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Due Diligence

Due diligence

By Troy Harrison

Last time, we talked about conducting a winning first interview. A big part of the objective of the first interview is to break down the resumé through detailed questions, making sure that the person in front of you is who they say they are. Even after your candidate clears the first interview, you’re still not done with the verification process. Now comes the phase that I call “due diligence,” using readily available information to again verify your candidate. Due diligence comes in several parts:

Criminal background checking: You should always perform a criminal background check on each final candidate. It’s both human and natural to assume that someone who is an applicant for a professional job will have a clean background. It’s also an incorrect assumption, more often than most of us would care to know. I once had a five year stretch of nothing but clean background checks on job applicants, and then had top candidates in three searches come up with felonies. What’s worse is that, even if their explanations were 100 percent true, it showed such bad judgement that I couldn’t possibly consider hiring them.

Without a background check, if you hire someone with a felony and they commit more crime while working for you, you can be liable in a court of law. For instance, you hire someone with a burglary conviction and then they steal from your client. Please note that I am not instructing you NOT to hire someone with a past felony – there are numerous factors including age, situation, etc., that can be mitigating – but make sure that you do what you do with full information.

Some jurisdictions have implemented “ban the box” legislation that bans asking a prospective employee if they have a felony prior to hiring. Check with your lawyer on this one, but my understanding is that it’s still legal pretty much anywhere to make the job offer contingent upon passing a background check. You should also do a sex offender check for reasons that should be obvious. There are numerous companies out there that will do this reasonably. My favorite is Validity Screening – find them at

Reference checking: “Aw, Troy, it’s useless to check references. They’ll just put down people who will say good things about them.” Yes, you’d think, wouldn’t you? And again, you’d be wrong. I always checked references in my searches. I called dead people. I called people who didn’t have good things to say. In fact, I called one person who said, “I have no idea why you’re calling me. I physically hate the guy and I’d punch him in the mouth if he was in front of me.” He was serious.

Here’s where it’s helpful to understand numbers. Forty percent of all hires are made without checking references, even when they’re requested. So if you can’t find someone to say nice things about you, you can still put down three names and have a 40 percent shot at the job – not bad odds if you’re wildly unsuccessful. Don’t be that person’s victim.

Request business references. Former bosses are the gold standard, former co-workers and customers are second, and there is no third. Then call them. Ask good, detailed questions about the person and their performance on the job. You need no negative references and at least two positives (you might, from time to time, not be able to reach one reference).

I’m also asked a lot about “name, rank and serial number” references. That’s where you get the person’s title and dates of employment. Two things apply here. Normally, that’s a response you get from HR, not from a supervising manager. Nobody gets into legal trouble for bragging on a past employee. Don’t use HR for your references. Secondly, if you get this type of a reference from a past supervisor, that’s a signal that something is wrong. Ask a follow-up question: “Would this person be eligible for re-hire?” If the answer is “no,” or even a hesitation, you have a problem. Remember, you need your applicant to have at least a 2-0 record in references, if not a 3-0 record. If you don’t get that, pass.

Employment History: Again, companies like Validity will call and verify employment history (this is where you do call HR), or you can do it yourself. You’ll probably find out that it’s cheaper to outsource it. Unlike reference checking, all you’re looking for here is to make sure that the resumé is a reflection of their actual work history.

Education Credentials: Here’s where it gets a little sticky. You might be tempted to disregard the education section on the resumé if your job doesn’t require a degree. Don’t. Remember, one of the major red flags in any hiring process is a lack of truthfulness. One of the most common areas for candidates to falsify is in education; they might claim a degree that they don’t have, or even a school attendance that didn’t happen. You can usually check these credentials through the registrar’s office, or again, you can have an outside firm check them. Don’t neglect this.

Credit Check: I only mention this to advise you not to do this. First of all, legally speaking, credit checks only have validity when dealing with a position such as a CFO or controller, where they are dealing directly with the company’s finances. Secondly, credit reports tend to be wildly inaccurate, and denial of employment based on them is a quick path to a lawsuit. I don’t check credit and I advise you not to.

Other info: Check driving records if you provide a car or car reimbursement; I’d also advise doing drug testing.

If you’re thinking that’s a lot of information to gather, you’re right, and we haven’t even talked about social media. But the right candidate will pass all of these checks. Don’t shortcut and you won’t have anything to regret later.

Troy HarrisonTroy Harrison is the author of “Sell Like You Mean It!”, “The Pocket Sales Manager,” and a speaker, consultant and sales navigator. He helps companies build more profitable and productive sales forces with his cutting-edge sales training and methodologies. For information on booking speaking/training engagements, consulting or to sign up for his weekly E-zine, call (913) 645-3603, email or visit

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2017 issue of Industrial Supply magazine. Copyright 2017, Direct Business Media.


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