All too often employers think of pre-employment screening as nothing more than an inexpensive court check. There are actually two distinct and separate components to careful pre-employment screening.
The first is a thorough background check. The second is a careful reference check. While not every position requires that both components be completed, the more responsible the position, the more important careful screening becomes not only to help insure that the best people are hired, but also to mitigate the risk of being accused of negligent hiring.
The following description of the two parts of pre-employment screening ought to clear up any misunderstanding about the difference between them. First, a background check is making sure that the candidate being considered is whoever he or she claims to be, in terms of the facts presented on a resume or job application. Second, reference checking is done to make sure the candidate can do what he or she claims to be able to do. Taking together, both components present a very comprehensive picture of the candidate.
Doing one and not the other leaves out an important piece of the picture of who the candidate is. For instance, just verifying that the candidate has told the truth on his resume or job application reveals absolutely nothing about the candidate’s overall job performance, including strengths, areas that need improvement, or ability to work and communicate effectively with others.
On the other hand, while doing just a reference check will answer the foregoing questions – and more, references do not confirm that the candidate really earned the degree claimed or his work history or provide sufficient information to do a court or credit check, if necessary.
To summarize, no one wants to hire anyone who hasn’t provided accurate information on his/her resume or job application. Nor does anyone want to hire someone whose responsibilities and overall job performance don’t match the requirements of the job to be filled.
Pre-employment screening, therefore, is designed to help the prospective employer make the best hire possible and help insure that reasonable care was used in the hiring process.