Background Checks: Go Straight to the Source

The internet has, without a doubt, made our lives easier. We can stay connected to friends and family through the convenience of email and social media sites like MySpace and Facebook, and information on just about anything we want to know is a few key strokes away with search engines like Google and Yahoo.

There are, however, obvious inconveniences to the internet. Some argue that we, as a society, are too connected, and the ease with which someone can find information on another person can prove detrimental. Employers need to be especially careful when using the internet as an added measure of checking into an employees’ background, particularly when including it as part of the screening process when interviewing new employees.

Using the internet as a background checking tool is dangerous territory for a host of reasons. Cases of mistaken identity, fake profiles and incorrect information are just a few. Plus, once the information is discovered, it can sometimes be hard to “unring the bell” and move past the uncovered information and onto hiring someone in an unbiased way. The potential employee should also be given the opportunity to explain the information that is found, but that may also result in some legal grey area, as there are no known laws at the present time pertaining to Internet searches or forbidding how an employer can use information found on the web in its employment decisions.

The smartest and safest way for you as an employer is to go through a third party if using the Internet as an extra measure of checking into a possible employees’ background. A third party is typically used to conduct background checks, and information obtained from the Internet may fall under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which ensures that information acquired from consumer reporting agencies is as accurate as possible.

Despite the fact that it may be easy to find copious amounts of information on potential employees, try and stay away from protected characteristics and use only job-related factors toward making your decision whether or not the person is a good candidate for your business. But background checks should not do all the work.

The fledgling economy has forced some people who are looking for work to become desperate, and they resort to embellishing their resume or even flat-out lying in order to move ahead of fellow candidates in order to get hired. The best practice is to go straight to the source. Try to weed out inconsistencies and untruths during the interview process. A candidate’s work history may not be fully outlined on their resume. Ask if the candidate has had any jobs not listed on their resume. If the answer is yes, pay close attention to the start and end dates they provide. This gives you the opportunity to piece together inconsistencies, and if there are some, you know this is perhaps not the candidate for your company.

Multiple interviews also provide opportunities to spot inconsistencies. Is the candidate giving the same answer every time? Someone who habitually lies generally has a difficult time keeping their facts straight. Providing overly generalized answers to specific questions isn’t a good sign either.

Try and get into specifics about previous jobs that are listed on the candidate’s resume. Someone may say their title had them at a higher level and pay grade than they actually were. Ask for names of supervisors. References are right up there with background checks. They add an extra measure of truth. The more specific you are as an interviewer, and the more specific the candidate is with the information he or she provides only seeks to benefit all parties involved in terms of filling the position.