Diploma Mills and Due Diligence

A resume is how companies around the globe get a first impression of a top tier candidate’s skills, experiences and qualifications before they meet they are met in person. Candidates use a variety of resume types and styles to sell themselves, their education and their past work. However, it has been found that a resume doesn’t always tell the truth about a candidate’s job or educational experience. With an increasingly competitive job market, applicants are searching for ways to compete with one another and one of the common ways is by padding, embellishing, exaggerating and even downright lying on their resume.

While a top candidate’s resume might look great on the surface, it may not be as accurate as you’d think. Lies that have appeared on a resume, yes, even for top management positions, and can run from minor embellishments to complete fabrications on their qualifications and experiences that put your organization at risk. One such way to “beef up” a resume is to add additional educational degrees that a high-level candidate might not have earned, or have received from a diploma mill.

What is a Diploma Mill?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a diploma mill as “a usually unregulated institution of higher education granting degrees with few or not academic requirements.” Diploma mills are organizations that claim to be a higher education institution but which offer illegitimate academic degrees and diplomas for a fee. These degrees may claim to give credit for relevant life experience, evaluate work history and require submission of a thesis or dissertation for evaluation to give an appearance of authenticity. Most diploma mills have very convincing websites and will provide “students” with official-looking degrees and transcripts. At times, your job candidates themselves have no idea that they used a diploma mill until they receive their actual diploma.

Telltale Signs of Diploma Mills

In Canada, all universities and colleges are under the direct supervision of the provincial and territorial governments, and there are no accreditation authorities, so the problem of degree mills is relatively rare. However, this doesn’t mean that candidates cannot place false educational experience and certifications on their resume. There are some revealing signs that candidates, recruiters and hiring managers need to be on the eye out for when dealing with a diploma mill:

  • Get a Degree Based on Life Experience – Diploma Mills offer students credits for relevant work or life experience. Accredited colleges could give credits for specific experiences relevant to a degree program, such as co-ops and internships, but not an entire degree.
  • No Physical Location – Diploma mills do not have a need for a physical address or location. They do not have a need for a library, research papers and publications. If there is only a P.O. Box address on the website of the college, then it could be a red flag that this is not an actual learning institution.
  • Tailor-Made Studies – Diploma mills offer custom study programs that are tailored to the student’s degree of choice and promises that the degree can be earned in a few months, weeks or even days. Legitimate higher learning institutions offer a variety of programs for students to pick from https://www.bishopsservices.com/ that take many years to complete. Plus, students don’t get to pick the name of their degree, which academic honours they receive and their GPA.
  • No Homework Needed – If a school is offering a degree without doing any schoolwork or exams, they could be considered a diploma mill. If an organization does not have professors or teachers, this could also be an indication that it is not a “real” higher learning institution. All accredited universities, even online schools, require coursework and interaction with professors.
  • Flat Fee for a Degree – Many diploma mills charge on a per-degree basis. Real educational organizations charge by the credit, course or semester.
  • No Accreditation – While there are some higher learning organizations that do not share their accreditation for certain reasons, diploma mills usually do not have legitimate educational, provincial or territorial body or industry accreditation.

Education Verifications

How can your business and hiring manager tell if there are educational inaccuracies on candidates’ resumes? An education verification service offered by a third-party background screening provider will be able to provide the correct answers. Education verifications confirm degree type, honors received and date of completion directly with the school registrar. Professional due diligence companies maintain a database of legitimate educational institutions as well as known diploma mills to immediately identify them during the education verification process. Sterling Diligence (formerly Bishops®) actively identifies and monitors these types of suspicious educational institutions.*