Archives For Background Checks

This article is a guest post by Melonie Boone at Boone Management Group. Melonie has a passion for business and education. She currently holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Human Resources Management from Loyola University of Chicago, a Master of Business Administration in Management from Florida Metropolitan University as well as a Master of Jurisprudence in Business Law and Corporate Governance from Loyola University Law School.  Her comprehensive experience in optimizing strategic planning initiatives to achieve organizational goals allows her to work as a trusted adviser to entrepreneurs, business owners and senior management teams. Melonie has the ability to create, implement and execute strategic plans for every area of our clients business.


So you have the perfect candidate and you want to check them out online. Most of us almost instinctively conduct a Google search or check out their Tweets, Facebook or other social media outlets trying to get the inside scoop on a candidate. What we don’t realize is the risks associated with taking adverse action based on what we find. Social media sites can give you protected information like age, ethnicity and race. It can also include political affiliation, religious beliefs, disability and other personal information that if used in a hiring decision can be seen a discriminatory.

Before you make a decision to deny a person’s employment based on something you find on the web, please refer these following steps and read the article at the links below.

Tips to minimize your risk:

Ask some basic questions:

1. Why do you want to use social media?
2. What is the utility of doing the search?
3. What information are you hoping to find?
4. Is candidate use of social media a plus or a minus?
5. Is it critical to the position? (For some jobs, you may need someone thoroughly familiar with online sites and procedures; for others, there is no need.)

When Should You Search?

Do your search after the interview but before the offer, or make the offer contingent on passing the check? Before the search, get prior consent from the applicant.

Who Should Search?

“For sure,” says Meyer, a partner with Dilworth Paxson LLP in Philadelphia, “don’t let the person making the hiring decision do the online check.” Consider using:
• A third party
• A member of the HR department
• Another non-decision-maker

How Should You Search?

“The ad hoc approach is stupid,” says Meyer. Be organized about your search:

  • Have a policy.
  • Train people on your policy. (“Hiring managers, resist the temptation to go to Google.”)
  • Develop a checklist. Write out a list of what you want to know, says Meyer.

For example:

• Expressions of hate
• Drug use
• Sexual content
• Disparaging comments about work
• Mean things about customers
• Volume of online activity (updating status every 10 minutes, tweeting every 15)
• Good judgment
• Good writing

The checkers go down the checklist and only the checklist. They don’t report on protected characteristics.

Document your procedure so that you can show consistency in your checking activities.

It only takes a second to make a costly mistake. If you choose to use social media as a source for screening a candidate remember Meyer’s tips, use sound judgment and measure the entire interview process before making an adverse decision based off of what you find on the web.

Young workgroupAs baby-boomers continue to retire, it is more and more obvious that we need to start building a replacement workforce. When previous experience doesn’t exist, think about hiring for behaviors and teaching skills.

Some of the areas you might explore include the candidate’s school record. Many high schools will share information about the student’s attendance in class and grades. Ask candidates for names of teachers who can verify their participation and ability to learn new things.

Another area to explore is participation in extra-curricular activities such as scouts, sports and volunteering. If the candidate has shown an interest in getting involved and committing to participation, this can be a good indication of the ability to work well with others and work towards a common goal.

If the candidate has been working in a different industry, try to verify his/her work history with previous employers. Was the candidate dependable, did he or she follow policies and rules? Was the candidate helpful to others? Is the candidate a job hopper? Did the candidate grow within the position or was the candidate promoted to other departments? Did the candidate express an interest to learn new things? Was the candidate considered an asset in the department? Did the candidate work all assigned overtime? Why did the candidate leave? What was the candidate’s greatest strength and where did he/she need improvement?

These questions can be easily verified by asking the candidate what the previous employer will say. Since many employers will be happy to verify what you already know, ask the candidate to write down answers to a variety of questions and then send the questions off to the previous employer for verification.

