How to Avoid the Self-Graduator

It would be great if there were a foolproof way to identify “self-graduators” just by looking at someone or their resume.  Unfortunately, that is not possible.  A “self-graduator” is a person who presents himself or herself as having degrees or certificates that he or she has not earned.  In other words, they have “graduated” themselves from a school without actually graduating.  They also have a tendency to be very creative with the schools they choose as their alumnus.

Many times “self-graduators” choose Ivy League or prestigious schools as a ploy used to throw potential employers off.  They think that employers will not question a high level of education or a prestigious school on a resume.  Sadly enough, some employers won’t question a resume, especially if the job candidate interviews well and has some verifiable references from past employers.

Many employers will not question the education if the applicant has verifiable employment references.  These employers assume the job candidate must have the credentials listed on the resume to have worked in the previous positions.  These employers overlook the fact that maybe no one ever verified the educational background of the candidate.  Therefore, this type of job seeker may continue to advance in his or her career as a result of lying on resumes and job applications.

One of the best ways to identify a “self-graduator” is to conduct a pre-employment background screen on all job applicants, regardless of the position a company is recruiting for.  An employment screening firm has the resources and experience to reveal “self-graduators”.

Infamous self-graduators

Resume padding is a very common practice.  Here are some examples of infamous “self-graduators”:

  1. George O’Leary, ex Notre-Dame football coach

In 2001, O’Leary divulged his lies about his academic and athletic backgrounds.  Mr. O’Leary claimed a master’s degree in education from New York University.  He also claimed to have played college football and earned three letters.  Mr. O’Leary was a student at NYU, but did not earn a degree.  He did play football but he never earned a letter, let alone play in a game.

  1. Marilee Jones, admissions dean for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Jones fudged her credentials, claiming to be a scientist with degrees in biology from Rennselaar Polytechnic Institute and the Albany Medical College.  She also claimed to have a doctorate degree.  In a statement Jones said, “I did not have the courage to correct my resume when I applied for my current job or at any time since.”

These are somewhat docile examples of employees who practice resume padding.  Imagine hiring an applicant with a bogus medical degree without proper verification.  The consequences for that type of dishonesty can be devastating to a business and to patients.

The consequences of hiring a self-graduator

When an employer hires a person at face value, they are not practicing due diligence.  In business “due diligence” is the effort made by an employer to avoid harm to employees and associates.  An employer has the responsibility of due diligence for its employees.

Among the consequences are lawsuits involving harm due to negligent hiring and costs associated with replacing employees who “self-graduate”.

How to avoid a self- graduator

Employers should not hire a candidate based on just a resume and a good job interview.  The information on a resume or job application needs to be verified prior to making a job offer.  At the very least, an employer should only make a job offer pending verification of the information the job applicant has supplied on his or her resume and application.  Due to the limitations of a human resource department or a small business owner, this is best left to a professional employment-screening firm.

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