By Lester Rosen, ESR President
At the end of Part 1 of this blog, the question arose from some hiring managers as to whether automated reference services like Checkster could replace the type of employment verifications performed by background firms.
The short answer is no. Although services from Checkster and similar firms can be extremely valuable, they are done earlier in the time line of the hiring process. Background checks are done near the end of the time line. Traditional background checks and Checkster type services can compliment each other, but they serve different purposes. They are different tools for different functions.
First, Checkster type services occur in the talent sourcing and selection stages. Background checks, by comparison, occur only AFTER a tentative decision has been reached. In other words, Checkster type services are used to decide who to focus on out of a pool of candidates, while a background check seeks to assist an employer in exercising due diligence by examining if there is any reason NOT to hire someone that an employer has potentially targeted for employment.
Although a Checkster type service will obviously also help to eliminate some candidates from consideration in the early stages based upon the results of the third-party reference and assessment provided to employers, there is a fundamental difference between an email-based reference service and the role of a background firm.
The whole idea behind due diligence as a legal defense is independent factual verification.
For example, background firms do not take the applicant’s word for whether the past employer even existed. A background firm will typically independently verify that the past employer existed as well as verify that the phone number is real, independent of what the applicant contends. Even if past references are contacted for evaluation purposes by email, the task of verifying the truthfulness and accuracy of the employment history still requires a screening firm to independently obtain information from past employers.
Another advantage to an employer utilizing traditional background checking techniques is that the employer has a powerful argument in front of a jury in the event of a lawsuit for negligent hiring that they excised due diligence. The background firm’s efforts to manually verify the existence of a past employer, and then to verify that the applicant in fact worked there, is one of the most important and powerful due diligence tools in the employment process. By knowing where a person had been, an employer is able to eliminate any unexplained gaps in employment, and to also know where to search for potential criminal records. It is a well-known fact among due diligence professionals that verifying where a person has worked is just as important, and in some cases more important, than checking for criminal records. A criminal record can occasionally slip through the cracks, but an unexplained gap in employment creates a red flag that may prompt an employer to do further research.
If an employer is sued for negligent hiring, it is also questionable whether an employer can demonstrate due diligence if they let job seekers pick and choose which references were contacted. There is also the possibility of a fake or set-up reference, or an applicant creating a fake identity, and having the bogus ones “verified.” Checkster certainly takes step to minimize the possibility of fraud. However, in the final analysis, there is no substitute for the hard work of manual checks. By manually verifying the existence of past employers, and verifying dates of employment in order to reveal gaps in employment, an employer is taking the final due diligence steps needed before making a hiring decision final.
Employment verifications by a background firm are typically conducted in a call center environment in high volume by callers who are used to verifying factual information about an applicant’s employment history. Given the highly sophisticated software and databases as well as expertise that screening firms bring to the process of manual verification, a substantial number of such checks are completed within three working days.
The bottom-line is risk management. Although these email assessment tools are an excellent means of providing an in-depth assessment about a candidate during the decision-making stage, the traditional background check complement them for the final candidates and provides the demonstrable due diligence that can be used as a legal defense if there is a negligent hire lawsuit.
Conclusion: In the never ending efforts by employers to identify candidates that are a good fit and qualified, a new internet tool has been developed to allow employers to utilize email to accelerate the process of obtaining references and assessments from past supervisors and others that know the applicant. Questions have arisen as to how such a tool is related to the background screening process that employers utilize in order to exercise due diligence. In fact, the two processes, although related in some ways, are entirely separate workflows that occur at different times in the hiring process and for different reasons.
Internet based references can be utilized by an employer to whittle down the field of candidates and to help an employer decide whom to hire. Background checks occur after an employer has made a tentative decision, and needs to determine whether there is any reason NOT to hire an applicant.
When past employment checks are done as part of the background check process, the purpose is to verify that the employer actually exists and to independently verify the core details of employment, such as job title and dates. In other words, there is a large difference between obtaining references, which are a qualitative measure of an applicant’s fit and abilities, and factual verification of an applicant’s employment history, which is a critical due diligence task. Both processes can be useful in the quest to select the best candidates to hire and to avoid bad choices.
For more information about background checks and employment verifications, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.