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EmployeeScreenIQ recently released our annual background screening trends survey: “Threading The Needle: Employment Background Screening in an Age of Increased Litigation and Legislation.” More than 650 HR professionals from across the country, in organizations large and small, shared their thoughtful (and sometimes surprising) insights on everything from falsified resumes to the phenomenon of Facebook in our revealing 20-page report.  Listed below is one of our Top Findings which deals with how much candidates are distorting information about their academic and employment credentials.

What percentage of your candidates do you estimate are distorting/exaggerating information on their resume?

A vast majority of respondents estimate that up to 40% of candidates distort or exaggerate information on their resumes. 83% of respondents say that fabricating educational qualifications is the most egregious resume distortion. At EmployeeScreenIQ, we find a 52% discrepancy rate.

According to a December 2011 report from CBS News affiliate WTOP, 69% percent of hiring managers, recruiters and security professionals reported catching lies on a job applicant’s resume. Education and employment history account for most of the embellishments.

Although the percentages in each of our given categories are relatively low, the widespread nature of distorting and exaggerating the truth is significant. Most job seekers know that employers use background checks to review potential new hires. And many of the popular job search websites contain a wealth of articles written by employment experts advising job seekers not to lie on their resumes. Yet, despite these deterrents, people continue to “tweak” their resumes in the hope that they won’t be caught. This is all the more reason for employers to be vigilant in their screening practices.

Download the Whitepaper now!

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EmployeeScreenIQ recently released our annual background screening trends survey: “Threading The Needle: Employment Background Screening in an Age of Increased Litigation and Legislation.” More than 650 HR professionals from across the country, in organizations large and small, shared their thoughtful (and sometimes surprising) insights on everything from falsified resumes to the phenomenon of Facebook in our revealing 20-page report.  Listed below is one of our Top Findings which deals with how HR professionals view online universities.

Division Over Online Universities:

Employers are divided on the legitimacy of online universities. 45% believe that online universities are less credible than brick-and-mortar universities, while 55% do not. For employers who are ambivalent about this issue, the next few years will likely help them clarify their positions, as more and more trusted, brick-and-mortar schools are expected to add online programs.

While some employers embrace the “advantages” that online universities offer attendees (such as lower costs, flexible scheduling and accelerated programs—all of which can be helpful to students who already hold jobs or who cannot afford tuition at traditional universities), other employers remain wary of online options due to the less-than-ideal reputation these programs earned when they first gained recognition.

This negative perception has been slowly but steadily changing, not only in the court of public opinion but among educators themselves. And even well-known traditional universities have begun offering their own online programs. If these trends continue, employers’ perceptions will likely shift accordingly. Additionally, it will be interesting to see whether employers come to prefer or make distinctions between brick-and-mortar institutions that have online courses and those that offer only online course work.

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Dibyendu Malakar needed a graduate business degree to advance his career, but he was working full time and could not afford $100,000 or more for a two-year M.B.A. program at Berkeley, Stanford or another accredited business school. So Malakar enrolled at Frederick Taylor University, an unaccredited school in Moraga.
Because Frederick Taylor is listed in California as a state-approved school, he said, “I thought, ‘It can’t be completely bogus.’” In fact, he got his M.B.A. via the Internet in just a year, for less than $5,000.
That may not have been quite the bargain it seemed to be, though. “I did not realize that it did not carry the same weight as Berkeley or Stanford,” said Malakar, who emigrated from India. “But it was not a complete waste.” Malakar said his M.B.A. helped him get a job as director of product management at a software company in Cupertino.
Shakila Marando, a 33-year-old doula from El Cerrito, is seeking a bachelor’s degree in management from Frederick Taylor. Although she has been a student for nearly a year, she has never spoken to a teacher, she said. “They e-mail you a package of reading materials to read with a multiple-choice exam that is open book,” said Marando, who is from Tanzania. “For me, it is very convenient and I can work full time and read a little bit on the side. It is pretty easy.”

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I just read a great, albeit long article in my current edition of Fortune Magazine about fraudster Barry Minkow.  This story has it all: from love, crime, betrayal, corporate greed, personal greed and rags to riches, to prison stripes!   A simple blog posting will not do this story  justice. Fortune did a great job, Kudos to the author, Roger Parloff.

Why am I writing about it and what does it have to do with background screening, employment checks, criminal searches, credit reports or anything to do with background checks? One sentence, captured me to read on and think about our industry and the current debate of criminal recidivism.  That sentence; “His story is hard to read without pondering the question; Is Character Destiny?”  Is it?  I don’t know, I don’t think it is overall.(Character being your destiny) I mean it’s a strong general statement and could unintentionally stereotype some ex-criminals.  Is Character Destiny? It really begs the question; if you have a previous record and you just have the type of character that says, “Let’s make a quick buck. Do it the easy way and break the law,” do you have any chance at redemption?  It plays into what many of us in the industry argue all the time; there are just some bad people out there, period.

