Let’s be really clear about this. Does it make any sense that an employer should not be free to talk with a job applicant’s previous employers about the applicant’s qualifications for the job? It makes no sense at all. How else can the prospective employer ever objectively evaluate a candidate’s past job performance, experience, training, responsibilities, suitability for the job, and any number of other qualities?
Is the prospective employer stuck taking the candidate’s word for everything? Even if, in a perfect world, the candidate is totally honest about his skills and abilities, it’s important to keep in mind that even totally honest people seldom see themselves as they are seen by others with whom they work.
Employers who are afraid to delve into someone’s background need to remember that checking references and doing background checks have been, and continue to be, standard business practices. Not only does reference checking and background checking make good business sense, but also they reveal common sense, regardless of whether a senior vice president is being hired or a restaurant food server or a contractor or a new family physician – because it’s important to realize that what we’re really doing with all these folks, including the doctor, is hiring them. It’s also important to get past the fear that doing a reference and background check – regardless of the job to be performed – is somehow rude, is an intrinsically bad thing, or worse yet, is illegal. It isn’t any of those things, never has been, and never will be!
But, to be fair, I want to make it clear that there are both real and imaginary risks associated with the whole pre-employment screening business. However, let’s take a common-sense look at the actual risks and balance them against the risks of not checking at all. (For those who need a more official-sounding term for this process, think of it as human resource risk management – very official sounding.)
In my next blog, we’ll be talking about invasion of privacy.