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Trust but Verify

The business of hiring is a minefield of potential loopholes and pitfalls that culminate with one simple truth: “Everyone can lie.” It often falls to the security team to verify the backgrounds of potential employees, to ensure that applicants are being honest about where they’ve worked, what they’ve done and who they are.

According to the National Association of Professional Background Screeners, each of the following should be verified, even though there are a few easy missteps for each:


1. Education

This is generally completed on the highest level of education listed, and can be sourced from the educational institution itself of through a fee-based verification system (often from the National Student Clearinghouse).

Schools often require signed authorization form (not an electronic signature) before releasing information. Privacy policies could freeze the student record from being reported to a third party, or records could be frozen due to problems with a student’s behavior or payments. Most institutions do not use Social Security Numbers to categorize records – make sure you have the name used by the applicant while attending that school, along with the dates attended or graduated, type of degree and date of birth.

Additional fees are generally associated with transcript requests.


2. Employment

Question a supervisor listed on an application to learn more about an applicant, such as: dates of employment, position, job duties, work habits, performance, dependability, special skills and training, interaction with coworkers and customers, salary, reasons for leaving and rehire status.

Some states consider these types of reports investigative, so be aware of your unique area’s requirements.


3. Military Records

This often serves as a type of employment verification – reports can be obtained through military branches, National Personnel Records Centers, base locations, the Department of Defense, the Veterans Administration and discharge papers. Bear in mind that requests through the National Personnel Records Center can take as long as three months due to the high volume or requests.


4. Personal References

This search can give security executives a better picture of the applicant’s overall character. This report is generally considered an Investigative Consumer Report, because the line of questioning generally refers to the person’s character, behavior or relationship with other people, and not mere facts. Again, be aware of your area’s legal and privacy requirements on such reports.

Request cellphone numbers of the applicant’s references, as this can help security executives to reach them in a timely manner.


5. Professional/Occupational Licenses

Almost all licenses can be verified, NAPBS reports. Contact the state or federal agency or party considered the licensing authority. Expiration dates of the license are not always available, however, and often the status of a license does not include details. Sometimes agencies offer processes for gaining more information, but usually with an associated fee.  

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