Background Checks

In previous Blogs I offered some real-life horror stories of what can happen as a result of not doing background and reference checking.   What are the more fundamental risks of not checking? The most basic risk, of course, is making a poor hiring decision—failing to hire the right person for the job to be done.

Proving that a candidate is all he or she claims to be through a background check is fundamental and tells the prospective employer that the candidate didn’t lie on his or her resume or job application. A background check, standing alone, won’t reveal anything the candidate’s ability to do the job! There is no way to determine if the candidate is right for the job without checking references.

Here are some other possible risks associated not checking references:

  • Hiring people who really aren’t who or what they claim to be
  • Damaging the company’s ability to function normally
  • Inflicting potential damage to the company’s reputation
  • Suffering the loss of valued customers – past and future
  • Possibly contributing to the development or delivery of a defective—even dangerous—product

I recall one particularly egregious example a few years ago when we were asked to simply verify the academic credentials of an individual being considered for a research chemist’s position with a medical testing equipment company. The individual claimed to have a degree in chemistry from a major Midwestern university. A quick call to the school revealed that the individual not only had failed to complete the work for the degree, but also had been dismissed from the school for poor academic performance. This person’s prior employment had been with a major pharmaceutical firm. (They hadn’t bothered to check.) One can only imagine the potential harm that could have been done if this person had been involved in the development of a new medication that could have caused injury or even loss of life. Would the legal settlement have been in the millions of dollars? Probably. The point was that nobody bothered to check something as basic as whether or not the candidate had earned the degree claimed.

On balance, then, which risk is greater? The accusation of invasion of privacy, (which can easily be avoided by simply getting the candidate’s permission to do a background check and to check references), or hiring someone who is unqualified for the job at the very least or, at the worst, hiring an outright fraud? The answer should be obvious.