July 15, 2018

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Check and Double Check Employee References

How important is it to check potential employee references? When conducting a hiring process, it’s everything. That means priority one in terms of protecting your business and your assets. References including job history, supervisors, credit and criminal background are important for choosing the right candidate, but also, for ensuring a safe and secure work environment. Checking and then double checking employee references will save you time, energy and potentially, a whole lot of money.

Accuracy is Key – The Consequences of Misinformation Can Be Dire

When it comes to references, every employer has at least one employee horror story that will never be forgotten. I still remember the day many, many years ago that Employee X was arrested at a work site and carted off to jail. While the employer in this case had made provisions to thoroughly check everyone’s references before they were hired, Employee X came out clean. The employer used what he thought was a reputable firm to do the checking, but the information provided was wrong.

What happened? Due to an error made by the reference checking company, all pertinent references were not thoroughly reviewed. It was learned later that Employee X had recently been released from jail in another state. To make matters worse, he was on probation in that state and was not permitted to leave. The kicker? He was in jail for stealing from his employers.

Consider Outsourcing to an Expert – Choose a Reputable Reference Company

Companies can avoid embarrassing situations by accurately checking the information on a prospective employee’s application. Decide whether this process should be done in-house or outsourced to a reputable reference company. Keep in mind that The Fair Credit Reporting act (FCRA) applies and the way in which these checks are conducted can have legal ramifications for your company. Be smart, be diligent and be thorough.

If you do not have a significant amount of experience and time to check references, you may want to consider hiring an expert, but be sure to check their references as well! Ask for testimonials from past clients to ensure the company is reputable and thorough; see if they provide a free trial or sample; and be sure they include criminal background checks – don’t just assume they do.

Be Informed

If you choose to check the prospective employee yourself, you should know what you can and cannot verify. Basically, if the specific fact you are checking applies to the job, it is fair game, FCRA regulations apply and you need the applicant’s written permission on the application to pursue this information. For instance, you wouldn’t check a driving record for an administrative assistant, but you would for a delivery person. It is important to remember the following rules regarding reference checks: you must be consistent with all applicants and hold all applicants to the same standards. As a final best practice you should also carefully document the responses you receive – you never know when you may need to provide them back to the applicant.

-Eileen Levitt

Ms. Eileen Levitt founded The HR Team in 1996. Ms. Levitt has more than 15 years of human resource experience relating to employee communications, employee training, recruitment and retention strategies, executive/employee coaching, employee benefits, financial management, compensation, and policy/procedure development. In 2003 Ms. Levitt was named Maryland’s Women in Business Advocate of the Year by the US Small Business Administration. Since forming The HR Team Ms. Levitt has served numerous domestic and international clientele in the following industries: publishing, communications, technology, biotechnology, staffing, trade associations, manufacturing, banking/financial services, medical/healthcare, professional service, non-profit, research/scientific, landscaping, retail, and utilities.