The first question we need to address in Part 1 is whether reference and background checks are standard business practices? The answer is an unequivocal “yes”! How else can an employer find out if the candidate is all he claims to be? No only that, but of equal importance is whether or not the candidate can do all that he claims he can.
Let’s take a serious look at the way many employers used to carry out the employee selection process. In a much earlier era, most people were hired on the basis of just two or three criteria:
- The contents of their resume (if they had one).
- A job interview.
- Occasionally, but not always, a letter of introduction written by a trusted friend or relative.
Prior to the industrial revolution, some combination of these three criteria were all the typical shopkeeper or craftsman needed in order to make a hiring decision. Why? Because before the days of industrialization, there were no large companies that employed hundreds, let alone thousands of people. Most businesses were very small operations, particularly during the colonial period in this country. The owner usually worked right alongside the handful of people he employed and could see if they were doing the job or not.
Except for the true craftsman or artisan, most employees were unskilled laborers who worked as apprentices or were indentured to the business owner. There were no laws protecting workers’ rights. The employee either measured up to the requirements of the job or he didn’t, and if he didn’t he was “discharged.”
Because most job seekers were unskilled, not to mention uneducated, drifting from one job to another was not uncommon. There was little need, for that matter, to find out if the job seeker was really who he claimed to be or had the necessary skills to do the job. The person either learned the job quickly or was fired! On the other hand, the willingness to work hard and long hours was the best test of someone’s employ-ability.
Since the industrial revolution, however, job specialization has been constantly increasing as the skills required to do very specialized jobs have become more and more demanding. As a result, it has become increasingly important to hire people who already have the experience, training, and skills to handle more and more specialized jobs. Job knowledge, therefore, became a prerequisite, not a luxury!