Pre-employment background investigation is part of the recruitment process. It is normally being done after an applicant had passed the medical exams, but before requesting him to submit the documentary requirements.
It basically attempts to do at least two things : one, it verifies the data indicated in the application form and two, it provides you with the applicant’s performance and personality from another person, in this case an authorized official. (I use the term personality not on a strict psychological definition but more of the applicant’s attitude and character which will be expanded later).
After conducting all tests (written, practical or medical) and interviews, a decision has to be made if the applicant becomes a candidate for hiring. And before that decision is made, two critical questions are asked : Can he or she do the job? And what kind of person he or she is?
Background investigation usually answers those questions.
Usually, these information will be asked from the previous employers (last three) of the applicant:
1. How did the applicant perform on the job? Any appraisal results?
2. