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Employer Guide to Education Verification

Kaylyn McKenna
Kaylyn McKenna
Business News Daily Contributing Writer
Updated Jun 17, 2022

Learn how to verify your candidates' educational credentials before you make your next hire.

  • Education is one of the major qualifications that employers look at as they evaluate potential employees.
  • Verifying a candidate’s education can help you accurately assess their qualifications and determine appropriate compensation.
  • A surprising number of applicants stretch the truth on their resumes, so it’s important to verify the accuracy of their credentials.
  • This article is for small business owners and hiring managers looking to incorporate education verification in their pre-employment background check process. 

Employers look at a number of factors and qualifications when seeking to hire a new team member, including work experience, social media activity, education and criminal history. Some of these qualifications are verified through pre-employment background checks. However, many employers don’t think about education when they create their background check process. Education verification is a great way to confirm candidate credentials and can help business owners make better hiring decisions.

What is education verification?

Education verification in the process of verifying a candidate’s degree or educational achievements during the pre-employment background check. Through education verification, employers obtain records of the candidate’s degrees and education. It is one of the more basic forms of background checks, but it can be helpful in confirming that a candidate is qualified for the job.

What are employers looking for in this process?

Education verification can return a number of key pieces of information about a potential employee. Here are just a few:

  • The degree they earned
  • The dates of their attendance or the date that the degree was conferred
  • The educational institution(s) they attended
  • Their GPA or honors 

The primary objective of education verification is to verify that the educational information that the candidate provided is accurate. In most cases, employers are focused on whether or not the applicant obtained the degree that they listed on their resume. However, they are also often looking at whether the candidate was truthful on their application.

Why employers should verify education in the hiring process

There are many reasons that you may choose to verify an applicant’s education background during the hiring process. 

Making informed hiring choices

A portion of candidates do misrepresent their qualifications or stretch the truth on their resume. Verifying their education ensures that the information provided is accurate so that you can make an informed hiring decision. If you are choosing between two great candidates, educational achievements or advanced degrees may sway you toward one of them, but you don’t want to make that decision based on incorrect information. 

Did you know?Did you know?: According to a study by ResumeBuilder.com, 1 in 3 candidate lie on their resume. Misrepresenting education credentials was the second most common lie.

Evaluating honesty

In addition to making sure that a prospective hire is qualified for the job, it’s also helpful to verify that they were honest on their application. Lying on an application brings not only someone’s qualifications into question, but also their character. You want to hire employees who are honest and transparent, as these are values that most companies desire in their employees.

Deciding compensation

In most circumstances, education level and achievements are factors in determining how much an employer is willing to pay a new employee. An employer may make a more generous offer to a candidate who graduated from a top school because of the belief that they are more qualified or better prepared for the role. Many employers also are willing to pay a higher salary if the selected candidate has an advanced degree. If you are negotiating compensation with a candidate based on their education, it makes sense to verify that they actually obtained that education. 

Some roles, such as those in government or education, also have specific salary tiers and formulas that correspond with years of education and experience. Employers in these fields typically need to verify all information related to any education that will be used to qualify for a higher tier, including years of attendance and the degree conferred. 

Why would an employer choose not to conduct an education verification?

Many employers skip verifying education because they think the process is too slow. This is a common myth about background checks. In reality, an education verification can be quite quick to run if you work with a background check service. However, working with such a service is an extra expense that smaller businesses may not want to incur.

Sometimes education verification results can highlight inaccuracies, such as name variations or incorrect student numbers, or leave out information like a student’s GPA or honors status. At times, a search may come up empty because some higher education institutions have a policy that allows only students themselves to access their records.

It is also worth noting that specific educational credentials may not be important for all positions. Entry-level roles are often learned on the job, and employers may embrace candidates with a variety of education levels, majors and backgrounds. When this is the case, employers may not conduct an education verification because they do not view it as necessary. However, it can still be useful to determine compensation and to ensure the candidate was truthful on their resume and during the interview process.

How to verify a candidate’s education background

Regardless of how you plan to verify a candidate’s educational background, it’s important to collect the candidate’s full legal name, the institution attended and written consent for an educational background check.

Doing it yourself

Employers may take a DIY approach to education verification by contacting the educational institutions themselves and requesting a candidate’s transcript or verification of their degree. This is sometimes a slower process, and there may be a form that the candidate has to complete for the institution to release their records. This may also be cumbersome if a candidate attended multiple schools. Be careful of violating privacy regulations, such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which restricts who can view student records. 

TipTip: Be aware of legalities around DIY background checks. Education verification typically requires consent from the candidate and may be subject to regulations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Give a candidate the opportunity to fix misinformation on their education record before you retract a job offer based on your findings.

Requesting transcripts from candidates

Some employers also ask a candidate to provide a transcript in order to verify their degree, grades and courses taken. This approach is a decent option if the actual courses are of significance to you. Most employers do not care too deeply about specific classes, particularly at the undergraduate level, where education is fairly general. However, if you are looking for specific skills or if a candidate took a nontraditional degree path (such as liberal arts programs that allow students to design their own majors), you may want to review their transcript. This option is also inexpensive and efficient since the candidate can typically download their unofficial transcript relatively easily and quickly.

Using employment background check services

You can use various background check services to run pre-employment background checks, including education verification. However, not all services offer education verification, so confirm this when choosing a background check service.

This is typically the best approach for verifying a candidate’s educational qualifications. These services are more efficient than doing it yourself, accurate and legally compliant. When doing your own education verification, you may run into legal issues and delays. Since education verification is likely only one aspect of background check that you will be conducting on a candidate, background check services can also be a convenient option for getting all of the information that you need in one place with one single authorization form from the candidate. 

Image Credit:

fizkes / Getty Images

Kaylyn McKenna
Kaylyn McKenna
Business News Daily Contributing Writer
Kaylyn McKenna is a freelance writer specializing in business, tech, and leadership. She received her MA in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from Touro University, and enjoys using her industrial psychology background to share management, HR, and organizational effectiveness tips with small business owners. She has covered topics related to business law, compliance, employee retention, company culture, and management strategies.