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Diploma mills exist, like these in this wired article.

Will employers be able to SELECT candidate FROM career_stack_overflow WHERE diploma_university NOT IN (SELECT name FROM known_diploma_mills)?

The possible existence of diploma mills throw the entire diploma column's data quality into doubt.

EDIT: I remove the word responsibility. The libertarian tangent this question went off on was entire unnecessary and uncivil. If SO Careers doesn't have a policy on people lying on their resume, what good are they to anyone?

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The possibility of obtaining a reputable diploma while still being a crap programmer throws the entire diploma column's data quality into doubt... –  Shogging through the snow Dec 30 '09 at 17:16
@Shog9, I agree. It would be awesome if employers only read the code developers have written to evaluate developers. Until then, all we have are proxies like diplomas and stack overflow rep (which measures spare time on computer as much as developer talent) –  MatthewMartin Dec 30 '09 at 17:28
Yeah, but... Diplomas don't really work for that purpose (nor does SO rep, really). You're pointing out a symptom of a broken system and asking for treatment... but the system is still broken, still unsuitable for the purpose it's been dragged in to serve. –  Shogging through the snow Dec 30 '09 at 17:31
Regarding your edit: should SOC be calling employers listed in the work history section to verify that as well? What about the "personal" section? –  Shogging through the snow Dec 30 '09 at 17:40
Monster.com does not filter for diploma mills, not sure if CareerBuilder or others do either –  staticx Dec 30 '09 at 17:44
@Shog9 Transaction costs. A select query to filter by a list of strings is cheap. A full investigation is expensive. This, tangentially is the same reason why no one reads the code that potential new hires write. I removed the "should" from the question. You are still on a political tangent. SOC is a business, I'm giving them a suggestion. AFAIK, SOC isn't a forum for fulfilling any sort of libertarian dream. –  MatthewMartin Dec 30 '09 at 17:49
@Roboto Well maybe I got it all wrong. Ease of posting false information in resumes is a feature, not a defect. Sigh. I give up. Time to get back to work. –  MatthewMartin Dec 30 '09 at 17:52
@MatthewMartin: It's a honest suggestion, but there's no way it can be truly implemented without a host of problems –  staticx Dec 30 '09 at 17:54

6 Answers 6

up vote 21 down vote accepted

Please Don't Try to Filter/Edit CVs

Here's my feelings, based on having used Careers from the employer side:

  1. If you are listing a paper degree, that's very useful for me to know.

  2. I'm not fooled by fake degrees. I unfortunately get the same spam you do.

  3. Even if I were fooled, this is one of the easiest things for HR departments to check.

  4. If it ever transpired that a site was editing out this kind of information, it would lose a lot of interest on the employer side. What other kinds of information would they be editing out?

Of course, one nice thing about Jeff&Co is that they've emphasized honesty and transparency, so I'm not worried about this issue at all!

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Now this is an answer. –  Troggy Dec 30 '09 at 21:40
Good points. Maybe I should have suggested a feature that helped employers see resume lies and fake degrees more vividly rather than hide them. Of course, well implemented it, call outs would be visible to employers not resume posters. If it is easy for HR to check, if I understand you, it should be easy for SOC to provide a link the website of my long distance alma mater in Timbuktu, Mali. –  MatthewMartin Dec 30 '09 at 22:03
@Matthew, It's easy, but you have to pay somebody to do it. I wouldn't want to add that cost to either the employee or employer side of SOC. –  Mark Harrison Dec 31 '09 at 8:01
I don't follow. Services provide valuable features, customers (potential employers who give SOC money to post jobs and search the db) like features and like to pay for them, else they do everything themselves or they'd just refuse to pay for all those worthless, expensive features. Most interesting features aren't free to implement. If features are profitable, that's a question Excel could answer, and imho some machine driven validations of resumes are cheap and provide valuable information about about the truthfulness of the data. –  MatthewMartin Dec 31 '09 at 15:35
Searching for CVs is a form of filtering. –  monksy Sep 22 '11 at 2:24

Will careers be able to prove you actually have a degree and went to that university? Lying on resumes is an old problem, and the responsibility to watch out for this belongs to the employer, as it always has. Diploma mills are no different.

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While it's true that diploma mills exist, and it's true that they're a great disservice to the academic world, I disagree that it should fall to SOC to filter them.

