Background Checks

As a general rule, every professional license, no matter the type, should be verified. In my experience, doing license verifications is one of the easiest, but most often overlooked, types of background checks available. More and more occupations require a license to offer particular services – everything from doctors and lawyers to CPAs, teachers, airline pilots, and scores of other occupations. The point is, whatever type of license a job seeker is claiming, it should be checked to ensure that it is currently valid without any restrictions or limitations on it.

Unfortunately, the more respected the occupation, the less likely employers are to check the validity of the license associated with it. This is particularly true of physicians. Because, as a society, we hold doctors in such high regard, many employers are reluctant to run the risk of insulting a physician by verifying a license to practice medicine. The failure to do so, however, can be potentially disastrous. All that’s required is placing a call to the state agency that issues the licenses, whatever they’re for, and verifying that the license is valid.

If a license cannot be confirmed for any reason, the fairest thing to do is to tell the candidate and give him a chance to prove the license really is valid. The proof, incidentally, should come in the form of a certified document from the issuing agency. But it’s also important to keep in mind there is some information that verifying a license won’t tell you! I’m reminded of the old joke that goes, “What do you call the person who graduates dead last in his medical school class?” The answer: “Doctor.” Verifying that an individual really is a physician says nothing about his skill, ability, or medical expertise. The same is true of every other occupation that requires a license. Being a licensed pilot, for example, doesn’t necessarily mean that person is a good pilot.

While it’s important to verify that the candidate does have the license claimed, doing so doesn’t say anything about his overall ability to do the job. That’s why checking references is still at the heart of the hiring process. There’s seldom a charge to verify a license, and it can be done quickly with a simple phone call.