Authored By W.Barry Nixon, SHRM- CMP
Job descriptions often include educational requirements that have been developed based on extensive analysis of job requirements and the level of knowledge needed to successfully perform the work. In addition, a professional license or certification also may be required. Certification criteria varies from field to field, but includes a specified amount of experience, passing a rigorous examination, and a specified amount of continuing education, as well as earning other certifications.
It is important for all companies to verify educational and certification requirements have been met by possible applicants. Some employers focus on verifying the highest level of education obtained, assuming that lower level expectations would have also been met. When conducting education verification, the focus should be on the school attended, dates of attendance, field of study, major or minor, grade point average, degree earned, and date of graduation or last attendance. Some may even request transcripts. Employers should ensure the proper address and location of the school, the name used by the applicant while in attendance and the social security number of the applicant at the time of attendance to be sure the right person is being investigated.
It is also advisable to subscribe to a fee-based verification service, primarily provided by the National Student Clearinghouse. The Clearinghouse maintains an electronic database of student records for each college represented and is great to have in place should the employer choose to outsource the entire background check and verification process. Employers should have a consent and authorization form signed by the applicant in order to use such services.
Planning is an essential part of the educational verification process and employers should recognize possible setbacks in getting this information in a timely manner. For instance, some schools may not be open when records are needed, schools may freeze records due to outstanding debts to the school or offenses committed by the student, and privacy policies may serve as a barrier, as well. Explaining this information to the potential hire is an important part of the process.
In the event that information comes back unverified, check to be sure that the school is not listed as a diploma mill by visiting the Council of Higher Education Accreditation Database of Institutions and Programs Accredited by Recognized U.S. Accrediting Organizations, the USDE Postsecondary Education Institutions and Programs Accredited by Accrediting Agencies and State Approval Agencies Recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education. Whether listed on one or both, consider the organization “recognized.” Fee-based services such as www.accredibase.com and also can be used to determine the status of a school.
Verification of professional/occupational license and certification verification involves providing a consent and authorization form signed by the applicant to the licensing or certification organization, in an effort to determine if the license or certification is current, when its expiration date may be, and the details surrounding a suspended license or certification.
An integral part of the screening process, education verification can contribute to the successful selection of a qualified candidate.