If you stay up on the Internet news about background checking, it’s easy to get the impression that making safe hiring decisions requires nothing more than a background check. After 35 years in the pre-employment screening business, I’m not sure I can adequately express how much I disagree with that notion! Of course, it’s important to make sure that the candidate being considered for employment is who he says he is. But of equal, if not greater, importance is determining if the candidate can do the job the prospective employer needs done! And there is nothing on a resume or job application that casts any kind of light on the candidate’s ability to do the job!
The only way to make that determination is by talking to people the candidate has worked with and choosing those doing the interviews who know what they’re doing and know how to ask the questions that will illicit useful job-performance information.
Even if the candidate has handpicked his own references, there’s nothing preventing the prospective employer from insisting on being given a completely different set of references – people with whom/for whom the candidate has worked within the last five to seven years. Even references who want to say “good things” about the candidate will be hard-pressed to fake a response to a question like, “Can you describe so-and-so’s job responsibilities during the time the two of you worked together?”
That’s just one of about two dozen questions we typically ask when we’re talking to references. The point is, even the most thorough background check in the world isn’t going to provide the answer to a question like that. And that’s why doing a background check is only half the job when it comes to hiring the right person for the job.