Background investigations and other selection methods

Testing is usually only part of an employer’s selection process. Other tools may include background investigations and reference checks, reemployment information services, honesty testing, graphology and substance abuse screening.

Background Investigations and Reference Checks:

Most employers try to check and verify the job applicant’s background information and references. In one survey of about 700 human resources 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 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, country criminal records (current residence, last residence), motor vehicle record, credit, licensing verification, Social Security number and reference checks.

How deeply you search depends on the position you seek to fill. For example, credit and education check would be more important for hiring an accountant than a groundskeeper. In any case, 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 ho routinely use company cars.

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

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 it had hired gang members in mail delivery and computer repair. The crooks wee 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.

Types of Background Checks: 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 dong 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. The latter can provide information about credit standing, indebtedness, reputation, character and lifestyle. There are thousands of databases and sources for finding background information, including sex offender registries, workers compensation histories, nurses registries and sources or criminal employment and educational histories. Some employers ask or written references.

Moe employers are checking candidates’ social networking sites posting. One employer went to and found that a top candidate described his interests as smoking marijuana and shooting people. The student may have been kidding but did not get the offer.

Figure shows form used for phone references

Reference Checking Form:

(Verify that the applicant has provided permission before conducting reference checks)

Candidate Name ———————————-

Reference Name————————————

Company Name————————————–

Dates of employment

From: —————————To: ——————————-

Held ————————————————-

History ——————————————–

Reason for Leaving —————————————-

Explain the reason for your call and verify the above information with the supervisor (including the reason for leaving)

How would you describe the applicant’s relationships with coworker6, subordinates (if applicable), and with superiors?

Did the candidate have a positive or negative work attitude? Please elaborate.

How would you describe the quantity and quality of output generated by the former employee?

What were his / her strengths on the job?

What were his / her weaknesses on the job?

What is your overall assessment of the candidates?

Would you recommend him / her for this position? Why or why not?

Would this be eligible for rehire? Why or why not?

Other comments:

Comments are closed.