Ghost Attendance: How to Handle a Candidate who Lied about Their Education

A common practice for most candidates applying for jobs is to make their resumes more robust possibly by embellishing. Maybe the person didn’t volunteer as often as their resume states, or they didn’t graduate with honors. However, what if the candidate never graduated or even attended a school they said they did?
picture of a man with crossed fingersA not so common term known as ghost attendance occurs when a candidate tells you they graduated with a certain degree but never actually attended the school. Photo Source:

Ghost Attendance and Phony Credentials

It may seem like something a person would not do in 2016 when it’s easy to Google a candidate’s name and obtain a slew of information. However, we also have to remember that as technology advances, it is becoming easier to produce phony credentials and diplomas if someone wants to. A not so common term known as ghost attendance occurs when a candidate tells you they graduated with a certain degree but never actually attended the school.

Initially, “ghost attendance” can be hard to spot especially during the interview process. Human Resources should always treat “ghost attendance” as a real possibility. The time to be vigilant about the possibility is during the background check process. Some background checks allow you to do an education search to validate a degree. It is important to search the education for any job you have that requires a college degree.

Candidates go as far as to list obscure colleges on their resumes that they hope you will accept the claim at face value and not check it. Not every candidate trying to fool you will write that they went to a prestigious university. Lacking a Bachelor’s degree in certain disciplines may be irrelevant depending on the job; some candidates may still lie even if the job does not require a college degree.

  • This means you almost always have to look into the education background of a potential employee. It might be disheartening that people lie on their resumes, but some people are desperate for a job and want to be more marketable to potential employers.

Due Diligence

A good way to avoid having any education snafu’s with candidates is to be upfront about your background check process. When conducting education verifications, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Colleges and Universities typically provide verification either in-house or through a third-party service.
  • If the University is registered with a third-party service, the degree can often be verified that day.
  • Third-party services charge a fixed rate for access verification.
  • Typically, degrees are verified by background checking services within two to a few days. The process may take longer if your candidate has either graduated some years back or is not listed in the database.
  • Tell candidates you need to validate their education before you extend an offer of employment.
  • In the event the candidate has already started working, and you find out he/she lied the only solution is to fire them.
  • You have to have a zero-tolerance policy for any type of lying that could affect your practice.

If you have an employee who is not qualified to fulfill the job responsibilities because the lack the education, you could lose a lot of money. Perform your due diligence.


What candidates lack in education, they make up for in audacity when they set out to lie about their education. Your Human Resources Management team must check out everyone, no matter how trustworthy a candidate appears to be or sound. The money spent up front to properly verify a candidate’s education (eg, degree, graduation) can save your practice plenty in time, money, potential litigation and embarrassment.

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Updated on: 06/05/19
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