Background investigation and other selection methods

Most employers try to check and verify the job applicant’s background information and references. The data verified in Asian countries like India may be different but it is done. In one survey of about 700 HR managers, 87% said they conduct reference checks, 69% conduct background employment checks, 61% check employee criminal records, 56% check employees’ driving records, and 35% sometimes or always check credit. Commonly verified data include legal eligibility for employment (in compliance with immigration laws), dates of prior employment, military service (including discharge status), education, identification (including date of birth and address to conform identity), county criminal records (current residence, last residence), motor vehicle record, credit, licensing verification, Social Security number; and reference checks.

A HR manager’s depth of search depends on the position he seeks to fill. For example, a credit and education check would be more important for hiring an accountant than a groundskeeper. In any case, background checks should not be limited only to new hires. It is also advisable to periodically check say the credit ratings of employees (like cashiers) who have easy access to company assets, and the driving records of employees who routinely use company cars.

There are two main reasons to conduct pre-employment background investigations and/or reference checks to verify factual information previously provided by the applicant and to uncover damaging information such as criminal records and suspended drivers licenses. Lying on one’s applications is not unusual. For example, BellSouth’s security director estimates that 15% to 20% of applicants conceal a dark secret. It’s not uncommon to find someone who applies and look good, and then a prospective employer do a little digging and they start to see all sorts of criminal history or incorrect facts about previous employment.

Even relatively sophisticated companies fall prey to criminal employees, in part because they haven’t conducted proper background and reference checks. In Chicago, a major pharmaceutical firm discovered that it had hired gang members in mail delivery and computer repair. The crooks were stealing close to a million dollars a year in computer parts, and then using the mail department to ship them to a nearby computer store they owned,. Thorough background checks might have prevented the losses.

The actual background investigation/reference check can take many forms. Most employers at least try to verify an applicant’s current (or former) position and salary with his or her current (or former) employer by phone (assuming doing so was cleared with the candidate). Others call the applicant’s current and previous supervisors to try to discover more about the person’s motivation, technical competence and ability to work with others (although many employers have policies against providing such information). Some employers get background reports from commercial credit rating companies. Latter can provide information about credit standing, indebtedness, reputation, character, and lifestyle. Some employers ask for written references.

Effectiveness: The background check can be useful. It is an inexpensive and straightforward way to verify factual information about the applicant, such as current previous job tiles, current salary range, dates of employment and educational background. There are thousands of database and sources for finding background information, including sex offender registries, workers’ compensation histories, nurses’ aid registries and sources for criminal, employment and educational histories.

However, reference checking can backfire particularly in case of credit rating (applicable for U.S) Laws (like Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970) increase the likelihood that rejected applicants will have access to the background information; they may then sue both the source of that information and the recruiting employer. In practice, it’s not always easy to prove that the person deserved the bad reference. The rejected applicant has various legal remedies, including suing the source of the reference for defamation of character. In one case, a court awarded a man $56,000 after he was turned down for a job because, among other things, the former employer called him a “character”. This happens often enough to cause former employers to limit comments.

In India and other Asian countries more than credit rating employment background like experience, salary and position is taken into account even by getting information from the previous employer. If information is found incorrect the employee is asked to leave the organization immediately. However there are no provisions for the employee or employer to go to the court of law. Employee background verification is done based on the importance the organizations give in different countries.

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