Do Your Homework in Choosing the Right Person for the Job


When considering job applicants, “do your best thinking upfront,” suggests Ivan Gordon, vice president of ATS Professional Services in Jacksonville, Fla.

This may save your company from bad hiring decisions. It could even avert a lawsuit.

“There are some fairly simple and inexpensive ways to check who these applicants are, so you can stand up in court, if necessary, and say, ‘Look, I took the following steps. I did my due diligence,’ ” said Craig Chretien, managing director of IPSA International, a Los Angeles-based risk mitigation service and the former assistant administrator of intelligence with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Establish uniform prescreening policies and communicate them to your agents and employees. Be as thorough researching the backgrounds of known candidates (such as friends of company employees) as you would be for unfamiliar applicants, said Vivian Golub, president of Ariel Consulting in San Jose.


Build a reputation for doing thorough, accurate background checks.

“You’ll be sending a message out, and people who might scam you will go somewhere else,” said Elaine Carey, head of West Coast operations for Control Risks Group in Los Angeles.

Tailor the investigations to the positions. Conduct more exhaustive checks for job applicants who handle money or other valuables; have contact with the public; enter private homes; have access to confidential data, controlled substances and drugs; or serve as caregivers for children, the elderly or vulnerable adults.

Document each step of the investigation. Verify educational degrees, professional licenses and certifications.

Call former employers for dates of employment, positions held, salary range, performance, character/integrity, eligibility for rehire and reason for termination. Even if these employers refuse to provide this information, be sure to record your inquiries and their responses.

When speaking to references, request the names of other individuals familiar with the job applicants. Then call this second round of referrals, Golub said.

Ask former employees whether they know where the employee went next.

“Many times you’ll learn about jobs not on the resume,” said Nancy Smith, president of ACS Data Search in Overland Park, Kan.


During the interview process, have more than one individual, including an applicant’s potential peer, interview the job seeker, said Tim Fargo, president of Omega Insurance Services in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“You’d be surprised how, when someone perceives somebody else as an equal, they say a lot more,” he said.

Have a knowledgeable supervisor in the hiring department pose questions designed to determine whether the applicant has knowledge and skills for the job, said David Lewis, president of Operations in Stamford, Conn.

Ask important questions more than once, but word them differently, Gordon said.

“If people answer slightly differently each time, they may not be being truthful,” he said.

To reduce risk of invasion-of-privacy lawsuits, obtain written authorization from applicants to verify representations made on their applications and resumes, and to investigate their backgrounds.

Lois Kosch, attorney at San Diego-based Wilson Petty Kosmo & Turner, recommends that at the end of the application, you include a clause for the candidate to read and sign that says: “I understand that any misrepresentation, falsification or omission of information may result in my failure to receive an employment offer or in my termination.”


Consider outsourcing background checks to companies specializing in them. They can keep you from viewing data (such as arrests, marital status, etc.) that can’t be considered in your employment decision. Charges for background checks typically run $10 to $150 a search.

Avert Inc. (, HRPlus ( and Choicepoint (https://www.choice are three such firms.

But third-party checkers cannot shield you from liability if errors are made during the fact-checking process that result in the applicant’s wrongful denial of a job.

You also can use online services to research and verify applicants’ past employment and addresses, credit history (if relevant) and criminal records. Four sites that offer such services are at;,, and

Most important, don’t ignore any suspicious information that turns up during your background check, such as multiple address changes, conflicting dates of employment and extended absences from the work force.

Don’t make a job offer until you’ve completed your background research and are satisfied with the results. Rushing to extend a job offer, without completing diligent pre-employment screening, translates into trouble.


“In my experience, a lot of companies do this and then, when the background check is completed, say, ‘Now what are we going to do? We’re stuck,’ ” said Bob Turk, an attorney with Gunster Yoakley in Miami.