Using techniques to help you understand previous behaviors will lead to better hiring decisions in the long-run. Most skills need to be learned and training someone with a solid work ethic will pay off in the long run.


Karla Dobbeck

Karla Dobbeck is a certified professional in Human Resource Management with over 20 years of experience in many aspects of human resource management; including placements, employment law compliance, policy and system design and development, and supervisory and employee training. Her clients include professional & business organizations, privately held companies and associations. To learn more, visit

How to tell candidate is lying picture

Just as you might put on your best clothes, smile, and fib a little to impress a first date, job candidates sometimes do the same thing when trying to get a job. When dating someone new, you don’t get to really know the person until several dates in – when the “honeymoon” phase starts to wear off.

Hiring an employee is the same way except you don’t have very many “dates” to get to know who they really are. It’s important to find if they’re lying to you right away to prevent you from making a bad hire.

A lot of candidates lie

According to the Society of Human Resources Management, 53% of all job applications contain inaccurate information. The Wall Street journal also found that 34% of all application forms contain outright lies about experience, education, and ability to perform essential functions on the job.(1)

And to add the 9% of job applicants who falsely claim they have a college degree, list false employers, or have identified jobs that didn’t exist.(2)

These are some pretty substantial numbers – how are they getting away with this? 

There are a few websites out there that candidates are using to back up their lies. sells fake job references for candidates and boasts the following on their website:

“We will act as your very own human resource department and supervisor using one of ours/or your virtual company. Verifying your name, job title, job description, work dates and answer any questions with a positive reference in a professional, business like manner.”

It gets worse. sells a book on how to “fill in the gaps” on your resume with false information, written by a former recruiter:

“There are a lot of legitimate reasons for writing a fake resume. Perhaps your current job title didn’t properly convey all the duties or responsibilities that you had. Maybe you are unemployed for a period of time. Everyone knows that doesn’t look good on your resume. Did you assist a manager who was incompetent and wouldn’t give you a good reference if his life depended on it? The bottom line is if you know you can do the job, why shouldn’t you fluff up your resume a bit?”

Why shouldn’t you? …Well, maybe personal integrity or ethical standards, to name a couple of reasons.

And if that wasn’t enough, provides fake references as well. They even go as far as claiming:

“If you’re calling us from London, Sydney or even Texas, we’ll assign a voice actor with the appropriate accent to “Fit” that [anywhere in] the World!”

How to combat lying candidates

If their nose isn’t growing and their pants aren’t on fire, it may be hard to identify when someone is lying in an interview. Here’s a few ways you can spot lying candidates:

1. Take your time – ask for the same information in different ways

If a candidate makes claims that seem to good to be true, ask for more details and then ask again a different way. Don’t be afraid to be surprised at an answer. Ask “Did you really do all that?” or “What other help did you have with the project that you haven’t mentioned yet?” Asking about information in multiple ways will help you find flaws in their stories if they’re lying.

2. Use Brad Smart’s “TORC – Threat of Reference Check”

Tell the candidate as the interview starts that you will be confirming all the information you gather in the interview with the candidate’s references. It will make a candidate think twice before lying to you.

3. Ask questions only qualified people would know on your job application

If your candidate is truly qualified for the job, he/she should be able to answer some basic questions about the line of work they’ll be doing. You can even weed them out even before they step in your office by asking job knowledge questions on the job application. For example, if you’re hiring a baker, you may ask:

1. What in chocolate cake makes the cake rise? 

a. Baking soda
b. Yeast
c. Chocolate
d. Flour

If they answer “b. Yeast,” you probably don’t want them cooking in your kitchen. It’s best to put their application in the “NO” pile.

4. Conduct skills testing – make sure they can actually do the job

If they do answer the questions correctly in the application, conduct skills tests to make sure they can actually fulfill the basic job functions. For example, if you’re hiring an accountant, they should be pretty familiar with spreadsheets. Test them on their Excel skills or conduct other skills tests to make sure they can actually do the job, and not just claim that they can.

