Are your prospective employees really qualified?

November 2015 Editor's Choice, Access Control & Identity Management, Security Services & Risk Management

The statistics for prospective employees claiming unverifiable or fraudulent qualifications are unacceptably high. So what are companies doing to ensure that the people they are wanting to employ have both the experience and the qualifications they have included in their CV? And what about criminal records – are candidates hiding a dubious past? Hi-Tech Security Solutions looks at what can be done to protect your investment.

According to Ina van der Merwe, CEO of MIE, falsification of qualifications and job experience is apparent across the board, but the biggest culprits are in the trade industry. The company has found a number of trades presenting high risk in this regard including boilermakers, electricians, plumbers, millwrights, riggers and slingers, machinists, forklift operators and fitter and turners. This she says, is of great concern as these occupations often require a great deal of knowledge as well as theoretical and practical experience. A valid qualification is therefore vital, not only for safety reasons, but also to ensure business processes and standards of good practice are upheld.

MIE records reveal that the highest percentage of qualification fraud in the trade industry is followed by matric certificates, short courses of between six and 12 months and degrees of up to four years. Van der Merwe says that the increase in fraudulent qualification and job experience claims are in great part due to the economic recession which puts great pressure on people to find employment, through whichever means they can. In addition, there is a prevalent trend amongst many employers for higher expectation levels and often they will employ a higher qualified person for a lower pay grade, which provokes people to be deceitful about their qualifications.

Screening is critical

Kirsten Halcrow, MD of Employers’ Mutual Protection Services, says that based on the statistics derived from screening of prospective employees, it appears that between 6% and 8% of all qualifications are unverifiable. A total of 3%-4% are actually fake or fraudulent, which means that the candidate has supplied an alleged paper proof of a qualification which is actually falsified. The additional 3%-4% of unverifiable qualifications are actually those that are listed on a CV without any paper evidence.

If one considers that approximately less than half of all companies are undertaking screening, then at least 3%-4% of candidates are slipping through the cracks and achieving gainful employment with unverifiable qualifications. According to Halcrow there is qualification fraud from the top levels down and ID fraud is often committed when prospective employees are non-residents of the country and cannot otherwise acquire a work permit.

Jenny Reid, director at iFacts, says that the ability to verify individuals’ identities has now been made possible through the Department of Home Affairs. Previously identities were checked through a credit bureau but the assumption was that the identity actually belonged to the person claiming it. The new system allows one to confirm that the identity is valid and that it belongs to a living person.

A grudge purchase?

Often people are able to slip through the cracks because organisations are embarrassed to admit to negligence in due process on their part and because they have little faith in the justice system. Employee verification is often considered a grudge purchase and while the security department of a company may promote verification and vetting of prospective employees, HR personnel are often more circumspect about it as they are concerned about human rights issues (see box on the amendments to the National Credit Act).

Reid adds that the company still finds approximately 30% of all claimed qualifications to be fraudulent. This, she says will be alleviated somewhat in the public sector as government departments are now stipulating full checks of all prospective and current employee qualifications.

Sadly, a survey indicated that of the small number of companies in South Africa’s private business sector who make use of employee screening or vetting processes, they generally concentrate on criminal checks, credit checks and only a portion of the qualifications. She says that at the more senior levels, there is a dramatic increase in fraudulent behaviour when there is collusion with a third party.

Van der Merwe says that qualifications that are at high risk of being falsified in terms of short courses include those in banking, bookkeeping and project management, as well as Bachelor of Commerce, Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees. An incredible 45% of qualifications claimed to be obtained at an African or internationally-based institution are fraudulent.

She says that MIE processes a multitude of qualification verifications through the National Qualifications Register (NQR). With a database of over 3.5 million graduate records and 28 subscribing tertiary institutions, NQR verifications are renowned for being quick, accurate and reliable. There is generally only a 9% occurrence of qualification fraud citing NQR institutions. This is due to widespread awareness that the database is populated with these records.

Buyer beware!

It is important to align yourself with a reputable background screening company. It is also critical to have a written employee screening policy in place, which will be supported by the necessary documentation such as a sound application form. In addition, your policy statement should stipulate that the selection/recruitment process will include background screening as well as continued post-employment screening to ensure ongoing compliance. This document will safeguard the organisation from possible legal action by the candidate or employee.

Adherence to PoPI is essential when screening people for employment. The right to consent should be provided for all applicants and it should be made very clear what information will be gathered and the boundaries of where and how the information will be used. If a candidate refuses to sign a consent form, this would normally set off alarm bells and employers should be aware that failure to acquire consent opens up a legal can of worms. Conversely, if a company then decides to waive the screening and verification tests, they are increasing their current and future vulnerability.


In the 368 850 qualification checks that MIE has conducted since January 2015, 8% of these were verified as negative qualifications (falsifying evidence on a CV) while 1% of physical qualifications (a presented certificate) were fraudulent. The question you need to ask yourself is: “Will I possibly be employing one or more of the 3 688 fraudsters in my organisation?”

A sobering thought is that 12% of all job applicants have a criminal record; 38% of these are for repeat offenders and 25% are theft related. While the relevance of the crime as well as how long ago it occurred has to be factored in to create fairness, cognisance should be given to the importance of undertaking as many verification checks as one’s budget allows. Basic tests will be affordable to all and must be balanced against the costs that can be incurred if (1) one is forced to follow a dismissal process or (2) if an employee defrauds the company or steals goods or money.

Suggested employee requirements and verification checks

Must haves:

• Criminal record check through AFIS

• Credit check

• Fraud check through Fraud Protection Services database

• Identity check through Department of Home Affairs

• Qualification authenticity

• Previous employment checks (including character references and experience)

• Sound and thorough employment application form.

Industry/job dependent must haves:

• Integrity tests (predicts future criminal intent)

• Test for problem solving abilities

• Psychometric and competency based assessments

• Risk assessments

• Driver’s licence.

Nice to have

• Permanent residence

• Citizenship

• Industry databases (for example, FSB check for financial sector and CGC check for retail industry)

• Professional association membership.

National Credit Act amendments

Some of the changes in National Credit Act Amendment 19 of 2014 (NCAA), enacted and commenced on 13 March 2015, which affect the background screening industry, and the recruitment process in particular, are:

A consumer credit record may be accessed by an employment agency, recruitment consultant, staffing company or employer when:

• They certify that the request for consumer credit information relates to a position requiring honesty in the handling of cash or finances;

• There is a job description in place that stipulates the requirement of trust and honesty in the handling of cash or finances;

• Specific and informed consent of the consumer is obtained prior to the request being made.

A request for qualification verification and employment detail require consent from the consumer prior to the request being made.

For more information contact:

iFacts, +27 (0)11 609 5124,,

Employers’ Mutual Protection Service, +27 (0)11 678 0807,,

Managed Integrity Evaluation (MIE), +27 (0)12 644 4101,,


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