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You've interviewed a job candidate, talked it over with your team, and decided to make an offer. Great but you're not done yet. You can't judge every book by its cover or every potential employee by his or her interview. Checking backgrounds and references can help you avoid making a hiring mistake that could jeopardize your company --especially since experts estimate that between one-quarter and one-half of resumes and applications contain some amount of false information.
First things first: Always perform background checks after you make a job offer but make the offer contingent upon the applicant successfully passing the background check. Conducting checks after the offer has been extended helps you avoid discrimination charges. Plus, why spend unnecessary time checking background or references if you don't end up selecting the candidate for your opening?
Then, establish standards and policies for your background checks. For example, you may decide not to hire anyone who has been convicted of a felony. If the position includes driving company vehicles, you may decide you will not hire anyone who has more than one moving violation on their driving record for the previous year. Create standards applicable to the job, and only consider job-related information. If the prospective employee will never drive company vehicles, their driving record is irrelevant to the position. If the prospective employee will handle cash, checks, or credit card transactions, checking for incidents of theft or embezzlement makes perfect sense and is directly applicable to the job.
What can you verify? Depending on the nature of the job:
Again, the inquiries you make should be related to the position. Running a credit report for a shop floor employee makes little sense and will be tough to justify; verifying degrees and other certifications for an accounting position can make perfect sense.
What can you not attempt to verify, especially without permission?
To make the process easier, get complete information up-front: Full name, Social Security number, address(es), employment history, driver's license number (if applicable), certifications, etc. Have the employee sign a release allowing you to verify the information they supply.
What happens if the employee won't sign the release? Take steps ahead of time to protect yourself. First, create a written policy describing the checks you will perform. Also include in your policy a provision stating you will not hire individuals who do not consent to applicable background checks. Then, if the employee will not sign, you can rescind the job offer based on their failure to grant permission and will not have discriminated against that employee, since you simply followed an established policy.
Then verify the information provided. Some will be clear-cut: An employee either does or does not have a college degree, specific certifications, a suitable driving record, a clean criminal history, etc. In other cases your background check will be more subjective, especially when you check professional references. To make that process more effective:
Again, make sure you only consider job-related information when making a hiring decision. Otherwise you could be open to charges of discrimination. Take the time to determine the skills and qualifications required to perform a particular job. Then determine what checks are appropriate, and decide ahead of time what constitutes "passing" or "failing" a background check. Finally, be fair and consistent and let your policies be your guide to making a good decision.
Your business, your employees, and your customers deserve to work with honest, ethical, and skilled employees. Perform the right background checks to ensure you do everything possible to identify those individuals before they join your team.