I’ve got a Master of Business Administration – or an MBA as they are most commonly referred to.
Did I get this degree through hard work? No.
Is this degree a product of my diligence, dedication and determination? No
Just how did I get this degree then, you must be thinking?
Well…. By doing nothing more than sitting and watching the world go by as I tucked into my 40 baht Pad Thai and Bintang, bought from a street vendor as I sat at watched the frenetic pace and eclectic mix of tuk tuks, motorbikes, tourists and vendors of Khao San Road in Bangkok, Thailand, unfold before me.
I had heard it was possible to “buy” a degree or an academic transcript (amongst many other things) in a place like Khao San Road. But I have to admit, I was sceptical…. Wouldn’t it look fake? How could anyone ever get away with using one? And more importantly, how would prospective employer or recruiter not pick that it was a phoney?
It wasn’t long before I was approached by a young man, complete with ring binders full of examples of a plethora of choices of universities – ranging from Oxford, to Cambridge, to Harvard, to the ANU and some more obscure province in Canada that I had never heard of.
So, I decided, for a bit of fun, to see just how easy it was to “buy” myself an MBA – A Certificate for the wall, complete with an Official Transcript.
Approximately 30 minutes after handing over my baht (in an amount equivalent to about $50 Australian dollars), I recognised the young man again approach me. He handed over my newly acquired degree and transcript, smiled and then dissolved off into the distance.
Not expecting much, I opened the envelope to find the Certificate – complete with the gold embossed lettering and official seal of the university. I then pulled out the transcript, which watermarked with the university logo and latin motto, certainly looked very plausible.
Upon my return home I later looked up the subjects I had “studied” according to the transcript – (and achieved quite good results, mind you!). Every single subject was a legitimate subject offered by the university towards the degree of Masters in Business Administration – the smiling man on the streets of Bangkok (or his cohort) had certainly done their homework!
In the real world, do people actually falsify their qualifications?
Absolutely! Or sometimes it may be more “stretching the truth”, but either way, candidates do sometimes paint a picture of their background and/or qualifications which is not entirely true.
It may not seem like a huge difference if someone graduates a year or two earlier or later than they actually did – after all it could be explained as an embarrassing but ultimately trivial typo – but a mistake can mask a number of things. These may be small things – a graduate attended one university and transferred over to another to finish their degree. It could be they failed a couple of subjects and took longer to graduate, or they took time off to go backpacking around Europe. These things are not by themselves uniformly bad, but if there’s a failure to be upfront about them – then that is an issue.
Outright deception, although not common, is sometimes seen by recruiters in various assignments. I personally, can never recommend a candidate who has falsified their qualifications. This is not necessarily due to the fact that they do not have the particular qualification, but because of what their actions in deliberately misrepresenting their position to their prospective employer says about them and their integrity as a person.
It is important that you do take steps verify the authenticity of any and all qualifications for an application that you are genuinely considering. Ask questions of the candidate, clarify and gain a better understanding of their education timeline if things don’t add up. Doing so ensures you have a complete and accurate picture of your applicants, which means you can consider their candidacy with confidence.
And what has become of my “Bangkok MBA”?…..
My “degree” now sits hidden in my office – as a constant reminder of the importance of reference and qualification checking and often serves as a cautionary tale to candidates and clients alike about the importance of verification.