In previous posts, we’ve mentioned that it is best to contact the issuing institution for verification if you have doubts about a document. In some countries, this process is relatively simple and quick. In other countries, however, there may be some challenges, e.g. lack of response due to political instability, missing contact information, language barriers, or lack of cooperation in general.
Here are a few tips we’ve learned over the years to increase your chances of an authentic response:
Find a reliable contact
We generally do not accept contact information from the student. We try to find contacts online or in reference books. You can also check with your colleagues in the field. If it’s possible, going to international conferences can often yield great contacts. Once you’ve met someone personally, they are often happier to assist with verification, if they can.
Develop a verification letter template
We get it. You’re busy. Having to track down reliable contact information and then actually write the letter and gather up all the documents can slow you down unnecessarily. Having a form letter ready-to-go will speed up that process. Also, if you are on the fence about sending a verification letter, having a form letter can make that decision a bit easier.
Keep your letter short and to the point (one page is recommended). With a ready-to-go template, you can still customize on the fly if needed. We also recommend having several language versions of your letter (e.g. we have better response rates when we send the request to a Russian institution in Russian).
Don’t send original documents
Make high-quality photocopies or scans to send with your verification letter. Make sure they are copies you don’t need back. Unfortunately, there are plenty of times that you don’t get a response, so you don’t want your original or certified copies to disappear. Even if you do get a response, don’t burden your contact with the extra postage and responsibility of having to return documents.
Send the letter via more than one method - but don’t spam your contact!
This is a bit of a balancing act. Sending the letter by postal service, email, and/or fax will increase your odds of a response, but you don’t want to annoy your (possibly overworked) contact. You may also want to try resending your letter if you don’t get a response in a reasonable amount of time, but limit the number of attempts per case. After a couple of attempts, it’s unlikely that you will get a response. However, just because you have not gotten a response from the institution in the past, it’s worth it to keep trying with each new case. It’s also a good idea to include in your letter a line such as, “if you’ve already responded, please disregard” or add a note that you’ve also sent the letter by email, post, etc.
Also, keep in mind if you work in an office with more than one credential evaluator that you coordinate efforts. We’ve received feedback from some institutions asking us to send our requests in batches, if possible. Only then did we realize that we were contacting the same institution with multiple verification requests a month - an easy thing to do with 25+ evaluators.
Don’t tell the applicant who you are contacting
While we like to be as transparent as we can be about our evaluation process, we tend to limit the amount of information we share with the applicant in this case. We do tell them that we have contacted their institution, but until we get a response, we don’t elaborate. Unfortunately, we have received fake or questionable verification responses, which gets complicated and entails yet another round of verification letters.
Send a thank you message when you receive a response
Make sure that you let your contact know that you appreciate their time and effort! Not every institution has the resources to respond to these requests, so when they do, say thanks! It’s an easy way to let them know their work is helpful and important, and they will hopefully be more inclined to respond the next time. Keeping a record of who responds will also help you in the future.
Dealing with GDPR and other privacy laws
You will notice that in many countries that adhere to the new regulations, you will only be able to verify documents upon an applicant’s authorization. Make sure your contract with the applicant includes language that authorizes you to contact their educational institution. A separate authorization form may also be needed for this purpose.
Since verification of documents is one of the most common challenges of credential evaluation, perhaps these suggestions will help you with this important task. Nothing is more frustrating than having a questionable document and not being able to proceed due to a lack of confirmation from the issuing institution. We hope these tips and tricks can gain the response you need to move forward!
|Majka Drewitz is a Research and Evaluator Supervisor and Senior Evaluator. She has been with ECE since 1999. Majka authored ECE Insights: Evaluation Tools for Russian Credentials and co-authored the third volume of ECE’s Education in the Commonwealth Caribbean series. She is a frequent trainer for the EAIE Academy. |