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Are reference checks a waste of time?

by on
in Employment Background Check,Human Resources

Q. We are re-examining our applicant screening process. One idea we’re considering is eliminating calling previous employers for reference checks. We haven’t found those calls to be very helpful, because most former employers will only confirm dates of employment and job title. Is this a good idea?

A. The former employers are only doing what their attorneys are advising them to do when responding to a reference check. Most employers consider the risk and benefits and determine that they will only confirm dates of employment and previous job titles.

Even so, I wouldn’t recommend discontinuing your practice of calling previous employers. Despite the fact that you generally only get dates of employment and previous job titles, it still is a worthwhile process to go through.

You may be surprised at the number of people who will lie on their applications about their employment histories. Plus, every once in a while, a former employer will be willing to provide some additional information—especially when they have strong positive or negative feelings.

Even if the only information you obtain is dates of em­­ployment and job title, that information may still prove to be valuable.

Also, if you ever have to defend a negligent hiring claim, you will be glad you documented your efforts to obtain information about previous employment.

Carefully document your efforts, even if the information you obtain simply confirms the information provided to you by the applicant.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Deepa September 18, 2013 at 4:47 am
Donald J Dymer February 6, 2012 at 8:09 am

45 states provide immunity for employers giving references that are not good, provided that it is not ma;icious and/or with intent to prevent them from obtaining a new job. It is even possible that if an employer knows that a past employee poses a threat, that past employee may be named in any negligent hiring lawsuit if they were asked about it and failed to disclose. The question whether a past employee is suitable for rehire is a total waste of time and no inference can be taken from it – many comnpanies have “no-rehire” policies.
The question to ask is “Is there any reason you know of why we should moy hire this individual?” And of course document, document, document!!!

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