5. Background checks – a few bucks up front can save you thousands later

We’ve had plenty of candidates tell us that they have nothing on their record, but their background checks say otherwise. It’s better to spend the few bucks up front and find out if they have a history of theft before they start stealing from you.

Always verify candidate information

A bad hire can cost you thousands of dollars (not to mention lots of headaches), so it’s best to do it right the first time. Always conduct background checks and tests on your candidates, and trust your gut if you suspect they’re lying and verify their information.


(2) Resume Inflation: Two Wrongs May Mean No Rights, by Barbara Kat Repa,, 2001

avoid a bad hireEvery owner or manager knows that making a bad hire can be costly and can leave you feeling nervous about hiring again. Smaller companies often have less experience hiring and don’t have dedicated staff knowledgeable in current recruiting and hiring practices. Adding to the hiring jitters, the impact of employee number 10 (or even number 100) is far greater than the impact of employee number 10,000. Hiring is a risky and nerve racking part of being in business.

There a number of ways to reduce the risks and improve the probability that you’ll bring the right person on board.

Here’s how to hire right and avoid making a bad hire:

1)    Write a job description

Focus on the key duties, responsibilities, authorities, and reporting relationships. Be realistic – don’t design a job that requires you to find a “flying mermaid.” Mermaids are rare enough but when you add in the skill of flying – well — you could be looking for a long time.

2)    Build a compensation plan

What can the company realistically afford? Is it possible to find the talent you desire at the compensation plan you can afford? If the answer to the second question is NO – go back to step 1 and re-think the job description.

3)    Meet with all the stakeholders

Is everyone in agreement about the key details of the position? If not, work it out now. Don’t wait for interviews to realize that stakeholders have different ideas about key accountabilities.

4)    Advertise the open position

Writing attractive advertisement that sells the company and the position will help you attract the best candidates. We also recommend creating an EVP, or an Employee Value Proposition, which will help you craft a great offer. Online job boards are some of the best methods of recruitment advertising available. Social media is also being used to attract talent.

5)    Screen the applicants

This is probably the most painful part of the hiring process! Let’s say you get 300 resumes and spend just 5 minutes reviewing each one…it will take you 25 hours to review them all! Is 5 minutes really long enough to know who is worth following up with? Have a reliable, reproducible process to identity top talent. Assign someone who is responsible for initial screening. We recommended using a screening tool or Applicant Tracking System to help you easily identify the best available talent.

6)    Interview – listening is key

Have an interview plan and prepare questions relevant to the job in advance. During the interview, have the candidate talk as much as possible. Never ask yes/no questions and always ask follow up questions. Who’s conducting the interview? What are the criteria you will use to help make your decision?

7)    Do reference checks and appropriate background checks and skills tests

Don’t be shy! Ask people who are in your network that might know the candidates, call past employers, administer skill tests and perform background checks.

8)    Invite your top candidates for a second visit – maybe even a meal

Why? First impressions are great, but in the second interview you can get to know the candidate. Meeting over a meal is more casual and might provide additional insights. You can also discuss specific issues that you learned from reference checks, tests and background checks.

Don’t be surprised if your top candidates also interview you – they want to make sure your company is a great fit for them as well. Remember that the best hires are excited to come on board – give them something to be excited about!

9) Negotiate with your top candidate

Expect to negotiate salary, benefits, vacation etc. with your top candidates. The goal is to come to an amicable agreement that is the starting point for an ongoing, mutually beneficial relationship.

Final Thoughts

Don’t settle for a candidate who you don’t feel confident about. If the candidate makes you uneasy for any reason, trust your gut. Move along to the runner-up and explore other qualified people in the pool. Always have a back-up plan!

What do you do to avoid a bad hire? Leave us a comment and let us know!

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the importance of Checklists. I was asked recently if I had a Checklist for Hiring. I do and here it is:

10 critical things to know before you make an offer.

