Background and Reference Checks
Most interviewers know it's unwise to make a hiring decision without first checking an applicant's references and, in many instances, conducting a thorough background check. Despite well-honed recruiting, screening, and interviewing skills, interviewers feel uncomfortable in extending a job offer, at any level of employment, without more closely examining the background of the person selected. Reliance on background checks has dramatically increased over time. In 1993, slightly over 50 percent of all employers said that they conducted background checks on prospective employees; in 2005, that number rose to 96 percent.1 This percentage encompasses small, midsize, and large organizations.
In part, this increase is due to concerns over charges of negligent hiring and retention. In addition, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, there is greater concern over identity theft. News of executive embezzlement and unscrupulous behavior has also left employers wary of hiring without first conducting background checks on all individuals, regardless of position or level.
Employers conducting background and reference checks need to consider legal guidelines, establish a background check policy, and select a reputable vendor. When conducting reference checks, employers need to know how and what to ask, and develop guidelines for releasing and obtaining information.
Despite acknowledging the importance of conducting background checks, some employers fail to probe as thoroughly as they're entitled to. In addition, few employers readily provide detailed information to other employers, with some going so far as to refuse to give references for former workers for fear of being sued for invasion of privacy or defamation of character.
Because of the fear of being sued by former employees for giving less than flattering references, many employers verify only dates of employment in an effort to mitigate