MBA Admits Facing Background Checks

You’re already been admitted to business school and you’re ready to pop that cork on the champagne bottle.

Unbeknownst to most MBA admits, however, is that the school is in all probability going to do a background check on you.

Since at least the early 2000s, top business schools have been scrutinizing the professional, personal and academic backgrounds of admits before letting them matriculate. Increasingly, B-schools are outsourcing verification of admitted applicants’ details to professional firms such as Kroll, Inc. and Re Vera. The heightened probability of facing intrusive questioning—and the chance of having admission revoked due to a claim or description that cannot be verified—has sent some admitted MBA candidates into near panics.


Popular online forums like reveal the confusion and anxiety prompted by the mere thought of verification.  “They called my recommender, and they asked him about my current employment (salary, position, bonus), which surprised me because supervisors might not know this detail nor would they want to be bothered with it since it is an HR issue,” griped one poster on GMATClub..”After calling your surpervisor, I have no idea what they do as they delve into your background.”

“They will have a problem at some companies,” added another. “If they rang up anyone from my company asking for that information they would be told they can’t give out personal details for security reasons.”

Complained yet another: “I actually had about a week of sleepless nights over this because I was going through the whole scenario of “what if i fail? how am i going to explain this to work and everyone who thinks i’m going to business school, etc…”


Most schools say they run the checks to avoid the remote possibility of admitting someone who falsely portrays him or herself in an application. “We don’t want to admit someone to the program with a shady history,” says Robert Dammon, dean of the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University. “We want to make sure that the people who come into the MBA program are who they say they are. It’s a very small percentage of people who are turned away.”

Cornell University’s Johnson School of Management begins its background checks the moment a candidate puts down a deposit to attend its MBA program. “We start the process after someone submits their deposit,” says Admissions Director Christine Sneva.

It’s rare when an offer is taken back as a result of a background check. “We didn’t have to rescind any offers last year on the basis of the background checks,” adds Sneva. “My experience is that someone will put down that they graduated with a degree in electrical engineering and it will really be civil engineering. It’s little things like that. It’s very minor. Most people are very honest about what they put in the application.”


Still, some candidates get tripped up by simple misunderstandings or mistakes. Afterall, everything presented in a resume, application form, recommendations, and essays is subject to post-acceptance verification.  Even when the applicant is in the right, documenting facts and responding to ambiguous questions can sometimes be exhausting.

  • Carmen

    I think they are probably going to ask people around who have worked there or they may check records of your attendance. Background checks are very strict I guess. If you have not worked there and only obtained an attested work certificate, chances are that people there will not know you and this maybe counted as a discrepancy

  • Carmen

    If someone has done some community work which is not verifiable so he or she shouldn’t put it up in their resumes?

  • Aditya

    I completely second Tara over here. I ran my own startup as a sole proprietor as running as business in India in this category is absolutely legal. I do not believe this should be a deterrent. However, if anyone has any views, I welcome the same.

  • Nice informative Post. MBA Outsourcing guiding stuff to be share

  • mba2k13

    Do they contact managers/rec writers or HR? Not sure if my supervisor has the exact figures/dates. or even if he would share such information.

  • Tara

    Well, I used to agree with the other musings below that this is not something to be worried about unless you have really lied or faked something in the application. However, one point from the common mistakes you identified about sole proprietors or running a business, and that Wharton grad running her own consultancy, gave me the jitters. I am part of a small family firm, and ‘registering the company’ or other such activity is not really required to cause any problems (though we do of course have bank accounts and service tax numbers to get paid), while being able to run a successful, trusted business.

    Does this mean they will simply deem my small business as a legally non-verifiable entity??According to which rules? Because in India, it is not some offence to operate like that. Pretty irritating to hear. Please clarify on what happens in entrepreneurial contexts like mine and for international applicants.

  • Duriangris

    Most epic piece of advertisement ever!

    John, how about you write an article about freshmen stressing out before back-to-school day? I’m starting a new consulting service called Schoolbag-Check, for $500 to $5000 I’ll help MBA candidates check their schoolbags before their first day of MBA. Some could get expelled if they forget their rubber!

  • lexus

    If i have stamped seal on my work certificate how would they prove the its not right

  • David

    Kroll verifies very MBA admit, but unless you commit an egregious lie (company name, title, exaggerating salary, dates, college, gpa, gmat, major) you are NOT going to get your admissions revoked. I think people are needlessly getting freaked out about this.

  • *faking.
    Facing background checks and faking background checks are vastly different events.
    Typos are one issue in journalism; typos in headlines were not an issue in journalism, I didn’t think.

  • CH3DD

    I’m afraid I don’t understand your question. What do you want to prove or disprove?

  • lexus

    If there is an endorsing stamp on his work certificate how would you proof the contrary? that to me is weird

  • laos

    is there a list of schools doing this checking?

  • Dreamer

    The only they verified is employment data (title, comp, dates of employment) as anything else no firm is required to document or provide (i.e. awards). If you lie about any of that then come on what did you expect?

  • CH3DD

    They either partner with local agencies or they have experts who are very familiar with the process in each of those countries. No one is immune to a background check. But this is not something to fear. It’s only an issue if you seriously lie about something. For example, if you claim you worked for XYZ company, but never did so – that would be a problem. If you lie about your GPA – that’s a problem. Otherwise, this is just like a deterrent.

  • CH3DD

    I think this is being blown out of proportion. If you did not conjure anything up – there should be no reason to worry about any of this. Moreover, for a $75 background check – how intrusive can it be? They might want to contact the recommenders and the managers listed on the application. This is a matter of 4 or 5 phone calls, at best. Verifying GPA GMAT etc should be along expected lines. Most companies these days will not give out salary or other information via HR. It’s just like the grade non-disclosure of schools – i.e. no employer can contact a school to get information about GPA, etc.

    Furthermore, every school knows that there will be minor issues and discrepancies. The student will be given every opportunity to clarify any issues that come up, and provide additional documentation. There is no reason to lose sleep over this. If you have not lied — then I cannot understand why you would feel so much pressure. Moreover, if a student cannot even handle this pressure, i shudder to think how he or she will be able to make major business decisions with serious ramifications in the future.

  • Lexus

    how would they check internationals who come from different speaking countries? for example some one coming from Russia or someone from Germany how would they check him???

  • MIXEDin86

    This was definitely the most stressful part of the process. I’m a first year at Johnson and had already quit my job & moved to Ithaca and Re Vera was still contacting me to try to get a hold of my immediate supervisor from my last job. I just remember thinking “What if my supervisor never responds? Will I get kicked out and have to move back to California with no job?” And then when everything finally cleared, during the first week of actual classes, I was finally relieved. NO FUN AT ALL, though.

  • JohnAByrne

    The schools I contacted about this say they check every candidate who will enroll in their MBA programs. So it’s not a sample which is why they have outsourced this to Kroll and other firms.

  • prusd

    Do they check every admitted applicant, or do they randomly check some of the admitted applicants?

  • Shaniqua “La Bootay” James

    If I were Kroll, I’d ask for copies of all communications with CounterCheck.