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Background Checks

After the interview process is complete and any appropriate and relevant tests have been successfully completed, the final candidate(s) should be subjected to a rigorous background-checking process.

In a sense, conducting a background check is almost like starting the interviewing process all over again. This is sometimes easier said than done, especially because managers (and HR professionals) have invested a great deal of time, energy, and interest in the final candidate by this point in the process. It can be most challenging to open-mindedly embark upon a journey that might disprove what one believes one has already learned about the specifics of a candidate’s employment history.

The person conducting a reference check must maintain—or regain, if necessary—a wholly objective perspective on the candidate. This person must be completely open to the fact that a reference check can yield a variety of possible outcomes. It could confirm, for instance, that the information that was collected through the interview (and testing processes, if relevant) was accurate. This is, of course, a good thing. Alternatively, the background check may reveal previously unidentified problems or concerns with the candidate’s past performance or credentials. Because past performance is, in many ways, the best predictor of future performance, obtaining such information at any point before an offer of employment is extended is also a good thing.

Background checks can explore any or all of the following areas:

  • Work history: Employers, dates of employment, titles, salaries, and performance records.
  • Academic records: Degrees, diplomas, certificates, certifications, and the dates when they were earned.
  • Criminal background checks: Many employers seek information relative to whether the final candidate(s) has been convicted of, pled guilty to, or pled no contest to a crime. In addition to identifying potentially serious performance issues, the organization may discover convictions related to prior instances of workplace violence.
  • Driving history: Employers may—and should—choose to review the motor vehicle reports for candidates who are applying for positions for which driving is an essential job function.
  • Credit history: Employees who will have access to financial resources or who are entrusted with certain types of financial responsibility may be required to permit the potential employer to review their credit report.
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