Getting caught lying about having a high school diploma on a background check can have serious consequences. Employers often require proof of a high school diploma or GED for many positions. If you claim to have one when you don’t, it’s grounds for terminating employment even if you’ve already been hired.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Lying about having a high school diploma on a job application or background check can lead to not getting hired, loss of a job offer, termination if already employed, and damage to your reputation and future job prospects.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover the background check process, how employers verify education claims, typical consequences of falsifying a diploma, steps to take if caught lying, how to explain the situation honestly, and tips for moving forward.

How Do Employers Verify Education on Background Checks?

When conducting background checks, employers often include a thorough verification of an applicant’s education credentials. This helps them ensure that the candidate possesses the required qualifications and skills for the job.

To verify education, employers typically follow a standardized process that varies depending on the level of education being checked.

High School Diplomas

Verifying the authenticity of a high school diploma is a crucial step in the background check process. Employers may contact the school directly to confirm if the applicant graduated and obtained a diploma. They may also ask for a copy of the diploma or request transcripts as additional evidence.

Some employers go a step further and utilize third-party background check companies specialized in verifying education credentials. These companies have access to databases that provide information about high schools and their graduates.

They can cross-reference the applicant’s name and graduation year to confirm the legitimacy of the diploma.

College Degrees

Verifying college degrees is often a more complex process compared to high school diplomas. Employers may contact the university or college registrar’s office to confirm the applicant’s enrollment and graduation status.

They may request official transcripts or contact the relevant department to verify the degree earned.

In addition to contacting the educational institution, employers may also use third-party verification services that specialize in validating college degrees. These services have access to comprehensive databases and can verify the authenticity of degrees from various institutions.


For certifications, employers typically verify with the issuing organization or governing body. They may request copies of the certification documentation, contact the organization directly, or use third-party verification services.

These steps help employers ensure that the applicant’s certifications are legitimate and up-to-date.

It is important for job seekers to be honest about their education credentials, as lying about a high school diploma, college degree, or certification can have severe consequences. If an employer discovers that an applicant has provided false information, it can lead to immediate disqualification from the hiring process or termination if already employed.

In some cases, it may even result in legal repercussions.

Employers place a high value on honesty and integrity, and providing accurate information about education is essential for building trust and credibility in the job market.

What Happens If You’re Caught Lying About a Diploma?

When it comes to lying about a high school diploma on a background check, the consequences can be severe. Employers take educational qualifications seriously, and dishonesty can result in a range of negative outcomes. Here are some potential consequences if you’re caught lying about a diploma:

Rescinded Job Offer

If an employer discovers that you have lied about your educational background, they have the right to rescind the job offer. This can be a major setback, especially if you had already resigned from your previous position or turned down other job opportunities.

Not only will you lose out on the job, but your reputation may be tarnished, making it harder to secure future employment.


If you managed to secure a job by lying about your diploma, there is a chance that you could be terminated if the truth comes to light. Employers have the right to terminate an employee who has provided false information during the hiring process.

This can have serious financial implications, as well as damage your professional reputation.

Reputation Damage

When you lie about your educational qualifications, it can have long-lasting effects on your reputation. Employers rely on honesty and integrity when making hiring decisions, and if you are caught lying, it can be difficult to rebuild trust.

Your professional network may also become aware of your dishonesty, further damaging your reputation and limiting future career opportunities.

Legal Consequences

Lying about a high school diploma can potentially have legal consequences. While laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, providing false information on a job application or during the hiring process can be considered fraud or misrepresentation.

In some cases, this can result in criminal charges or civil lawsuits. It’s important to remember that honesty is always the best policy.

How to Explain the Situation Honestly

Discovering that you have lied about having a high school diploma on a background check can be a nerve-wracking experience. However, it is crucial to handle the situation with honesty and integrity. Here are some steps you can take to explain the situation honestly:

Come Clean as Soon as Possible

The first step in addressing the situation is to come clean as soon as possible. It may be tempting to continue hiding the truth, but this can lead to even more severe consequences. By admitting your mistake promptly, you demonstrate your willingness to take responsibility for your actions.

Acknowledge Wrongdoing

When explaining the situation, it is essential to acknowledge your wrongdoing. Take full responsibility for lying about your high school diploma and express remorse for your actions. This shows that you understand the seriousness of the situation and are committed to making amends.

Emphasize Skills and Experience

While the lack of a high school diploma may be a setback, it is crucial to highlight your skills and experience. Focus on the knowledge and expertise you have gained through work experience, certifications, or additional education.

This demonstrates your qualifications and the value you can bring to the role, despite not having a diploma.

Discuss Getting a GED

If you haven’t already obtained a high school diploma or equivalent, discussing your plans to earn a General Education Development (GED) certificate can show your commitment to personal growth and education.

Explain that you recognize the importance of having the proper credentials and are actively working towards rectifying the situation.

It is important to remember that honesty is always the best policy when dealing with the consequences of lying about a high school diploma. Employers value integrity and transparency, so by approaching the situation honestly and taking steps to rectify the situation, you can demonstrate your character and potentially mitigate the negative impact of your past actions.

Tips for Moving Forward After Lying About Education

Be Truthful on Future Applications

After lying about your high school diploma on a background check, it’s important to learn from your mistake and be truthful on future applications. Employers value honesty and integrity, and continuing to lie can have serious consequences for your professional reputation.

Emphasize your skills, experience, and any additional education or certifications you have obtained since then.

Get Your GED

If you lied about having a high school diploma, it’s never too late to rectify the situation. Consider earning your General Educational Development (GED) certificate. The GED is a nationally recognized credential that can open doors to better job opportunities.

It shows that you have the same level of knowledge and skills as a high school graduate.

Consider Explaining the Situation in Interviews

During job interviews, it’s important to address any gaps or discrepancies in your education history. Be prepared to explain why you lied and how you have taken steps to rectify the situation. Employers appreciate honesty and taking responsibility for past mistakes.

Use this as an opportunity to showcase your growth and willingness to learn from your past actions.

Highlight Your Abilities

While a high school diploma is important, it’s not the sole determinant of your skills and abilities. Focus on highlighting your strengths, accomplishments, and relevant experience. Showcase any additional training, certifications, or skills that make you a valuable candidate for the position.

Employers are often more interested in what you can bring to the table rather than just your educational background.

Focus on Your Work History

If you don’t have a high school diploma, place more emphasis on your work history and the skills you have acquired through practical experience. Highlight your achievements, responsibilities, and how you have grown professionally in your previous roles.

Employers are often interested in seeing your track record of success and how you can contribute to their organization.


Lying about having a high school diploma can sabotage your job search and career. While stressful, coming clean quickly and taking steps to earn a GED can help minimize damage to your reputation.

Being honest, playing up your skills and experience, and not repeating dishonesty on future applications will help you move forward. With time and hard work, you can overcome this mistake.

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