Background Checks

When is the right time to run a background check on a candidate for employment? Before any job offer is made, after the offer is made, or after the new hire is actually on board? Here’s what Susan M. Heathfield wrote just six months ago, while speaking of the value of candidate resume confirmation and background checks: “During times of economic challenge, checking the background and credentials of your potential employee becomes even more important,” Heathfield said.

“Fraud is rampant. Job searchers are desperate. Employers are being duped. Why not find out those less-than-stellar facts about your favorite candidate before you’ve come to own him, love him, train him and integrate him into your company, only to find out later that his credentials are fraudulent?”

Heathfield goes on to remind business owners and HR professionals that between 20 to 50 percent of job applicants (depending on the industry and/or position) lie to embellish their education, work history or other information. Your review of employment application materials such as resumes, cover letters, and job applications must assume that a percentage of your applicants are lying,” she concludes.

Why would a business owner want to waste hiring dollars on a candidate for employment until he or she knows that person is telling the truth? Assuming it is legal for the company to do so, the best time to do a background and/or reference check, in my opinion, is after the initial interview but before the second interview—and before an offer of employment is ever made. It’s at that initial interview where the prospective employer can make the decision to move forward with the candidate or not. It’s also important to keep in mind that the initial interview can be in person, over the phone, or via Skype.

Moving forward means telling the candidate that a background and reference check will be done, following applicable laws about obtaining the candidate’s permission, and making sure the candidate can provide the necessary information required to do the actual background and reference check, if it’s not already on hand.

Then, assuming that the pre-employment checks turn out well, the second or final interview can proceed and the firm can make a job offer, if it so desires. There really is no other point in the hiring process where checking makes more sense.