hiring a job applicant

Melissa is a mother of 2, lives in Utah, and writes for a multitude of sites. She is currently the EIC of HarcourtHealth.com and writes about health, wellness, and business topics.

Think you’ve found the perfect candidate for your team? Don’t make the hiring call until you’ve done your homework. At the interview, you saw your prospects’ very best behavior and talked about the facts they chose to share with you in their cover letters and resumes. To learn the whole story about them, you’ll need to do a bit of research on your own. You’ll save time if you research your top two or three candidates simultaneously rather than making a choice before you have all the facts. Here’s the minimal research you should be doing before you hire.

Check References

Hiring a Job Applicant.
Image via Flickr by flazingo_photos

The best way to check references is to do it personally, by phone. The candidates’ direct supervisors will be more useful to you than the HR department, so be sure to ask for that information on the application or during the interview. Don’t delegate these calls. Former employers often hesitate to give more than the most basic info, for legal reasons, so you’ll need to be able to assess the speakers’ tone of voice and level of enthusiasm personally to form a full picture. You’ll also want to be able to ask follow-up questions on the fly if you encounter any red flags.

Run a Credit Check

With permission from the applicants, you can request a report from one of the major credit bureaus if it’s legal to do so in your state. Use the report to get a general sense of the applicants’ situations and trustworthiness. As a rule, a credit history that’s in complete shambles is a yellow flag, and a clean history is a sign of responsibility, but make sure to take the whole picture into consideration and give the applicants a chance to address issues. A person who worked his or her way through college with multiple jobs while caring for two sick parents might show a history of struggling with bills but be extremely responsible.

Search the Web

A quick web and social media search can help you get a feel for each candidate’s general personality and lifestyle. Use this information to judge which applicant is the best fit for your organization. Be aware that you’ll come across information in your search that you can’t legally use in your decision-making process, like age, marital status, and number of children.

Examine Civil Records

If you want to dig deeper into your applicants’ character, run a civil record check before you hire. This will tell you about run-ins with the law and any other serious red flags you want to avoid. You can also compare the data to the applicants’ work histories to spot discrepancies. For instance, if the record shows that a candidate was living in Philadelphia in 2012, but the resume shows him or her working at a firm in Los Angeles, you might want to ask some follow-up questions about that.

No matter how busy you are, never skip the background check. Hiring a staffer with personality issues can disrupt your entire team for months, and those issues will rarely show up in the interview.