Checking References

We cannot overstate the value of reference checking. Before making any offers, go back to the resume and verify past-employment details. In their 2006 study, found that more than 40% of resumes contain at least one glaring inaccuracy pertaining to a length of employment, job title or education. While many employers now refuse to discuss specifics of their prior employee’s performance without a signed consent form, most are happy to confirm salary, position, and dates of employment.

It’s important to distinguish between professional references and personal references. Personal references are people who know the applicant but have not worked with them and therefore cannot shed any light on their job performance. Professional references, on the other hand, are people with whom the candidate has worked. Make calls to the applicant’s professional references, asking questions about attendance, teamwork, and whether the candidate would be eligible for rehire. Avoid questions about age, race, sex, religion, marital status, health, and nationality as they are prohibited by Federal law.

Some employers are Googling the applicant’s name or taking advantage of the vast number of social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook to gain knowledge of the applicant’s personality. Postings about former employers or work-related blogs can dissuade employers from hiring an individual.

Background checks are becoming more and more routine and you should coordinate them with your Human Resource department. They most likely already have a vendor who performs background checks on behalf of your organization. You may ask your local police department to perform this duty. Candidates are required to sign a consent form allowing you to delve into their criminal history, credit record, or driving record. Criminal history checks require the applicant’s date of birth, therefore background checks should only be conducted after a job offer is made to avoid a discrimination claim.

Privacy issues are a top concern and there are several federal laws governing access to public records. We recommend you familiarize yourself with Sections 604, 606, and 615 of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to learn about using credit reports for employment purposes. Again, your Human Resources department should be able to help you navigate the privacy waters.