Over the 35+ years we’ve been in business, I’ve noticed two interesting phenomena. Some companies tend to check the most senior hires within the organization assiduously and ignore their hourly workforce. We’ve seen companies spend thousands to prepare a dossier on their top-level candidates on the one hand, then do nothing more than interview their hourly candidates. Later on, they wonder why their annual turnover rate within the hourly ranks exceeds 30 percent.
At the other extreme, there are companies who are very careful to scrutinize the lowest-paid people with every sort of background check imaginable and, at the high end, take every word on the resume of a candidate for the CEO’s position as gospel. It’s almost as if there’s an elite class of job seekers whose credentials appear to be so impeccable that to check them would be perceived as an insult to the candidate.
The point, of course, is that job applicants at both ends of the spectrum, not to mention midlevel jobs, should have their backgrounds and references checked. I recall an incident that illustrates the point very well. The CEO of a state Public Employment Retirement Fund hired an individual for one of the top jobs, which included access to the personal financial records and Social Security numbers of thousands of current and former state employees.
As far as anyone could tell, the CEO who made the hiring decision simply liked the guy and wanted to hire him. Later, it was discovered that the person hired had a felony conviction in an adjoining state for identity theft, had lost his license to practice law, and had actual spent time in jail!
To make a long story short, the guy was arrested again for identity theft! The CEO and one or two other top executives with the Fund were fired for failing to do a background check on the fellow who was hired. We received calls from several area newspapers who asked if we could have discovered that the candidate was not all he claimed to be. The answer, of course, was “yes,” we could have easily found out that the candidate was misrepresenting himself. The first thing we would have done was check to see if he was licensed to practice law in the state he was from. That would have been the first red flag that something was wrong! We could also have done a court check and found the felony conviction. There would have been plenty of red flags if anybody had bothered to do a background or reference check.
The bottom line is that every new hire should have a thorough background and reference check – from the most senior positions to everyone else down the line – including temporary employees!