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March 23 2015

5 Things HR Managers Look For When Conducting Employment Background Checks

CAREER POINT KENYA reports on what HR Managers look for when conducting background screening checks in Kenya. 

Unknown to many interview candidates, once an interview is done, and short listing completed, recruiters embark on a number of activities behind the scenes. One these activities are reference checks.

Reference checking is standard procedure that involves the potential employer getting in touch with previous employers (some of whom you listed as referees on your CV) to determine a candidate’s work history.

In some cases, the checks might extend to the educational institutions one attended to verify the authenticity of one’s qualifications. What do recruiters look for during reference checks?

1. Are the referees are real or imaginary?
This is the first step and Mr. Paul Kiarie HR Manager Ashut Engineering gives a glimpse of what employers seek out.  “Most of the time the common referees candidates list in their CVs include their former school principals, supervisors and former employers. However, the truth is that not all these listed reference people exist in real life,” he says.  “Our duty then is to find out; are these referees real or fake? The decision is clear: once you have fake references, it means no one can guarantee that you are a suitable hire. It also shows you cannot be trusted. You miss out.”

2. Can Your Referees be traced?
Do you have a referee that has been a permanent fixture on your CV for the past ten years? Have you called the person to find out whether the number works or the person remembers you? That might be the reason you miss out. Mr. Kiarie divulges that sometimes referees cannot be reached and this casts even the strongest candidate in bad light.  “And more often than not, this is done when you have two or three candidates that have emerged the strongest among the rest and you want to find out the most reliable candidate from the two which reflects right from the referees.”  In his opinion, it is for this reason that a list of three referees are required; if one cannot be traced.

3. Why Did You Leave Your Previous Job?
“Nobody wants to bring problems in his company by hiring someone with a questionable working history,” says Mr. Kiarie.  “You have heard of people who report to work drunk or have serious indiscipline issues and were consequently sacked. All these can be found out by just placing a call to their formers employers and that forms the basis of reference checks,” he says.

4. Breaking the tie between strong candidates
You might be one of the strongest candidates in an interview but guess what? You references might just let you down during the reference checks. According to Mr. Kiarie, reference checks are some of the most popular tie-breaking methods recruiters employ to make the final decision on whom to hire.  But what if the referees of the best two candidates give back satisfactory feedback and don’t break the tie?  “In my opinion, I would subject them to a further test,” chips in Ms Beth Wanjira, Client Service and Recruitment Officer, Corporate Staffing Services Ltd. And this additional method, according to Ms. Wanjira is would be a better tie breaker.

5. Educational Background
You might claim to have attended school “X” and when the institution is contacted, it turns out you never were a student there. However, as Ms. Beth Wanjira points out, with technology even bogus students might somehow ‘affix’ their names on online student lists.  “That makes the most preferable method for background checks to remain contacting former employers and supervisors as they tend to have a better idea of who the candidate is; his work performance and character traits,” she says.

“Candidates should always inform their referees that they have cited them so that should they be contacted, they will be aware in advance. At the same time, as the candidates are doing this, they will know which contact numbers of their referees are not working and seek a suitable replacement,” Ms. Wanjra advises.