If you’re a business owner, you surely concern yourself with the quality of your employees as a top priority. But the résumé and the interview, while valuable tools, only tell part of the story. After all, both are forms of self-presentation: one premeditated and textual, one performative and personal. They each give you part of the picture. Though being good at interviews does tell you something in itself about the employee’s abilities to think quickly, he or she is still choosing how to present themselves.
It’s hardly unreasonable or inappropriate to want an unfiltered look at those whom you wish you hire. Qualities in an employee such as orneriness, laziness, or especially dishonesty, can end up costing your business real money. Don’t feel guilty about doing your homework. Here are some practical pointers:
1. Ask for references. Then call them.
You’d be amazed how many employers merely use references as a hoop for applicants to jump through, or check them for accuracy and not much else. A reference is an invaluable opportunity for you to interview a third party about the employee’s record and qualities. In fairness, you should take any negative comments from a previous employer with a grain of salt (in business, as in romance, break-ups are often messy even when both parties are perfectly upright). But it helps fill in the picture, and that’s what you want to do.
2. Take advantage of social networking.
You’ve probably heard in the news lately that some employers are asking for employees’ Facebook passwords and the like. While that seems distastefully intrusive, you should follow the digital trail and find out all you can without crossing certain privacy boundaries. Do a Google search for “their name” in quotes and click around. Make sure you’ve got the right one if they have a common name. Look them up on Facebook directly. If they’ve protected their info from non-friends, so much the better, and respect that boundary: that shows the type of conscientiousness that will serve you well.
3. Consider hiring the pros.
Many third-party companies exist to facilitate formal background checks for employers. The law on this varies by state, but generally you’ll need job candidates to sign a waiver giving written consent. The investigators will then aggregate all the publicly available records about the applicant: criminal record, credit history, vehicle registrations, school transcripts, court records, drivers license histories, and past employers (including ones that might not have made the cut on the résumé for whatever reason).
Depth of background checking is obviously more crucial for some positions than others. Not everyone is applying to be a CIA agent, or a jet pilot, or even a daycare instructor, but it never hurts to have more information. Even if it costs you a little in time or fees up front, it may save a good deal of money and improve productivity in the long run.
Working for one of the best background check companies, Jane Smith offers insight and advice on the subject through her blogs. She welcomes you to email her your questions, comments or concerns at [email protected].