I don't disagree based on any of my particular political leanings, but rather the implications of applying such a filter. Who's to say the list SOC might use for that is correct? Would it be published for verification? What about false positives?

Worse, what about lulling employers into a false sense of security that diploma mills are not being represented, but missing a few on the list, such that they get through?

Not to mention the whole gaming the system angle.

Of course, all this comes from a guy who thinks he's an OK programmer (he is, after all, very gainfully employed with a long track record of happy employers and clients), but has no degree at all.


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I like the idea, but I fear someone who is comfortable with the idea of getting a junk diploma will also find a way to game the system so that the filter no longer works.

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It's not reasonable (or possible) for SOC to maintain a list of known diploma mills. Much like spammers, they come and go over time, and some of them have names similar to legitimate institutions.

It's up to the employer to check that a candidate's degrees are legit and that the candidate isn't lying about his references, etc, etc. Nothing else makes sense.

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This is crap. Job boards don't have 'responsibilities' to do this. It's not in the UN Charter or written on the side of milk-boxes. Any employer incapable of doing this for themselves deserves what they get. Not to mention @Shog9's note that there is just about no relationship between degree and competence.

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Well, where does the buck stop then? The HR department? The project manager? The customer that hired the development team? The user of the software that bought software from the development team? I mean, you're allowed to your libertarian views, but short of reading code, how are consumers of programming services to evaluate a resume? –  MatthewMartin Dec 30 '09 at 17:24
What's wrong with reading code now? –  Shogging through the snow Dec 30 '09 at 17:25
@Shog9 No one does it is the problem. Its easier to work with the signals the HR department currently uses than to convince them to learn to read code. –  MatthewMartin Dec 30 '09 at 17:30
Right. So, I want to be a programmer, but can't code. I can spend a few years scraping through classes and get a real degree, or I can spend a few $K upfront and get a fake one - either way, I'm in the door, and still I can't code. Now what...? –  Shogging through the snow Dec 30 '09 at 17:33
@Shog9 Then why are you beating up me? Ask for a feature to suppress all diplomas on CV's if the ones from Harvard really are just as much BS as the emailed ones from Nigeria. I didn't invent the system. –  MatthewMartin Dec 30 '09 at 17:39
Your first mistake is depending on resumes. Anyone can write anything on a resume. Only interviews filter. If you work for some sort of corporate giant that insists on having an HR dept that purports to filter on resumes, you have my sympathy. And I am NOT a libertarian. I think that plenty of people have responsibilities for plenty of things, just not this. I see Godwin's law off in the distance ... –  Rosinante Dec 30 '09 at 17:39
In passing, I know many very competent programmers who somehow or another didn't bother to get a degree. If one of them succumbed to the temptation to get a marginal diploma to get past the idiots in some HR department, do you really not want to meet her? –  Rosinante Dec 30 '09 at 17:42
@MatthewMartin: I'm responding to you because it's your suggestion. As far as I'm concerned, folks can put whatever they want on their CVs - if an employer actually cares about diplomas / work history / favorite pastimes then it's their responsibility to verify the accuracy of the claim. Once SO takes over, they're essentially taking responsibility for the value and accuracy of whatever they're trying to fact-check... and, as I've tried to point out, that is a huge can of worms... –  Shogging through the snow Dec 30 '09 at 17:45
@bmargulies: I spent the money and made the effort to get a real degree. So yes, it does matter. –  Robert Harvey Dec 30 '09 at 18:03
@Robert Harvey -- gosh, I'd think that you spend time and money on a real degree to learn something, not just to get a credential. If you learned something, you got your value, whatever anyone else does. –  Rosinante Dec 30 '09 at 18:12
A degree is an investment in increased income over the long term. That's the only way you can justify its exorbitant cost. Example: my degrees cost me $70,000 but they have effectively increased my income by $30,000 per year. YMMV –  Robert Harvey Dec 30 '09 at 18:23
The buck stops with the hiring manager, as it always has. –  David Thornley Dec 30 '09 at 18:30
And what you learned from your degree program is what increased your income, unless you've had some pretty inattentive management, or you work for the sort of place that pays extra for paper regardless of work product. That's a world I don't pay any attention to. –  Rosinante Dec 30 '09 at 18:44

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