I promise, I will get to the link.  One more thing that caught my eye and that definitely ties him to the employment screening industry was one of his past side businesses.  In 2008, Minkow created a business that would comb through databases looking for inflated educational credentials on the part of corporate officers.  Great idea, right?  Sounds like he could have been a pioneer in the screening industry, one of us, one of the good guys!!  Well, he took this a step further.  When he found a discrepancy he would short the stock, leak the story to a reporter and when the priced dipped, make a nice profit.  He exposed resume embellishments at more than a dozen companies, including MGM Mirage, Broadcom and EchoStar.   Yeah, not one of us, not one of the good guys….not so much!

Okay, as promised, Click here to read the full story!

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Sorry, I’m a little slow on posting this, but the EEOC recently wrote an opinion letter that suggests that requiring a high school diploma as a condition of employment may be discriminatory.

Now as many of you know, I would usually take this opportunity to excoriate the EEOC.  However, I’m turning over a new leaf this year and refuse to be drawn into negativity (anyone want to place a wager on how long this will last for?).

ERE’s John Zappe wrote a great post on this topic.  See excerpt below.

An “informal discussion letter” just posted to the EEOC’s website says that under certain circumstances, requiring a diploma may run afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act. If the requirement screens out persons unable to earn a diploma because of a bonafide disability, the employer has to justify the requirement as job-related and consistent with business necessity.

Doing that for some jobs isn’t going to be easy. Employers almost as a matter of routine include at least a high school degree requirement in every job posting, including for janitors and cleaners. The U.S. Labor Department, however, says, “Most building cleaning workers, except supervisors, do not need any formal education and mainly learn their skills on the job or in informal training sessions sponsored by their employers.”

Informal discussion letters aren’t policy. That’s up to the Commission members. However, employment lawyers see the letter as signaling the possibility that the EEOC may be looking to step up its enforcement of other provisions.

Says Proskauer Rose attorney Nigel F. Telman, “I could see them potentially … saying at some point” that a high school diploma requirement “may have a disparate impact on a particular class of people.”

For instance, 87.1 percent of the U.S. population older than 24 has a high school degree. However, only 62.9 percent of Hispanics do. So requiring a degree does have a disparate impact nationally. That alone isn’t illegal. But it does mean you’ll have to justify the requirement as both job related and consistent with business necessity.

If it’s the ADA that’s involved, you’d also have to also establish that with or without an accommodation the disabled person is unable to do the job.

Read Full Article

Discriminatory?  Really?

Doesn’t everyone in this country has access to public education?  What they chose to do with that access is up to them. I agree that every job should have requirements that correspond to the position, but discriminatory?  What on earth is the EEOC thinking?  Why not just make it illegal to actually have a degree?  I’m sure our kids would love that. I guess they aren’t happy until their relentless policies force everyone into court (or out of business).

So much for turning a new leaf.  I couldn’t hold back:)

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I, Jason B. Morris, PhD (From a diploma mill) recently came across an interesting article in today’s New York Times.  It appears that based on a recent court case in Texas, unaccredited schools are legal and are likely there to stay!  Tyndale Theological Seminary & Biblical Institute, a private Bible based learning institution with only religious course offerings recently won the right after a case allowing them to grant degrees.  In HEB Ministries Inc. Vs. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the Texas Supreme Court allowed these degrees to be granted.

Christopher Cone, the president of Tyndale called “a key victory for Christian education in Texas.”  But critics of the decision say it may have opened the door to turning Texas into a breeding ground for unregulated diploma mills, with institutions allowed to grant degrees without approval from the state or a recognized accrediting body.

According to the New York Times;  Mr. Cone said such fears were unfounded. “What you saw rise up immediately after the decision was not diploma mills,” he said, “but Bible institutes that had been struggling and were suddenly able to put themselves out there.”

State officials are now reviewing whether the Texas court determination conflicts with the Obama administration’s broad new set of rules aimed at strengthening the integrity of higher education programs nationwide.

Including a degree or education verification as a standard part of your organizations employment screening program is now more important than ever.  Any thorough background check should always include searches to weed fake diploma mills, this decision just makes this process that much more difficult, unless of course you use a professional screening firm to help!

For more on this story, click here!

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Last year, we posted a story about a man, Adam Wheeler, who faked his way in to Harvard University by falsifying his student application.  He claimed that he had attended an exclusive prep school in Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  Harvard actually admitted him and was publicly embarrassed when the truth came out.

Wheeler was charged criminally in the matter, convicted and sentenced to two and a half years in prison and 10 years of probation.  He served 1 month prior to his trial and was released thereafter.

Well, according to CBSNews Wheeler is back at it again.  This time, he is looking for a job and indicated on his resume that he graduated from Harvard.  This was a violation of the terms of his probation and he’s now back in the slammer.

I know I’m not supposed to have a sense of humor about these things, but this is funny.  The truth is, if Wheeler was smart enough to fake his way into Harvard, conceivably, he might have been smart enough to get in on his own merits. I guess he didn’t take the school’s motto, Veritas (which means truth) very seriously.

Now back to serious.  Make sure you conduct education verifications and employment verifications before you hire someone.  People lie.  It happens all the time.  Performing these searches is your greatest tool for highlighting resume lies.

Check out Wheeler’s story below.

