June 21, 2018

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Negotiating The Minefield

Background Checks … Criminal Checks … Motor Vehicle Records … Employment History Verification … Electronic Resume Submission … Personality and Psychometric Tests … Behavioral Interviews … Online Application Forms …


The job search is becoming more like walking through a minefield these days and can be quite daunting. Unless of course you are adequately armed and well-prepared for what lies ahead.

Since post September 11th … security related issues have become an increasing concern with hiring managers at companies both large and small. This has created more intense scrutiny involving background and employment verification than ever before. It has also raised anxiety and concern on behalf of candidates.

Having personally worked with companies ranging from small fifteen-person family owned operations … through those with tens of thousands of employees … I have observed first-hand how the background check, employment verification, DMV clearance procedures and such can be handled in drastically different manners depending on type of company.

Believe it or not … small to mid-size companies (meaning those with fifteen through five-hundred employees) handle such “backend” hiring processes with far greater speed, efficiency and less bungling goofs than larger corporations have. Maybe because there is only one person responsible for all of the above at the small company level … while the large company may have multiple cooks all seasoning the same soup.

On the flip-side we have personally observed a number of large corporations botch this sensitive process up often. You would think a company with tens of thousands of employees world-wide would have this aspect of the hiring process down to a science … well they don’t. Quite often the sheer size of such huge organizations creates multiple, internal mis-communication opportunities which can create serious complications for the unknowing candidate. Something such as multiple HR Manager layers, (one representing the hiring department and the other representing corporate headquarters) coupled with outside reference services can set the stage for increased likelihood of background check bungling.

I encountered one real-life instance of this not long ago when a professional six-figure candidate’s current job was placed in serious jeopardy by a large “Fortune” corporation because of the sloppy, inept manner in which the background and employment verification process was handled. He nearly lost his current job. In this particular case … the employment and reference check was outsourced and initiated within hours after the first initial interview. The candidate was elated to find out the company was so intensely interested in his candidacy. Trouble was he found out the references were being checked via his own current supervisor who called him into the office that afternoon where he was still employed! Worse yet, the company had no intention of extending an offer despite the immediate, and intrusive verification process.

As if that wasn’t enough … he had made it clear he did not want his previous employer to find out he was looking during the interview as well. His former company had a standing offer to re-recruit him and he was politely trying to maintain his friendship while interviewing with their number one competitor. So who does the reference checking service call next? You guessed it!

They called the previous employer and not only that … the person conducting the reference allowed the manager being referenced to reverse control of the process. He went on to volunteer who the client company was ordering the reference (this should have been kept confidential) which infuriated the former manager as he now felt betrayed. The individual continued to release job title, position information which complicated things even further. The reference process could not have possibly gone any worse … and to think this was one of the nation’s largest insurance carriers traded on the NYSE!

Here are a few very important tips to follow if you are a Prospective Candidate negotiating today’s job minefield:

  1. BE CAREFUL when filling out employment or disclosure forms! Especially those with disclaimers or legal “releases” involving the background or reference checking process. Read the Fine Print! If you DO NOT want your current employer or boss being called for employment verification a few hours after your first interview (I’m not joking here … this has actually happened more than just one time!!) then DO NOT check the box that provides the company with permission for contacting your current employer!

  2. BE HONEST – If you have a speeding ticket from 1999 say so. It’s best to be honest and regretfully admit what you did … than lying and having it get caught on the Motor Vehicle Check. Same goes with Degrees, GPA’s, Etc. Always be honest.

    Reason: I’ve seen individuals LOOSE their imminent offer because they lied about items on the resume including such as having a degree when they did not. THE SAD part is that one individual that recently lost his offer would have received it anyway … had he merely been honest that he was missing 24 credits on his degree … instead of making it appear on the resume and throughout the interview process he actually graduated.

  3. PROVIDE ACCURATE REFERENCE INFORMATION – Many job offers have been held up for days and even weeks … because the phone numbers being dialed for the provided reference is no longer working or is not being answered. Make sure you provide current and fresh contact info that will immediately return a phone call the first time its made and not require a hiring manager to have to chase someone.

    Reason: The longer it takes to contact a reference … the more discouraged and tired the hiring manager will become.

  4. MAKE SURE YOUR RESUME IS ELECTRONICALLY SCANNABLE and EMAIL FRIENDLY – Here’s what most job applicants do: A) They decide to write a resume. B) They crank up MS Word and, C) Open one of the Resume Templates and, D) Start replacing the sample data located in the nicely laid out cells, tables, style sheets with his/her own contact information and job experience, E) Assume they now have a neat resume to email out. F) They have just botched up their chance of getting an interview!

Unfortunately what just happened is you have created the worst possible resume imaginable for emailing and being electronically “read” by most automated resume collection and Applicant Tracking Systems (known within the industry as ATS’s). The colorful bullet points, wingdings, cells, borders, tables and embedded style sheets MSWord builds into this little document virtually assures you have created nothing but a self-destructing piece of garbage that will gum up the scanning process and get immediately spit back out. Sure it looks great for printing and bringing with you in your briefcase … just keep it in your briefcase please and create a separate resume for emailing!

Reason: Search for “scannable resumes” and you will find about 1,000 articles as to why you should never use a MSWord Resume Template! A better approach is to use MSWord, but simply center your contact info manually and resist the temptation for using nothing more than one or two fonts with no graphics, tables, cells, watermarks or “Wingdings” or such.

Follow these simple, common sense steps and your chances of being called in for a job interview can INCREASE 100% as will your chances of making it to the final JOB OFFER “End Zone”!

The above mentioned pitfalls are just a few of the numerous obstacles an experienced and highly capable executive recruiter can assist with. These outline but a few of the reasons a personnel recruiter can be invaluable to the search process for those of you considering whether or not to develop such an alliance.

-Frank Risalvato

Frank G. Risalvato, CPC, CEO of IRES, Inc. is a respected international leader in the field of recruiting. In addition to providing first-rate executive search services, he is considered an expert at recognizing the latest trends. His cutting-edge articles, opinions, and insightful quotes frequently appear in some of the most respected names in the world of business, internet, and career related media.


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