History Can Be Subjective: Always Verify | Jobs In ME
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History Can Be Subjective: Always Verify

By: Margaret Hansen

Only 18 percent of employers recently polled by JobsInME.com said that they check actual employment history as part of their hiring/screening process, whereas 23 percent check references.

Checking all employee references is always a good idea. But, don't forget that these references are chosen, and probably prepped, by the applicant. Most people are honest on their resume, but some are not. Eliminate some risk and gain more objective opinions by taking things a step further - verify information with each previous employer.

Require an Application

A resume makes a good checklist for calls. You could fill in the blanks during the interview process to see if there are other employers not mentioned and why.

An alternative to this is to require an application. This application could ask for each previous supervisor's name, title, phone number and email address.

If you opt for the application, be sure to allow the candidates time to collect the information and get back to you. It's likely that they don't carry around a supervisor's contact information for a job they held a few years ago, plus that supervisor's status could have changed since then.

Requiring an application may seem inconvenient to applicants who've worked hard on their resume and it could tie up some of your process. But in the long run, it will help make sure that you hire the right candidate by screening properly. Don't forget, the wrong candidate could cost you money, materials, customers and precious time.

What Do You Ask?

According to the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA), previous employers are the best source to screen applicants. If the candidate is entry-level and doesn't have much work experience, you could request the contact information for their college advisor, a part-time job supervisor or an internship manager.

Calling them directly may save time, or you could request a fast reply in writing by sending an email, which some people prefer. The SBA recommends the following:

Ask a few specific questions about the applicant that can be answered "yes" or "no" or with a very short response. For example:

  • How long did the employee work for you?
  • Was his/her work: poor; average; excellent?
  • Why did the employee leave your employ?

Keep It Simple

Screening all of your top final candidates by verifying their employment history will pay off. But be sure to keep your questions simple and identical for each candidate. If any major problems existed in a particular candidate's past, they will likely surface during a simple screening.

It's also possible that an employee didn't get along well with a previous boss. Give them a chance to explain any concern that you have before making a final decision. They are probably aware that this problem existed and should be prepared to address it.


Margaret Hansen has been writing professionally since receiving a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Maine. She has worked for multiple organizations as a weekly newspaper reporter, a weekly newspaper editor, and in a variety of internal/external marketing communications roles. Her freelance career has focused on writing and editing for print, email and web publications in the employment industry, as well as manuscript editing and resume writing.