Ask yourself, Is the person…

1. The “Best Available Talent
2. Legally eligible (has to provide proof!)
3. Reference and background checked
4. Able to work in the place(s) and for the time required
5. Pleased to accept the compensation offered
6. Able to do the work…
a demonstrated capacity (not experience) to do the job
7. Able to learn and adapt
8. Time Horizon minimally acceptable (likely to do the job for x years)
9. Going to get along with others in your environment
(NOT a recommendation for a homogenous environment)
10. Someone you are looking forward to seeing everyday

Love to hear what you think. Did I miss any? Do you disagree with any?

Recent question from a client that I thought might be of general interest: Do you have a format that you typically use for reference checking? What do you typically look for and what is the role of the reference checking in your view? What should not be expected of reference checking?

There are various perspectives on the value of reference checking. Brad Smart, of Topgrading fame, thinks it’s the most important part of the recruiting process. For his perspective you can get “The Smart Interviewer” at Amazon for about $20. Perhaps the most useful tidbit Smart provides is the concept of “TORC” or “Threat Of Reference Check.” Smart argues persuasively that informing candidates at the beginning of the interview that the interviewer will be checking the candidates’ answers with references ensures more truthful responses.

I think it’s important and necessary to check references but not particularly helpful. Mostly we use them in a negative context. We assume that just about any one can find 2 people to say something really nice about them. If references seem hesitant or unsure we may take this as a negative sign. We had a recent case where a client, doing their own reference checks, reported a false reference right at the end of the recruiting process. He checked 4 references for a sales job. Having a hard time reaching the 4th person he asked the candidate for help. The candidate immediately made available her boyfriend using a false name. Needless to say, the candidate didn’t get the job.

So, as a process, I think it’s helpful. You must keep expectations relatively low and you must listen to glowing references with a skeptical ear. If you have a particular concern about a candidate’s suitability for a position it is helpful to question references specifically about that concern in as much detail as possible.

If you do check references make sure you stick to a script that helps you avoided questions that could lead to negligent hiring claims, such as age, race, gender, and disability issues. Almost more than candidates themselves, references may be sensitive to these issues and report back to the candidate.

Here’s a link to the Reference Check Template that we use a NewHire. Feel free to make use of it. And don’t hesitate to ask me for help, if you need it.

TurduckenWe’re often asked, “What can we ask, what can’t we ask, when it comes to background checks.” I’m always concerned that my answers sound “fuzzy.” My concern is alleviated. Not that I have an answer, but that the answer truly is fuzzy.

From today’s New York Times comes an article about an appeals court case involving background checks for employees of the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, CA.

It turns out that privacy law, when applied to pre-employment fact checking, has been called a “Turducken,” by a prominent appeals court judge in San Francisco.

For those you not in the “culinary know,” a Turducken combines 3 deboned fowl stuffed one inside another: a chicken stuffed in a duck stuffed in a Turkey. I’ve never tasted it though I’d like too one day (I just don’t want to put in the effort myself).

For this judge the description was about what a “mash-up” employment law is when it comes to privacy. He hopes the Supreme Court will take up the issue to provide clear guidance.

Our advice to clients remains the same for now:

1. Make sure that any check you do is relevant to job performance
2. If you’re not willing to deny a candidate employment based on the result, don’t do the check. (You’re just wasting time and money.)
3. By law, you must share negative results that have an adverse consequence with the candidate.

The Fake Reference

Chuck Smith —  September 22, 2009 — 1 Comment

On the verge of offering the candidate a job, our client checked one last reference. Unable to reach the named “previous manager,” our client called the candidate. In turn, the candidate produced the reference in minutes.

Only problem was that the caller ID for the manager was the SAME one the candidate had called from!  You got it… the boyfriend impersonated the manager.

fake references can be avoided by checking references


When our client asked about the name on the caller ID, the boyfriend stammered, stalled and hung up.

Needless to say, when our client called the candidate to offer some “good news,” the candidate never called back, ever.

Lesson: check references and be wary!