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We’ve just posted a guest article on EmployeeScreen University about the efficacy of resumes in today’s marketplace authored by Kevin W. Grossman, Chief Marketplace Evangelist at Fisher Vista, LLC and HRmarketer.com Check it out.

Okay, it’s not dead yet, but I want it to die.

I understand that there’s still a huge part of the career management industry keeping it alive, making it better and making it work for you, the job seeker. To all my friends in this industry, please forgive me, as I also understand it’s probably not going anywhere for years to come.

But I still want the painfully ubiquitous resume to die a horrible death.

Why? Because it’s a self-serving piece of inconsistently formatted and fudged professional drivel that really doesn’t help me hire true quality of fit. Just ask any background screening firm that does employment and education verifications. For example, EmployeeScreenIQ’s research yields a 52% discrepancy rate between what an applicant claims about their education and work experience and what they find when they verify such information.

Fifty-two percent. Sure, the resume helps me sift and sort to the short list, but a short list that’s almost half fabrication on the average. And if you as the job seeker take that risk and blatantly lie or embellish on your resume, and my background screening firm uncovers it, you are out of luck at a time of high unemployment where you really need a little luck.

Yes, embellishing the truth is fabrication. It doesn’t make it any better than an outright lie, especially if you’re telling me you’ve been programming native iPhone apps for the past six months and you really only took an online course six months ago and made one farting app, one that isn’t very good anyway because it sounds like a Yorkshire Terrier barking.

So what then do we put instead of this black magic resume full of lies and deceit?

Your professional online profile, of course. Like the one you better have completely up to date on LinkedIn, where thousands of recruiting professionals are scouring and sourcing every day. (And I’m not even talking about the majority of recruiting pros who search for online information about you across the internet and other social networks.) And by the way, much of the same advice you may get about building your resume applies to the online profile as well.

However, I get the fact that anybody can fudge an online profile just as well as they can a resume. But, there’s a peer pressure element of keeping one another honest in an online community where your professional history is available to everyone you’re connected with, many of whom you‘ve worked with or for at one time, if not currently, as well as the portion that’s available for public consumption if you so choose.

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Employers beware.  The Iceman cometh. Last week the Obama administration announced that it would audit another 1,000 employers throughout the United States to determine if they are have illegal workers on their payrolls.

The Wall Street Journal reports that this wave of ICE audits now brings this fiscal year’s total to 2,388 (beginning Oct. 1) which has already eclipsed last year’s total of 2,196.

The Journal warns, “For employers, the audits can lead to both civil and criminal penalties. The possibilities range from fines and being barred from competing for government contracts to criminal charges of knowingly employing illegal workers, evading taxes and engaging in identity theft.”

See WSJ Article

The best way for an employer to stay in compliance with federal regulations is to be vigilant in their I-9 practices. Every employee must have an I-9 form on file.

Many employers are moving towards the use of the government’s E-Verify system or other third party systems which allow for the complete electronic automation of the I-9 process; preparing and signing the form, submitting the form to the Social Security Administration, and auto archiving.

Everyone get the image of Top Gun’s Iceman, Val Kilmer?

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A former NASDAQ employee, Donald Johnson recently pleaded guilty to defrauding investors of over $750,000.  In this day and age, that amount is child’s play compared to some of the high profile fraud cases we’ve seen over the last couple years, but that’s really here nor there.  The thing that has left one Forbes blogger scratching her head is that this crime was totally avoidable.

All NASDAQ had to do was to conduct a thorough background check and they would have known that Johnson’s past would have provided a clear snapshot of what his future tenure with the company might hold.

According to Joelle Scott, “Nasdaq hired Johnson in 1989.  Three years prior, the Virginia Board of Nursing commenced an investigation into Johnson.  He had been working at Fairfax Hospital and, as a result of the investigation, according to the records from this department, Johnson admitted he had not only consumed Schedule II drugs while on duty as a nurse but also falsified hospital records in order to steal these drugs from the hospital.  Johnson was discharged from the U.S. Army Reserves where he was a captain and served as a nurse.”

Surely, a Professional License Verification with the Virginia Board of Nursing would have revealed information that would have raised red flags about Johnson.

NASDAQ claims to have conducted a background check on Johnson at the time of his hire, to which Scott reserves comments which should be shared over and over again with the myriad politicians and government agencies who seek to limit or ban the use of these vitally important employment screening practices.

“As we have explained to clients (both potential and existing) for over 20 years, comprehensive background checks are designed to uncover this sort of information to protect investors, board members, corporations and others.  Contacting licensing departments and appropriate regulatory bodies is an essential component of background checks.  This includes not only identifying any sanctions or disciplinary actions filed by the major regulatory agencies (SEC, FINRA, etc.) but also independently reaching out to government bodies that oversee the professions in which an individual has been involved from OSHA to the Departments of Nursing. These agencies provide critical information about an individual.

Johnson is one of many.  We have seen numerous people lie about degrees received from Ivy League schools and certifications received (yes, people still lie about this stuff!) and, like Johnson, people who voluntarily do not disclose their troubled pasts hoping no one will check.”

Click here for more information about what employers in the financial services industry should consider when screening potential candidates.

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