Every once in a while, we still run into HR people who think background and reference checking is a waste of time. I’m reminded, in particular, of an HR manager who thought he was such a good judge of character that he could tell whether a candidate for employment would be a good fit or not based just on a resume and a face-to-face interview. This HR manager worked for a large company on the East Coast.

The company needed to hire someone to handle their overseas operation. The employment decision was based solely on the candidate’s interviewing skills and the content of his resume.

After a few months on the job, the HR manager was hearing growing concerns that the new hire wasn’t getting the job done. We were called in—well after the hiring decision—to check his background and his references. As it turned out, the reason he wasn’t getting the job done was because he had lied on resume not only about his accomplishments, but also about ever having done that type of work before!

The cost to the company for not checking his references: $150,000. If we had done the background and reference checking before this individual was hired based only upon the HR manager’s skill at being a good “judge of character,” the cost would have been less than $500—a mere fraction of the cost of the poor hiring decision.

What so many HR managers still don’t seem to realize is that there are some candidates for employment who interview extremely well, but have performed poorly; and, on the other hand, there are great performers out there who simply do not interview well. That’s why doing a careful background check and a thorough reference check are so important—and precisely why trusting just “good judgment” alone seldom works!