businessman with pile of folders

Qualifications are less likely to be checked the further away from graduation day a candidate gets, but the Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD) warns of temptation to embellish on CVs due to pressure from the new ‘2.1’ wave of graduates.

Of the 20,288 enquiries received since HEDD – the government-backed degree verification service – launched two years ago, 76% have been to check qualifications of those who graduated after 2000 and almost half are to verify graduates who left university within the last four years.

Just 16% of enquiries were to undertake checks on those who graduated in the 1990s, and the number was halved (8%) for those leaving university before the ‘90s.

Eight per cent of HEDD enquiries have been classified as ‘unverified’. While reasons for this include incomplete or incorrect information supplied by candidates, such as married names instead of maiden names, there is also evidence of subject changes, grade inflation, fake certificates and bogus institutions.

Jayne Rowley leads the HEDD initiative at Graduate Prospects, she said: “Graduates who are further on in their career have more opportunity to blatantly lie, exaggerate or bend the truth a little more than their more recent counterparts simply because they are not being checked out.

“When someone has been working for a while, it’s common to assume that academic checks will have been made by previous employers. From a candidate’s point of view, qualifications can seem less important the further on in our career that we get.

“The more high profile cases of degree fraud are often in the news, with reports of those who have lied, exaggerated or adopted their qualifications to get a senior position. Many more cases go unnoticed or undetected.

“Higher classification degrees are much more common now and those who have been in the workplace a long time can feel under pressure with competition from the new wave of graduates who are regularly achieving a first or 2.1 degree; perhaps they feel that the third class degree from a former polytechnic isn’t appropriate to the senior position that they are in and are therefore tempted to embellish.

“If someone is willing to lie at this level, how can you trust them when they become part of your organisation? It’s incredibly important that employers validate who they are recruiting, and not just rely on good work references to get the full picture of a person.”