Why Background and Reference Checks Matter

According to Business Insider, 31% of people admit to lying on their resume.

Have you been watching the tension-filled USA show Suits? The plot centers around Mike, a really smart guy with a photographic memory who constantly lives in fear of being caught in a huge lie. He’s read all the law school books and even posed as other law school graduates to take and pass the bar for them. At his new firm, he’s a very effective, well-meaning attorney, with one little catch–he himself never finished law school or passed the bar! What an outlandish premise for a TV show! Something like that could never happen at your office…right?

Think again. According to MarketWatch.com’s consumer fraud reporter Priya Anand, several convincing liars have fooled some pretty big-name employers. Among the recent fiends listed are Bausch & Lomb’s now-retired CEO, Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s dean of admissions, and Walmart’s top spokesman. (Click here to read the shocking truth about the big-shots who lied on their resumes, and some who got away with it for decades.)

If big companies like these can be fooled, how can smaller organizations with less resources be sure which candidates are being truthful? The answer has nothing to do with the size of the company, but rather with how thoroughly employers conduct reference and background checks. In any of the cases above, had the companies run an education background search, they would’ve uncovered the truth, which is why we always recommend to our candidates that honesty is always the best policy!

As an employer conducting a background check, you have many options available to you. A background check is like an a la carte menu: You can choose from categories such as criminal, civil, county, education, DMV, and more. If it’s very important to you that your new employee possess a certain degree, then you ought to go to the expense of checking that area.

We weren’t too surprised when BusinessInsider.com asserted that 80% of resumes are misleading. Many years ago, we ourselves learned that lesson the hard way. One of our clients needed help recruiting a CPA, so we conducted a search and presented several candidates. The company selected one, and we ran the basic background check on him. He came back clean and immediately went to work for the company. Several months later, someone within the company began questioning the new employee’s credentials. It turned out the man had lied on his resume and was not actually qualified to be a CPA. Needless to say, we replaced him at no charge, but it was a costly lesson for both us and our client.

Yes, candidates have been known to lie, about things like drug tests as well as education, skills, DMV record, and more. Human nature, if left unchecked, tends to show its worst side. But, employers, you can minimize the damage by conducting thorough background and reference checks, or having your staffing partner run them for you. If you need help finding top talent for your open positions, call us. We’ve learned a lot about the hiring process in the last 55 years and are especially good at filtering out candidates who aren’t a good match.

For a step-by-step guide on how to conduct reference checks, click here.

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