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Who Are You Really Hiring?

Remember "To Tell the Truth"?

On this popular TV game show, a panel of celebrities squared-off against three contestants who all claimed to have the same occupation--when in reality, two contestants were imposters. The celebrities had to ask questions and sift through the imposters' lies, to figure out which contestant was actually telling the truth.

Does your hiring process ever feel a little bit like this game show--but with higher stakes?

In today's job market, competition is tougher than ever. As a result, more and more candidates are lying--embellishing résumés, giving false answers during interviews, even hiding prior criminal activity--to get hired. How do you separate the good from the bad?

These days, checking references is simply not enough. To protect your company and make the best hiring decisions, you must conduct thorough background checks 100% of the time. Implemented properly, background checks can:
  • Increase applicant quality
  • Prevent workplace violence
  • Minimize negligent hiring liability
  • Reduce employee dishonesty losses--namely fraud, theft and crime
  • Reduce turnover rates, by making the right hire the first time
Here are a few guidelines to ensure your background checks are thorough, legal and effective:

  • Get detailed information upfront. A background check will be based, in part, on information provided by the applicant. Incomplete information can cause processing delays and oversights. Make sure you obtain:
    • Aliases and former names
    • Work locations
    • Specific campus information, if the applicant attended a state college
    • Birth date and social security number
    • Names of supervisors and co-workers (these contacts are frequently less restrictive in the information they will divulge)
  • Beware of "instant" public records. Relying on "instant" public records for background checks is risky, because the information contained in these databases is often not fact-checked, cleaned-up or refreshed very often. Remember--as the employer, it is up to you to make sure the information you use is current and accurate.

  • Pay only for the information you need. Background-checking companies encourage you to purchase every piece of information they have on a potential employee--and charge a lot for these details. Make sure you only purchase the information you need to conduct a thorough review.

  • Use the web. While a Google search is not necessarily a trustworthy source of information (anyone can post anything they want about a person on a social networking site), you can and should supplement your background checks with a web search. The web, particularly professional networking sites like LinkedIn, can provide insight into who the person is; whom they associate with professionally; and what types of things they're working on, blogging about, or interested in.

  • Keep background checks consistent and relevant. To eliminate potential bias, use the same background checking procedures and tools for all candidates for the same job. Furthermore, make sure you can establish a clear connection between the background checks you use and the basic requirements for the job.

  • Comply with FCRA. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, your small business is required to have employees sign a disclosure form granting authorization to perform a background check. In addition, if you make a hiring decision based on information found in a background check, you must inform the job seeker of the source used for the background checks. Laws vary from state to state (in how and what information can be used during the pre-employment screening process), so be sure to understand and follow those applicable to your location. For more information, visit

  • Comply with ADA. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers are restricted in using medical or disability data in the hiring process. Simply put, if your business employs 15 or more people, you cannot ask about a person's disabilities during the interview or background check. For more information, visit

  • Hire experts for background checks. One way to effectively minimize your company's risks and increase applicant quality is by hiring a staffing service to manage part or all of your screening process. As experts in pre-employment screening, staffing firms can:
    • eliminate the time and headaches associated with background checks;
    • ensure nondiscriminatory hiring practices are followed;
    • conduct additional pre-employment screening, such as skills testing and drug screens, to ensure the right candidates are hired the first time.