Despite the fact that we recommend doing reference reports which provide an in-depth and objective assessment of past job performance on all candidates for supervisory positions and up, doing a thorough background check is equally important. How can that be, you ask? The simple answer is that checking references and doing a background check are two totally different – but complementary – exercises.
On the one hand, a reference report will tell the prospective employer how the candidate performed on the job and how that performance lines up with the requirements of the job the prospective employer wants to fill. On the other hand, a background check will help insure that the candidate is all that he or she claims to be and, at the same time, help the employer insure that a convicted felon or child molester isn’t hired!
Here’s an illustration: it’s entirely possible that references will say the candidate’s job performance was outstanding, but in his personal life he’s a convicted pedophile! Just doing a reference check will examine the candidate’s work life, but it won’t disclose any misdeeds away from the job. By the same token, a thorough background check may disclose a perfectly clean record, totally unblemished. Yet, a reference check may reveal that the candidate has performed poorly and was even terminated for stealing from an employer – but was never prosecuted for doing it! So, in the foregoing example, doing one check and not the other could lead to a bad hiring decision.
Therefore, the least expensive way to make sure people are hired who not only can do the job, but also are who they claim to be is to conduct both a background check and a reference check, especially for supervisory positions and on up within any organization.