For decades, conventional wisdom has been that in order to get a good job, one must graduate from college, preferably with a strong academic record.

But when it comes to actually applying for jobs, how often do companies confirm the education credentials, such as school attended and degree received, listed on applicants’ resumes?

Intelligent.com recently surveyed 1,250 senior management staff members regarding their processes for verifying applicants’ education backgrounds.

Key Findings:

  • 23% of employers never check job candidates’ education credentials; 24% sometimes do
  • 57% of employers verify education credentials to ensure applicants have the right knowledge for the job; 52% want to confirm applicants aren’t lying
  • 9 in 10 managers have caught applicants falsifying information about their education backgrounds
  • 40% of employers are still very or somewhat likely to hire an applicant who lies about their educational background

Only 53% of employers always check job candidates’ education credentials

Slightly more than half of the employers surveyed, 53%, always verify the education credentials listed on a job applicant’s resume.

Among the rest, 24% sometimes check applicants’ education records, while 23% never do.

For employers who always or sometimes dig into applicants’ educational backgrounds, the information they’re most interested in verifying is a candidate’s degree title (44%), graduation year (43%), and the school(s) they attended (36%).

The fact that the majority of employers verify education credentials at least some of the time points to the continued importance of a college education, says career strategist and coach Carolyn Kleiman,

“Higher education is still a strong requirement for many positions, and continues to serve as a ticket for entry to most professional roles,” Kleiman says. “This is especially true for the first job or two out of college. Over time, employers may value the experience and skills you bring over where you went to school and what kind of degree you have, but those things are key when starting out.”

Specific education or degrees ‘not necessary’ according to employers who don’t verify education credentials

While certain information about an individual’s education background can be confirmed without that individual’s permission, the majority of employers who investigate notify job applicants anyway.

Sixteen percent of employers in this group ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ tell job applicants they’re checking their education backgrounds, while 11% do ‘sometimes.’ The remaining 73% ‘always’ or ‘often’ notify candidates that they’re confirming the educational information provided in their resume.

Meanwhile, among those who never verify education credentials, 39% say it’s because specific education or degrees aren’t necessary for jobs with their companies. A similar number, 36%, value experience more than education when choosing who to hire.

Tech, business companies most likely to verify college graduation

No industry has a perfect track record of always verifying applicants’ education credentials. However, our survey shows that employers in some industries are more likely than others to check.

Individuals applying to jobs in computer and information technology, business and finance, healthcare, and education would do well to be honest about their educational backgrounds.

Seventy-seven percent of computer and IT employers always verify education information, as do 70% of business and finance employers, 64% of healthcare employers, and 63% of education employers.

Additionally, 21% of business and finance employers, 20% of education employers, 19% of computer and IT employers, and 19% of healthcare employers check education credentials sometimes.

According to Kleiman, these industries are likely more stringent in their education requirements because of specific regulations.

“Industries like IT, finance and education are more likely to require specific certifications or licenses, which individuals may not be able to earn without a degree,” she says. “For example, banks often look to hire those with MBAs or JDs, as a way to maintain industry standards and reputations, so it makes sense they are frequently verifying education credentials.”

Meanwhile, the industries with the highest percentages of employers who never verify education credentials include community and social services (41%), office and administrative support (36%), media and communications (30%), and personal care services (30%).

H2: 9 in 10 managers who verify education credentials have caught applicants lying

The reason employers cite the most for verifying applicants’ education credentials is to confirm they have the necessary knowledge for the job to which they are applying (57%).

The second most-cited reason, selected by 52% of respondents, is that they want to make sure applicants aren’t lying about their education backgrounds.

This may well be a smart decision. Only 11% of employers who verify education credentials say they never catch applicants lying.

Meanwhile, 24% frequently catch applicants in lies about their education backgrounds, while 22% sometimes do.

What are applicants lying about? Most often, it’s about completing their degree (52%), followed by the type of degree they received (40%), the years they attended college (32%), and their GPA (30%).

“I understand the temptation to lie, especially if you really want the job, and fulfill nearly all the requirements,” Kleiman says. “However, it’s not ethical, plain and simple. There is the risk of being found out, which could damage your reputation in the field. You can also find yourself in the uncomfortable position of lacking knowledge or skills necessary for the position.”

40% of managers likely to hire an applicant even if they lie about their education

Even if applicants are caught in a lie about their education credentials, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve lost all chances at getting the job.

Thirty-one percent of respondents who investigate applicants’ educational backgrounds are ‘very unlikely’ to hire someone who lies about their education. Another 29% are ‘unlikely’ to make a job offer in that situation.

However, 26% are ‘very likely,’ and 14% are ‘likely’ to hire someone even if they misrepresented their education information on their resume.

Employers who do this are taking a big risk, Kleiman warns.

“It’s surprising that an employer would move forward knowing a candidate lied,” she says. “This raises red flags in regards to the candidate’s possible skills and knowledge, as well as their ethics and reputation.”

Methodology

All data found within this report derives from a survey commissioned by Intelligent.com and conducted online by survey platform Pollfish. In total, 1,250 senior management staff members, including HR managers, business owners, CEOs, directors, and C-level executives were surveyed about their companies’ hiring practices. Appropriate respondents were found via Pollfish’s screening tools. This survey was conducted over a three-day period, from February 8, 2022 to February 10, 2022. All respondents were asked to answer all questions truthfully and to the best of their abilities. For full survey data, please email Content Marketing Specialist Kristen Scatton at [email protected].