Contact References and Conduct a Background Check

Business owners should take the time to conduct a background check and contact a candidate’s references. Background checks are inexpensive to perform, typically costing between $25 and $100, and identify “red flags” that allow a company to avoid making an expensive hiring mistake. By performing a basic background check, employers can steer clear of candidates with criminal or other high-risk backgrounds. Although a few states ban the practice, conducting credit checks on job candidates (which legally require the candidates’ written permission) also can be quite revealing, giving employers insight into candidates’ dependability and trustworthiness. A recent study by the Society of Human Resource Managers reports that 60 percent of employers get credit reports as part of some or all of their background checks.

Checking potential employees’ social networking pages such as Facebook and LinkedIn also can provide a revealing look at their character. A study by CareerBuilder reports that 37 percent of employers investigate job candidates’ social networking sites and that 34 percent have discovered something there that caused them to reject a candidate.

Although many business owners see checking references as a formality and pay little attention to it, others realize the need to protect themselves (and their customers) from hiring unscrupulous workers. Is it really necessary? Yes! According to a survey of hiring professionals, 53 percent of candidates either exaggerate or falsify information on their resumes. Yahoo Inc. recently fired its CEO just five months after hiring him when the company’s board of directors discovered that his resume contained false information about his academic credentials. Checking references thoroughly can help employers uncover false or exaggerated information. Rather than contacting only the references listed, experienced employers call applicants’ previous employers and talk to their immediate supervisors to get a clear picture of the applicant’s job performance, character, and work habits.

Many employers implement a probationary “trial” period for new hires that may range from two weeks to several months. Doing so increases the probability that the company has found the right person for the job. After two weeks on the job at Whole Foods Market, team members of new hires vote on whether to keep the new employees or to let them go.

Experienced small business owners understand that the hiring process provides them with one of the most valuable raw materials their companies count on for success—capable, hard- working people. They know that hiring an employee is not a single event but rather the beginning of a long-term relationship.