Pre-Employment Screening for the Security-Minded

Pre-employment screening begins before the interview! Take time to read our page on interview tips. Whether you utilize our advice or not, we believe it is good information that was passed on to us. We’re just sharing the wealth!

Click on this link to read our page on interview tips.

You are ready to begin pre-employment screening once you have received an application and are ready to interview the applicant.

Begin with reviewing the application with the interviewee, verifying that the information you are reading is correct. Ask for names and numbers of immediate supervisors and work mates. Ask for names and numbers of professors or school mates. This will come in handy for the next portion of pre-employment screening.

If they are not able to provide you with this information, do not sweat it. It is not uncommon for people nowadays to have been out of the work force just long enough to forget details. You will have lots of valuable information by the end of your screening process from which to make a valid decision.

You are ready to continue your pre-employment screening once you have gone over the application and interviewed the person you are interested in hiring.

Former Employers

With the application in front of you, begin by calling the person’s former employers, beginning with the most recent. It is most likely you will be given to the Human Resources Department, where they are allowed to confirm that he/she worked there and the dates of employment. Not a lot of help.

Good thing you collected names and numbers of supervisors! Now utilize that information and call. Let the person know this is not an “official” call but more like a social call to chat with them a little about their thoughts on your company and how this person will fit in.

Do share a bit of information about your company, its mission statement, its goals, its personality.

Make it light-hearted. Talk a little about how you enjoyed your interview with so-and-so. As you hear them relax (and to get them to this place is more of an art than a science) ask them, just between you two, what do they think of this person and how he/she will work out in your company.

People tend to be free with their opinions, for the most part. Utilize this to your advantage. However, as in any background check, use multiple resources to arrive at your conclusions.

We are personally familiar with a situation in which a person we know left a company for reasons she does not share with prospective employers. Why, I do not know. What I do know is the real reason she left. They had not paid her commission in over a year, and they had not paid anyone’s salary for 6 weeks. She could no longer afford to work there. Plain and simple.

However, this company does give her bad reviews when prospective employers call them. So…

use multiple resources to verify information and make decisions.

Education Verification

Education is the most common area for applicant’s to lie about. This is easy enough to verify. Pick up the phone and call the Registrar’s Office of the school. They will be able to tell you the dates they attended and whether or not they received their degree.

They may ask for a release of information, but if you have the “agreement to release information” and signature on the bottom of your application, as you should, then you can solve that problem with a simple fax.

If it turns out they lied, then by all means address it. Chances are you just caught them in a character flaw that reveals a valid reason to move on to the next applicant!

However, make sure you are not having trouble reading their handwriting, or that the Registrar got their name mixed up with someone else’s. Verify your information before you jump to conclusions.

Professional References

Pre-employment screening may also cover professional references. The potential employee may have worked with organizations which can provide you with valuable information as to the person’s ability to work as a team and to motivate people. Make sure to contact these references and use the same practices as you did with verifying previous employers.

Additionally, you are able to verify professional licenses and designations by searching online for your state department that is responsible for issuing these licenses.

In California, that would be the Department of Consumer Affairs. For more information regarding online resources, see our section on Background Checks, Doing It Yourself.

Personal References

One question we get is “Why check personal references when the chances are that person won’t rat out their friend.” Well, as I said before, people are generally free with their opinions, and friends are no exception.

As in interviewing the prospective employee, be creative. Do not ask “yes” or “no” questions. Better questions are “Can you give me an example of this person’s demonstration of patience with others?” After which you ask, “Can you give me an example of a time this person showed a lack of patience with another person?”

Think of what qualities are important to the position and to the company. Use questions that will lead their friend into providing you with information that will assist you in arriving to a valid conclusion.

Criminal Records Background Check

In everything, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of conducting a professional and comprehensive background check. At the very least, check criminal records. For more information on this subject, see our Background Check section.

In several states there is a simple way to do a criminal check and it is called “Live Scan”. For more information on what Live Scan can do for you, click here.

As we say over and over, a good background investigator uses multiple resources in order to verify and interpret information, even during pre-employment screening.

To avoid legal complications, it is advised that you use an experienced and licensed investigator to conduct background checks. There is more to investigating a person’s background than a looking for a criminal record history.

Taking the steps of performing thorough and quality pre-employment screenings will assist you in building safer and more secure environments for your home, business, schools, and places of worship.

Thank you for your time. As always, if you have any questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you.


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