Your latest candidate has an amazing resume, is interviewing well, and has a LinkedIn profile with several positive recommendations from previous colleagues. You’re ready to show them to their desk, right now. But how do you know that all of their documents contain genuine information? It’s easier than ever to supply a falsified employment record. In fact, an ethical standards research study conducted by Checkster recently showed that up to 78% of candidates have lied or say they would lie during the hiring process. . Luckily, there are tools to help you spot these forgeries when they come across your desk. Thorough and properly conducted reference checks and previous employment verification can be your secret weapons to making smarter hiring decisions for your company.

Employment Verification Vs. Reference Checking

“Employment Verification” and “Reference Check” are two terms which are often used interchangeably. The truth is that each describes a distinct process, both of which function to produce a similar result: that is, accurate information about your candidate’s employment history and job performance. The precise information provided through each operation will differ, but each is important and should be utilized to verify you’re welcoming the right candidate into your organization.

The basic difference between these two methods is confirmation versus quality. An employment verification affirms and details the essential facts about your candidate’s previous jobs, while a reference check will build upon that information and give you critical insight into the intangible aspects of your potential employee’s performance.

Previous Employment Verification:

  • Confirms timeline of employment.
  • Confirms job title.
  • Provides ending pay rate (if that is legally allowed by state laws)
  • Provides the candidate’s reason for leaving.
  • Garners job eligibility; whether or not the previous company would rehire the candidate.

Typically, a hiring company only contacts the candidate’s HR division for employment verification.

A Reference Check:

  • Demonstrates work ethic.
  • Details candidate’s role at previous company, and ability to perform said role.
  • Provides insight into candidate’s personality.
  • Provides confirmation of particular skills
  • Indicates behavior, and potential for future behavior.
  • Indicates cultural fit.
  • Can include information on dates of working together at a specific company

A reference check is a much broader investigation, and sources may include manager, supervisors, coworkers,, and instructors. Some organizations opt for also taking character references, which most reference check providers also offer. These focus on family members, friends and community members.

A third term which is mistakenly equivocated with the previous two is “Background Check.” This option investigates a wide range of information based on the parameters of the hiring company, such as criminal records, previous employers, education, motor vehicle and license records, etc. In most cases, your organization will only receive bare-bones facts using this method however the information could be critical to your hiring decision.

Employment Verification and Reference Check Best Practices

Your organization will get the most out of these simple — but crucial — steps in the hiring process by having easy-to-follow procedures in place to manage and simplify the process, and by considering these best practices.

For Reference Checking:

Check references earlier – The general consensus is that the ideal time in the hiring process to submit a reference check is after the organization has extended a conditional offer of employment. In fact, this renders the check fairly useless, and the recruiter is often using short, cursory conversations to “check the box”, missing out on important information about the candidate. It is to your benefit to screen candidates early using reference checks, weeding out fraudulent or unfit potentials before they take up too much of you or your hiring manager’s time.

Document conversations – Reference checks can and should provide a wealth of information about your candidate. If you’re still calling references, be sure to write down peripheral as well as critical information exchanged during the conversation about the candidate. Record the references relationship to the candidate, their position, the date, and other job-related information received. To expedite this aspect (and many other aspects) of reference checking, it can be useful to employ an automated reference checking solution, such as Checkster’s Reference Insights.

Keep it conversational – Avoid asking overly-specific questions which may be taken as discriminatory or leading. At the same time, avoid asking questions which can be answered simply with “úyes’ or “úno’. Instead, ask open-ended job-oriented questions which can be answered as narrative. For example, “What was it like working with”‘ It’s also important to be extremely consistent in your questions from check to check to avoid candidate bias. All of this is a lot to balance when doing checks manually, but is easily covered with digital reference checks using templated surveys that were written and verified by I/O psychologists for gathering accurate, quality information on each candidate.

For Employment Verification:

Proceed with caution – Be absolutely transparent in your EV practice with the candidate. Always receive verbal or written consent before contacting a prior employer: it is possible that the candidate has not alerted their current workplace of their impending departure, and a call from your organization could sour their relationship, as well as your own with the candidate.

Confirm contact information – Sometimes applicants will provide references which are colloquially known as “set-up verifications”: a phone number touted as belonging to an employer might actually be a friend posing as a previous supervisor. Take the time to independently validate the contact information through an online source to avoid receiving a fabricated employment validation. Check local employment laws to ensure the questions you are asking are legal.  Additionally check with your legal department about FCRA when it relates to employment verification. They may want you to provide a copy of the results to the candidate.

Unfortunately, this can occur with reference checks as well. There are even companies set up solely to provide reference fabrication! The best way to avoid falling into these traps is to use a tool like Reference Insights, which employs an automatic, multi-check and alert system to catch these fakes. Checkster clients find, on average, over 4% of their checked references turn out to be fraudulent (faked).

Utilize a tandem background check – Employment verification is critical, but can be additionally bolstered by a simultaneous background check. An EV on its own is the simplest solution, however it can be subject to human error and fabrication. The best tool that currently exists for employment verification is the Work Number.  Background checks can give concrete validation to your candidate’s claims, and provide you with other important information such as a criminal record.

In general:

Utilize multiple solutions – The more information you have, the better. Employment verification + background checks can give you a wealth of crucial information about your candidate, and thorough reference checking will give you insight into the nuances and intangible factors of your candidate’s potential and employability. Used together, these practices will allow you to make the absolute best hiring decisions for your company.

Want to try Checkster’s Reference Insights for free? You can sign up here (no credit card required) and start a reference check in just 2 minutes. We’re fully GDPR compliant and confident you’ll quickly understand why we have loyal clients big and small including Johnson & Johnson, Stanford University, Randstad, the YMCAs, 3M and others.