made up a degree, the employer would likely pass. What did Steve do? Steve owned it! I love this guy, I love his story!

Choices to make the right decision or the wrong one. I am certainly not a righteous person, but I am a person of principle. I believe that in life you are presented with decisions; sometimes you make the right one and sometimes you don’t. However, its important to live with the consequences. People in life make mistakes.  Own it.  That’s your responsibility. This situation could have taken a completely different path; one that could have created dozens if not hundreds of lies to cover up a lie that wasn’t necessary in the first place.

Why lying on your résumé won’t pay off

Getting asked by a reporter about where I went to school made me remember the day I had to choose whether to lie on my résumé.

The job of a lifetime

When I got my first job in Silicon Valley, it was through serendipity — my part — and desperation — on the part of my first employer. I really didn’t have much of a résumé — four years in the Air Force building a scram system for a nuclear reactor and a startup in Ann Arbor, Mich., but not much else.

It was at my second startup in Silicon Valley that my life and career took an interesting turn. A recruiter found me while I was working in product marketing and wanted to introduce me to a hot startup making something called a workstation. “This is a technology-driven company, and your background sounds great. Why don’t you send me a résumé and I’ll pass it on.” A few days later, I got a call back from the recruiter. “Steve, you left off your education. Where did you go to school?”

“I never finished college,” I said.

There was a long silence on the other end of the phone. “Steve, the VP of sales and marketing previously ran their engineering department. He was a professor of computer science at Harvard, and his last job was running the Advanced Systems Division at Xerox PARC. Most of the sales force were previously design engineers. I can’t present a candidate without a college degree. Why don’t you make something up?”

I still remember that exact instant of the conversation. In that moment, I realized I had a choice. But I had no idea how profound, important and lasting it would be. It would have been really easy to lie, and the recruiter was telling me to do so. “No one checks education anyway,” He said. This was long before the days of the Internet.

Making the choice about my résumé

I told him I’d think about it. And I did for a long time. After a few days, I sent him my updated résumé, and he passed it on to Convergent Technologies. Soon after, I was asked to interview with the company. I can barely recall the other people I met (my potential boss, the VP of marketing, interviews with various engineers, etc.), but I’ll never forget the interview with Ben Wegbreit, the VP of sales and marketing.


We are in the business of finding people that lie on their resumes! Why? Well, companies are hit everyday with people who are not qualified for their positions and therefore make things up in order to get them. Organizations pay us because they know that we find over 50% of resumes contain falsehoods and in some cases flat out lies. These sometimes include fake diplomas, degree mills, false employers, extended dates to cover up positions they have been terminated from and so on. The interesting thing is that this is usually done AFTER the applicant has gone through a series of interviews and has already had the chance to sell themselves. Often times,  the lie is unnecessary.  The background check is being run because they want you based on you, not based on the “fake you.”

I love the lessons learned:

  • You will be faced with ethical dilemmas your entire career
  • Taking the wrong path is most often the easiest choice
  • These choices will seem like trivial and inconsequential shortcuts — at the time
  • Some of them will have lasting consequences
  • It’s not the lie that will catch up with you, it’s the cover-up
  • Choose wisely

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Screenshot of webinar - Job Applicants Do the Darndest Things: How HR Can Spot Candidates Who Game the System

Earlier this week we had a wonderful panel discussion about the things job applicants will do to game the system when it comes to employee background checks.  The discussion was led by EmployeeScreenIQ’s Nick Fishman and Kevin Bachman, Ellen Goldsmith, SVP of HR at Fremantle Media North America, Lisa Kaye, Founder and CEO of and Susan Vitale, Chief Marketing Officer at iCIMS and we all had an opportunity to share some great background screening stories and advice for what HR can do to spot background check deceptions.

In case you missed it, we wanted to give you an opportunity to download the recording (see link below).

Job Applicants Do the Darndest Things: How HR Can Spot Candidates Who Game the System.



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We wondered in this very blog just a week ago if Yahoo! CEO, Scott Thompson could maintain his post at the company after it was discovered that he lied about his academic qualifications.  Thompson claimed to have a degree in Accounting and Computer Science from Stone Hill College.  While he did have the Accounting degree, the school didn’t even offer a Computer Science degree until after he graduated.

As if we didn’t all know the outcome of this story, the Wall Street Journal has confirmed that Thompson stepped down over the weekend.  And as we here more and more about the details, this is looking very George O’Leary-ean.  Who can forget the Notre Dame head coach who lasted about 5 days on the job until it was reported that he lied about his educational background?

Just like O’ Leary, Thompson got caught up in a lie he started much earlier in his career.  The representation that he earned that Computer Science degree might have helped him get a leg up early on.  But from there, it was his experience that carried the day.  However, once you tell the resume  lie, you can’t stop telling it when you become well-known.

It seems Thompson tried to cover up his lie by, what else, lying.  Last week, he blamed the executive recruiting firm that helped place him at PayPal for the oversight.  Whoops!  He got caught in that one too.  The firm didn’t actually place him at Yahoo!

And so ends a familiar tale.  Applicant lies to get the job.  Employer doesn’t take the steps to confirm the applicant’s resume.  Both end of looking famously stupid.

Got Background Checks?

P.S. Today it is being reported that Thompson stepped down because he is battling thyroid cancer.  Let’s hope for his sake that this is a lie as well.

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