Which Verifications Are Critical to a Great Hire and Why?

Are your job applicants telling the truth? Find out by adding verification checks to your pre-employment screening process.

“Trust, but verify.”

Those three words — translated from a Russian proverb — were Ronald Reagan’s signature phrase during his presidency, but they should also be a motto for employers. When it comes to finding the right hire, it’s important to take everything job applicants say with a grain of salt. According to a 2014 survey conducted by CareerBuilder, 58% of hiring managers have caught lies on resumes. That figure shows that job searchers are often willing to stretch the truth to improve their chances of getting hired. It also means that candidates who look qualified on paper might not be as qualified in real life.

What can employers do to combat dishonesty on resumes and job applications? Employers have an ace in the hole in the form of the background check process. Pre-employment background screening processes can and should go beyond criminal history checks. By making strategic use of verification checks, employers can learn more about their candidates, separate the liars from the honest candidates, and zero in on the person most qualified for the job at hand.

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If your company isn’t using verification checks yet, here are a few you should add to your employee screening policy right away:

Education Verification Checks

For most employers, work experience and skillset takes precedent over where a person went to college. However, some jobs do require specific degrees, and many employers require candidates to have at least a bachelor’s degree to be considered for a job. These factors alone make verifying education information an important step.

There’s plenty of evidence out there that people are willing to lie about college education on their resumes. In 2014, Manhattan basketball coach Steve Masiello had an offer to take the head coaching position at the University of South Florida. The school rescinded that offer after learning that Masiello had never earned a degree from the University of Kentucky, despite claiming one on his resume. Masiello did attend the University of Kentucky, but never finished his degree program.

Some applicants are even bolder about fabricated education history. In a 2015 article about the growing trend of lying on resumes, the Society for Human Resource Management recalled an instance in which an applicant claimed to have attended a college that didn’t even exist.

Education verification checks prevent these kinds of lies from getting overlooked. Usually, these checks will verify key resume points like dates of attendance, degrees earned, and GPA. Simply digging a bit deeper into the education part of the resume will tell you whether your candidate made up a school out of thin air.

Employment Verification Checks

Applicants sometimes lie in the education section of the resume, but typically, candidates are more likely to take liberties with their work history. There is a lot more to lie about when talking about past employment. Some candidates try to make their job titles sound more impressive. Others list job responsibilities they didn’t have, skills they don’t possess, or work accomplishments that aren’t their own. It’s also common for applicants to tweak their employment dates so that it looks like they don’t have any gaps in their resumes. In rare instances, job searchers might completely fabricate jobs or companies just to maintain a complete resume.

Employment verification checks cut through all the fibs to find the truth. Typically, these kinds of checks will confirm an applicant’s employment, employment dates, job title(s), job roles or responsibilities, salary, and reasons for leaving. All this information is valuable. If a candidate lied about their job title or role, that might affect how qualified they are for the position at hand. If they lied about their reason for leaving, they might be covering up problems that got them fired from a previous job. If they lied about employment dates, that might indicate a pattern of dishonesty that stretches to other parts of their resume or application.

In any case, verifying this information will allow you to judge your applicants fairly and truthfully — something that always leads to better hires.

Professional License Verification Checks

Some jobs — like doctors, nurses, lawyers, and teachers — require applicants to have relevant professional licenses to be eligible for hiring. In other employment situations, candidates might claim special professional certifications that indicate valuable skills or competencies. These certifications aren’t always legally required like licenses are, but they can sway employment consideration in their favor.

A verification check in this category confirms that a candidate holds the licenses or certifications that he or she claims. Catching someone who has fraudulently claimed a required professional license can protect your company from overstepping legal boundaries and help to safeguard you from costly liability claims. Detecting lies about certifications can prevent you from giving someone a job based on competencies they don’t actually have.


There is immense value to running verification checks on top of your business’s standard criminal background check policy. Not only can verification checks help to stop your business from making some major mistakes — like hiring an unlicensed person for a skilled position — but they can also identify patterns of dishonesty in your applicants. Applicants who are willing to lie to get hired turn into employees who are willing to lie to get ahead or to cover up their mistakes.

Embellishing a job title with a few buzzy keywords might seem relatively harmless compared to claiming a false professional license or fabricating a college degree. But you need to be able to trust your employees, and you can’t trust someone who starts lying to you before you even meet them. Verification checks are the only background checks that can consistently and reliably spot dishonesty on resumes, and they are often considered vital for that reason alone. The other benefits you receive — like confirming a person’s skills, competencies, and experience — are bonuses.

MORE: The Best Background Check Practices in Healthcare

Michael Klazema

Michael Klazema
Michael Klazema has been developing products for the background screening industry since 2009 and is lead author and editor for a background checks community.

Michael Klazema

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