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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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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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