It’s no surprise, but the unfortunate reality is that not everyone tells the truth on their employment application. A company’s goal is to create a team of trustworthy employees, while protecting the reputation and integrity. Background checks can be one of the most important tools in the arsenal for ensuring candidates are providing true and accurate history – from sources other than the candidates themselves.

We’ve likely all had the experience of some form of background check at one stage or another in the employment process. The process allows employers to identify the qualifications of the prospective employee by contacting former educational institutions, former employers and supervisors and gathering important knowledge of the individual’s skills, character and knowledge base. Screening at pre-employment, on an annual review schedule, or when prompted by an event are all common triggers for a company to initiate a background check. These efforts help the businesses make qualified and educated decisions to hire and retain qualified employees. A thorough background check goes beyond the typical reference check, and a Google search or social media search are no longer sufficient to protect the interests of today’s companies. After all, most states make it unlawful for an individual to provide a negative reference of a former employee. And most people will list friends who will surely provide a glowing review if contacted. So, why are these pre-screening steps so important?

Human capital is a company’s most expensive investment, and hiring and onboarding processes are time consuming and costly. By investing in thorough screening early in the hiring process, a company can save themselves from pricey mistakes. Imagine a candidate who is an extraordinary interviewee, very charming and full of personality. They complete the interview process and highly impress the hiring manager. The company decides to make the candidate an offer and forgo any background investigation, basing their decision on just a few meetings with the prospective employee. An advanced pre-employment background check could reveal if the applicant had falsified any of their information, distorted their employment history, tried to hide a possible criminal record or conviction, or other serious historical event which may have precluded the company from hiring them. This simple step could save the company and its team members from not just frustration and headache, but also protect against liability claims and confirm compliance with local, state, federal, or industry regulations.

Another important “why” is safety. Background checks can help limit potential future legal liability. What if this candidate had past issues with sexual harassment or workplace violence? Or a negligent driving history that could affect the company’s insurance premiums. Or they have previously been discovered stealing or embezzling money from an employer. Having the power of this knowledge provides both the security of knowing that the candidate is not likely to bring harm to the organization, but also the confidence that you’ve performed with diligence in protecting the organization and its team members from potential harm. Some industries, like healthcare, child care, education and public transportation are required by federal or state law to require a background check be conducted on all prospective employees. Driving history could also be important for potential employees that may operate a company vehicle, or anyone who may drive while conducting company business.

So, what does a truly adequate background check provide? A thorough screening authenticates the applicant’s educational history, credentials, employment history, and ensures the applicant not only meets the job qualifications, but also provides insight into their reliability and character. If you thought lying on an application or resume can’t be all that common, take this survey by which found that 1 in 3 people admitted lying on their resume and job application. And these lies aren’t always “little white” ones. According to Checkster (2020), applicants most often lie:

  • about being proficient at a certain skill set including computer skills or foreign language skills;
  • about having a higher GPA than earned;
  • by omitting negative or missing employment history;
  • about attending or earning a degree from a school or university that they did not earn or attend;
  • by falsifying their position or responsibilities in a previous position.

It is important to your company’s culture that you ensure the applicant is representing their character in an accurate manner. Researching social media, checking personal references, and looking for trends in the employee’s past are all things that can help an employer glean valuable information on the character of the candidate.

And the simplest “why” of them all. A diligent screening can confirm that you’re hiring the right fit for the job. By conducting a thorough reference check, employers can determine who is exaggerating their skillset on an application or in an interview. Past job performance is typically indicative of how a potential employee will perform on the job. By digging deep into employment history, you can gain perspective on the productivity of a promising employee.

Employers should take care to ensure that background investigations comply with all applicable Equable Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws. Omitting the background check to save money doesn’t always equate if the wrong candidate becomes an employee. By hiring a licensed and experienced investigative firm to perform the background and reference screening, you can ensure the check is not only ethically and professionally completed, but you’ll rest easy knowing you made the right hiring decision for your company.