The Case for Reference Checks

Recently we wrote about Federal Criminal Records. Within that article we said:

“If you do not currently order federal criminal records, ensure that you perform reference checks. Given that most federal criminal records tend to be more serious, your applicant may have spent some quality time in a federal facility and there will be gaps in their employment history.”

There are several crucial reasons you should check references:

  • You may obtain negative information not elsewhere available
  • You may obtain positive information not elsewhere available
  • You demonstrate Due Diligence – even when the information you receive is limited

Obtaining Negative Information Not Elsewhere Available

We recently spoke with an employer that obtained criminal records but did no reference checking. This can lead to hiring someone with a clear criminal record, but someone you would not have hired had you known the whole story. If you had a driver employee who was drunk on the job, or had an employee who you discovered was pilfering from you, would you call the Police and attempt to have them arrested and charged—or would you just terminate the employee? In these cases, many times the employee is terminated—not charged with a crime, and thus while their criminal record may be clear, there might be a better candidate for hire.

Obtaining Positive Information Not Elsewhere Available

It is not a good thing to have a permanent population of unemployable individuals because of a mistake or mistakes made in their past. You may order a criminal record that contains an offense or offenses, but by performing reference checks discover that since the offenses, the individual has been a model employee. Checking references could you lead you to hire that model employee that you otherwise would not have.

Demonstrate Due Diligence—Even When the Information is Limited

Some employers do not do employment verifications because they believe they will not get much information—just “name, rank and serial number.” While most employers will at least indicate whether the employee left voluntarily or involuntarily and whether they are eligible for rehire, some employers are stingy with information. However, asking for employment verifications does show you attempted due diligence. The “negligent hiring doctrine” imposes an obligation on employers to “assess the nature of the job, its degree of risk to third parties, and then perform a reasonable background investigation to ensure the applicant is competent and fit for duty.” So even if you don’t get much information from a past employer, the attempt itself can help negate liability.

If you do not do employment verifications, we would recommend you do so. If it is important to the job, we would recommend you also perform education verifications. As one goes under the knife for surgery at the hospital, all of us hope the hospital verified the surgeon’s employment and education history. And further (as VICTIG does when performing education verifications for our clients) verified the educational institution to ensure the MD degree was not obtained for $19.99 on the internet.

VICTIG can perform employment and education verifications on your behalf. We’re good at it. We have sample templates of questions you may customize to your needs. We will follow your guidelines. For example, we will only contact an applicant’s current employer at your request and will not ask about salary if so instructed.

Call us if you would like to discuss what we can do for you.

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