Management Tip: Reference Checks

Much information regarding an applicant's past will come not from a criminal background check, but from traditional employment reference checks. In order for reference checks to be accurate and therefore effective it is important that the employer ensure that applicants properly complete application forms and that no information requested is omitted. Develop, with the assistance of legal counsel or your risk manager, an information release authorization form to be signed by applicants. This form, if properly constructed, will allow for verification of all information on the application, information gained through the interview process and authorization for obtaining criminal checks.

Former employers are often wary of releasing this information and are inclined to only give the employment equivalent of "name, rank and serial number," but the applicant's authorization for release of information should give former employers the comfort level to disclose more complete and useful information. Requests to prior employers should include the individual's past disciplinary record and job performance, customer and/or co-worker complaints, and the reason for employment termination. If at all possible, references, work histories and credentials should always be checked and verified at the primary source. Remember to document in writing and retain all information obtained regarding the applicant, including verbal employment references.

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