By Les Rosen, Employment Screening Resources

From the Employment Screening Resources mailbox:  We had an applicant for a job that did not require a degree.  However, the applicant listed a degree but it turns out he in fact never graduated and never earned the degree.   Can we consider that even though the job did not require a diploma?

Answer:   Generally speaking, if an applicant in dishonest in the hiring process, there is evidence to suggest that person may well be dishonest once in the job.  The dishonesty can be either making a  material omission or a material misstatement of  fact.  Dishonesty is typically a valid reason not to hire. The applicant put down a fake qualification on the application for the employer to consider, and the employer may well take that as act of dishonestly.  The applicant can hardly complain that they are the subject of discrimination,  since dishonest people are not a protected class.

In addition, even though a degree was not required, the  applicant obviously listed the degree to gain an advantage in the hiring process.

However, in this situation, the applicant was dishonest about something that was not a requirement of the job.  Although an employer may well still be on solid ground in not hiring someone  that was dishonest, going forward, a employer may consider two changes to their application to ensure there is no gray area when it comes to being honest in the employment application.

First, an employer should consider including the following language on the employment application where questions about education is asked:

Please list all degrees or educational accomplishments that you wish to be considered by the employer in the employment decision.

This statement has the advantage of putting the burden on the applicant to determine if they want to report a degree or educational accomplishment. The applicant is on notice that any degree they report can be used by the employer for the employment decision. If the applicant chooses to report a worthless degree, or a degree not earned, they can hardly complain if an employer uses that to deny employment, even if the degree was not a requirement of the job.

Secondly, an employer may consider adding the following type of language to their application if not already there:

The information provided by the applicant is true and correct, and that any misstatements or omission of material facts in the application or the hiring process may result in discontinuing of the hiring process or termination of employment, no matter when discovered.

This language in general protects an employer if an applicant is dishonest, even if the information comes to light after the person is hired.

Often times, the key to a successful hire is a well written employment application.  For more information on this and other topics, see: The Safe Hiring Manaul.