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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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Chalk this story up to something a background screening provider most likely will not do now or in the future: ethnicity testing.

Massachusetts Republican party leaders are calling for Harvard University to investigate faculty member and U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren for lying about her ethnicity.  Warren claimed that she was Native American which GOP leader Bob Maginn says is unsubstantiated.  And because he believes that she got her job with the university because of her ethnicity claims, he believes this is academic fraud.

Check out the full story reported by the Boston Herald.

State GOP big rips Liz claim, urges Harvard investigation

The head of the Massachusetts Republican Party yesterday demanded Harvard University investigate faculty member and U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren’s claim to be a Native American minority professor.

MassGOP Chairman Bob Maginn slammed Warren’s claim as baseless and mocked her statements in response to the controversy over the past week.

Maginn said Warren’s actions “appear to constitute academic fraud” and suggested Harvard consider disciplinary action.

“The problem is that Ms. Warren is not a Native American,” wrote Maginn, a Harvard alum. “She is Caucasian. Despite her insistence that she is an American Indian based upon ‘family lore’ and her observation that some in her family had ‘high cheekbones like all the Indians do,’ she has failed to produce a single shred of evidence to substantiate her claim.”

Maginn said Warren’s actions “potentially violate” Harvard’s academic standards and the university is obligated to probe the Democrat’s actions.

“By Harvard’s own Code and precedent, Ms. Warren’s actions require an investigation,” wrote Maginn.

Warren campaign officials referred to statements released last week by Harvard Law Professor Charles Fried, who sat on the panel that hired Warren in 1995, and former Harvard Law Dean Robert Clark.

Both defend Warren’s credentials as the primary reason she was hired. Clark denied her heritage was a factor.

Warren listed herself as a minority professor in the Association of American Law Schools desk book from 1986-95 while teaching at the universities of Texas and Pennsylvania.

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By now, many of you might have heard that new Yahoo! CEO, Scott Thompson misrepresented his educational qualifications. But unlike some other high profile cases we’ve seen over the years (see Radio Shack CEO and MIT Dean of Admissions stories), Thompson didn’t say he had a graduate degree that he didn’t have.  He said that he graduated from Stonehill College with accounting and computer science.  Well, he did earn a degree in accounting, but the university didn’t offer a computer science degree in 1979 when he graduated: thus, no computer science degree.  As Homer Simpson would say, “DOH!”

How did this come to light? It seems like someone clearly had an ax to grind with Yahoo!  It’s being reported that the lie was uncovered by a hedge fund manager who is seeking more control over the company.

Does that excuse the lie?  Probably not.  But how many ways could this have come to life over the years the decades that Thompson has made this claim? You’d think an employer might have spotted it by conducting a standard background check, right?  That depends.  If all of his past employers conducted an education verification, this should have been an fairly easy catch.  I say fairly easy because there’s a bit of a caveat here.

If the University came back and indicated that Thompson had earned a degree as we said, perhaps the employer just assumed that if the accounting degree was earned, than surely the computer science degree was also earned.  And I could accept that for his earlier employment. However, when he became a major executive eBay and Paypal, you’d think this would have come to light.  Well, maybe it did.  Those two companies just reported his accounting degree on their SEC filings.  Do you think they knew about the resume lie and chose to move forward in spite of it?

And now to Yahoo!  Did they forget to do a background check? My guess is that they probably did, but they took Thompson’s word for his educational credentials.  I just don’t see any other way it was missed.

Is this a minor white lie or egregious fraud?  He might very well have used it to get a leg up early on in his career, however at this point in the game, the falsification did nothing for him whatsoever.  He was respected and established and his experience ran miles around the degree he never attained.

So now Yahoo! has a huge problem.  On one hand, this guy is probably the perfect candidate for the job. On the other, this lie has reflected poorly on the company.  Stay tuned.  His fate will probably be decided within the next couple days.

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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.

Download the Whitepaper now!

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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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