Why Companies Should Do Employment Verification

by Thomas C. Lawson, CFE, CII

For many companies, referencing evokes more emotions that a hangover.  Why you ask?  Because the sheer nature of verifying employment, or education, or attempting to make contact with those dreaded former supervisors, co-workers or friends can take such inordinate amounts of time that one regularly wonders if it is really worth it!

As an employment screener since 1980, I can definitively say that referencing is one of the single most important candidacy qualification tools. And, it is the one usually substituted out in favor of more factually based screening tools such as criminal conviction checks, driving reports and employment credit reports. Let’s look at why everyone, uniformly HATES to reference:

1. Multiple attempts.

Here we have the basis of ALL deference to referencing, and it is usually not a function of the reference, but more of the candidate.  In our referencing division, and after literally millions of active references garnered over the last 32 years, 85% of the time, the reference fails because the CANDIDATE failed to provide adequate enough information to help you get to the source, or the employer failed to ask the right questions.

In short, if you don’t ask the right questions of a candidate with regard to how to contact the person who shall provide accolades or admonishments, how can the candidate give you what you need to get it done?  Conversely, if the candidate fails to provide who he using to help him put his best foot forward, how can he/she expect you to be able to properly screen and qualify him/her? It all boils down to a solid, simple inquiry form and a solid reply by the candidate.

If the form is incomplete, move on to the next candidate – don’t chase them; make them provide you or your reference with what you need to get the reference completed. A variation on this theme is the reference company that will not try until the reference is achieved. Their service is limited.

At APSCREEN we call until we get the answers you need. That is the mark of a true referencing professional

2. Fake References.

In this situation, candidates provide a lot of stuff on paper, but with no actual substance, or they provide set-up references who don’t necessarily tell the whole truth.  How do you combat this?  We like to call it a “developed reference” which is simply asking the person whom you are speaking with to provide the names and phone numbers of at least two other people known to the subject.  Once obtained, you have to call them immediately (before the candidate has a chance to prep them for your call) and you will get the unvarnished truth about the candidate, plain and simple.

3. Out-of Business Former Employers.

About 40% of the references APSCREEN attempts on a daily basis result in out of service telephone numbers, or returned mail.  Again, it is up to the candidate to provide you with contact information that is current, cogent and easy to access, or there will be no reference.

4. Can’t Find the School.

If it is a “real” school it is easily locatable. And, if the school has moved, changed its name, or otherwise been absorbed into another institution, it is up to the candidate to keep you  informed about his alma mater.

5. No Returned Calls after Messages Left.   It is up to the candidate to let you know that the reference will be calling or don’t provide that reference.

6. Referencing is not a Hidden or Lost Function.

In fact, referencing is the shortest distance between you and a candidate’s suitability determination – so the sooner you get the references completed, the sooner that candidate advances.

7. In-house or Third-Party Reference Service?

Use of outside source is better when it comes to referencing.  Outside referencers have the will and desire to get the files off of their desk and are not encumbered by being an HR Person, and all that entails.  You will also be less swayed by an imperfect reference effort – meaning that even if all of the stars are in alignment, there can still be legitimate delays to the process.

Instead of getting impatient with your candidate directly, you can lay that off on the reference.  This way, the otherwise excellent candidate is not tainted by a process that may unfairly eliminate him or her from candidacy. You may have noticed a theme throughout this thread which is that it is primarily incumbent upon the candidate to make your referencing life easier, but it is up to you to make absolutely sure that you are clear about what is expected of your candidate, and that is accomplished with solid formology and a simple but effective communication between you and the candidate at the outset.

Once you have laid out the ground rules, it is up to the candidate to tell you whether or not he/she wants the job by making the job of qualifying him/her easy or hard, and it is a two-way street.  Make it clear what you need to qualify them, and provide them with the tools to help you in your process and it will be up to them to determine how much effort they are willing to provide to make hiring them easier.

Are people’s social media accounts checked in employment screening?

by Thomas C. Lawson, CFE, CII

As a Consumer Reporting Agency, APSCREEN is not authorized by law to purvey unverified information.

APSCREEN has long led the fight against the use of Social Media in the hiring context for several reasons:

a.       No consent is usually given to use Social Media by the candidate, unless an expressed consent is given for an “Investigative Consumer Report” which is the component of a background check that involves personal interviews to determine “mode of living.”

The incorrect assumption is that social media legitimately replaces in-person ‘mode-of-living’ interviews (which, in most states require a Private Investigators’ License), but in fact social media does not replace in-person interviews because the postings on social media sites are either anonymous, or pseudo-named, and do not provide an audit trail as to either the actual person-to-person statements made to the enquirer, or the veracity or corroborate-ability of the statement or posting.

In essence use of social media in a hiring decision is factually akin to using rumor and innuendo, not facts to make a hiring decision.   Many hiring managers will argue that social media is used only contextually, and is only one component in a series of components that go to the overall profile of a candidate.  This reasoning, while seemingly sound is flawed because the social media component is not-factually based, nor verifiable, unless by the candidate as to his or her own posting.

b.      In ANY hiring scenario a candidate should be given the opportunity to:

*       Know what is being said about him/her

*       Know who said it

*       Be able to refute inaccurate information

*       Have legal remedies available to them in the event that false information leads to an adverse event.

c.       Postings by the candidates themselves are usually never intended to be reviewed in the hiring context, and since no specific consent is given, what may be information that the candidate posts for his friends may not what he might want a future employer to see, and without consent or the right to decline consent, his choices are removed.

Further, if the candidate declines consent for social media review, a hiring manager could assume that the candidate has something to hide and may rule adversely in the hiring decision, solely for the purpose that declining consent assumes the position of lack of disclosure.

d.      Finally, Social media is an unnecessary hiring toll because there are sufficient available verifiable ways to validate public, private and semi-private records available to the hiring manager upon which to determine candidacy.

While there are myriad reasons not to use social media in the hiring context, 50%+ of the HR Departments use this tool on a stealth basis because there are virtually no controls available under the FCRA.

It is APSCREEN’s opinion that HR uses social media at its own peril, since, as am Employment Screening Expert Witness since 1988, I can most assuredly advise that there are ways to determine if social media played a role in the adverse effect upon a candidate, and just as Negligent hiring is tantamount to potential horrible crimes in the workplace, Negligent Candidacy Elimination carries with it stark and sobering case law that supports significant monetary settlements and civil adjudications inuring to those so damaged.