Blockchain May Offer a Résumé You Can Trust

A blockchain-based résumé could save employers and universities a lot of time and resources that they spend checking applicants’ backgrounds.
A blockchain-based résumé could save employers and universities a lot of time and resources that they spend checking applicants’ backgrounds.
Photo:

iStockphoto/Getty Images

Employers have struggled for years with the question: How do I know these job candidates are telling the truth about their background?

New assurance may come from a surprising place: blockchain technology.

A handful of educational institutions and technology companies are working on developing trustworthy, quickly verifiable digital diplomas and résumés using the same technology that helps verify transactions in the world of cryptocurrencies. Blockchain acts as a digital ledger, a record of online transactions that can’t be changed.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology just issued digital diplomas based on blockchain to all of its students who graduated in February. The diplomas can be shared on social media or directly with employers.

Companies including London-based startup

Appii Ltd.

see blockchain as the future of the résumé. Appii is working with employers and universities to develop a product that first verifies the claims individual make about their history, then issues them a digital résumé in which all of their data from multiple locations and institutions are listed. The digital document can be shared with employers and updated as the owner’s career progresses.

Meeting a need

Employers and universities spend a lot of time and resources checking the work and educational backgrounds of applicants—as well as verifying queries from other organizations as to whether an applicant of theirs was a past student or employee. Risk Advisory Group, a risk-management firm based in London, says that of 5,500 résumés it reviewed over a six-month period, 80% contained “discrepancies,” and 12% contained false information about an applicant’s education.

A digital diploma could enable organizations to instantly check credentials without running background checks. Using a digital signature, for example, students could provide a copy of the diploma to employers, who could then upload the file onto a verification page to get confirmation that the degree is legitimate. The university doesn’t need to be involved.

“We see this as the ability to give the student stewardship over their own records,” says Mary Callahan, senior associate dean and registrar at MIT, which expects all of its students graduating this year to receive digital copies of their diplomas, in addition to the traditional certificates.

Natalie Smolenski, a vice president at

Learning Machine,

the company that worked with MIT on the code libraries behind its digital diplomas, says the technology, called Blockcerts, is an open standard. Once created, these digital diplomas can be published online and verified long into the future. Even if MIT goes away, anyone can use the code and verify that documents are legitimate.

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Digital Degrees

How MIT’s blockchain diplomas work. Other credential verification via blockchain would operate similarly.

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MIT

1xa7$…

Graduate sends credentials to verifier (employer)

5

1

3

MIT invites graduating students to recieve a blockchain credential

MIT hashes credential onto the blockchain

Block

chain

1xa7$…

6

4

MIT sends graduate a blockchain credential

Verifier checks the blockchain to verify the certificate

2

Graduate accepts invitation, sending MIT his or her blockchain address

Graduate

Verifier

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MIT

1xa7$…

Graduate sends credentials to verifier (employer)

5

1

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MIT invites graduating students to recieve a blockchain credential

MIT hashes credential onto the blockchain

Block

chain

6

1xa7$…

Verifier checks the blockchain to verify the certificate

2

4

MIT sends graduate a blockchain credential

Graduate accepts invitation, sending MIT his or her blockchain address

Graduate

Verifier

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MIT

1xa7$…

Graduate sends credentials to verifier (employer)

5

1

3

MIT invites graduating students to recieve a blockchain credential

MIT hashes credential onto the blockchain

Block

chain

1xa7$…

6

Verifier checks the blockchain to verify the certificate

4

MIT sends graduate a blockchain credential

2

Graduate accepts invitation, sending MIT his or her blockchain address

Graduate

Verifier

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MIT

1

MIT invites graduating students to recieve a blockchain credential

1xa7$…

2

Graduate accepts invitation, sending MIT his or her blockchain address

Graduate

Block chain

1xa7$…

3

MIT hashes credential onto the blockchain

MIT sends graduate a blockchain credential

4

5

Graduate sends credentials to verifier (employer)

6

Verifier checks the blockchain to verify the certificate

Verifier

Source: Learning Machine

Blockchain May Offer a Résumé You Can Trust

Appii, which launched its digital-résumé product just three months ago, is working with the biggest provider of higher-education courses in the U.K., the Open University, among others.

“There’s a fair bit of effort required at the moment to determine the credentials that someone puts forward on their [résumé],” says Gary McKay, co-founder of the digital-identity startup. “That friction diminishes the ability for employers to find talent quickly and to have them sitting in a chair or taking on a role as quickly as they need.”

Such efforts are part of a larger move to use blockchain to verify other kinds of credentials as well. Appii, for example, is looking to apply the blockchain process to situations where people need proof of having completed continuing professional-development classes, or of having attended conferences to take tests required by a professional license.

The Federation of State Medical Boards, which advocates for all of the medical licensing boards in the U.S., has issued sample verifications using the same Blockcerts system as MIT. Officials at the federation say they hope that its work will initiate a conversation at the state-boards level.

Resistance to change

Still, regulatory hurdles could slow wider adoption of blockchain verification. Mike Dugan, chief information officer of the Federation of State Medical Boards, says regulation at the state-level hasn’t caught up with the technology. Only a handful of states have passed legislation to enable broader usage of blockchain technology. For example, in 2017, Arizona added a law to recognize blockchain-based digital signatures.

“Digital signatures have been around a lot longer than blockchain, and…there’s still not a lot of widespread adoption” of those, Mr. Dugan says. “Some of this is skepticism, and people unwilling to change their processes.”

Members of the Blockchain in Transport Alliance, a global freight-industry trade organization focused on commercialization and education, are experimenting with using blockchain technology as a form of driver identification.

The managing director of the alliance, Craig Fuller, says digital identity for drivers could help to protect companies from unnecessary litigation because whole work histories and skill sets could be on blockchain, easily accessible to companies when they hire.

“These big enterprise companies just can’t afford to hire a driver that has any amount of risk,” Mr. Fuller says. “[After an accident] you end up in court, and the attorneys suing you can prove you’re making all this money and you’re hiring drivers that are unsafe.”

Mr. Williams is a deputy editor for The Wall Street Journal in New York. He can be reached at henry.williams@wsj.com.

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