The Case for Reference Checks

Recently we wrote about Federal Criminal Records. Within that article we said:

“If you do not currently order federal criminal records, ensure that you perform reference checks. Given that most federal criminal records tend to be more serious, your applicant may have spent some quality time in a federal facility and there will be gaps in their employment history.”

There are several crucial reasons you should check references:

  • You may obtain negative information not elsewhere available
  • You may obtain positive information not elsewhere available
  • You demonstrate Due Diligence – even when the information you receive is limited

Obtaining Negative Information Not Elsewhere Available

We recently spoke with an employer that obtained criminal records but did no reference checking. This can lead to hiring someone with a clear criminal record, but someone you would not have hired had you known the whole story. If you had a driver employee who was drunk on the job, or had an employee who you discovered was pilfering from you, would you call the Police and attempt to have them arrested and charged—or would you just terminate the employee? In these cases, many times the employee is terminated—not charged with a crime, and thus while their criminal record may be clear, there might be a better candidate for hire.

Obtaining Positive Information Not Elsewhere Available

It is not a good thing to have a permanent population of unemployable individuals because of a mistake or mistakes made in their past. You may order a criminal record that contains an offense or offenses, but by performing reference checks discover that since the offenses, the individual has been a model employee. Checking references could you lead you to hire that model employee that you otherwise would not have.

Demonstrate Due Diligence—Even When the Information is Limited

Some employers do not do employment verifications because they believe they will not get much information—just “name, rank and serial number.” While most employers will at least indicate whether the employee left voluntarily or involuntarily and whether they are eligible for rehire, some employers are stingy with information. However, asking for employment verifications does show you attempted due diligence. The “negligent hiring doctrine” imposes an obligation on employers to “assess the nature of the job, its degree of risk to third parties, and then perform a reasonable background investigation to ensure the applicant is competent and fit for duty.” So even if you don’t get much information from a past employer, the attempt itself can help negate liability.

If you do not do employment verifications, we would recommend you do so. If it is important to the job, we would recommend you also perform education verifications. As one goes under the knife for surgery at the hospital, all of us hope the hospital verified the surgeon’s employment and education history. And further (as VICTIG does when performing education verifications for our clients) verified the educational institution to ensure the MD degree was not obtained for $19.99 on the internet.

VICTIG can perform employment and education verifications on your behalf. We’re good at it. We have sample templates of questions you may customize to your needs. We will follow your guidelines. For example, we will only contact an applicant’s current employer at your request and will not ask about salary if so instructed.

Call us if you would like to discuss what we can do for you.

Membership has it’s Privileges, but VICTIG Does More

I won’t belong to any association that would have me as a member ~ Groucho Marx

Like many of you in your line of work, there is an association of companies that do what we do—background screening. Our association is called the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA), previously known as the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) and founded in the early 2000s. VICTIG has been a (proud) member since our inception.

Something that makes stand out is being part of a small, elite group that is PBSA Accredited.

Several years ago, PBSA developed a standard of best practices (and practices to avoid) and codified them into a comprehensive program requiring extensive written policy and procedure. PBSA has contracted with an independent auditing firm to review all policies and procedures and perform an onsite audit to ensure compliance with what is written.

In 2019, VICTIG went through this process, and in early January of 2020, PBSA announced that VICTIG had been awarded PBSA Accreditation. The press release can be found here.

And while we may be patting ourselves on the back a little, what’s more important is what this means to you and your applicants and employees. The rigorous onsite audit, by the independent auditing firm, examined our written policies and compliance with six critical areas:

  • Consumer Protection
  • Legal Compliance
  • Client Education
  • Product Standards
  • Service Standards
  • General Business Practices

Thus, when using VICTIG, you can know that the private information you provide to us is protected with the latest and most stringent IT protocols. VICTIG complies with all regulations and legal best practices. We provide information to assist you with your legal compliance and changing laws and best practices. We have an extensive quality control program for every product and our internal business practices are best in class.

PBSA Accreditation is not a “lifetime achievement” status. There is an interim audit every three years and the entire process must be repeated anew every five years. VICTIG is committed to continuing the practices and documentation to maintain PBSA Accreditation.

So, unlike Groucho, we are proud members of PBSA, but we are prouder still of our accreditation status and what it means to you as you entrust us as your screening partner.

You can find an overview of PBSA Accreditation on the PBSA site here: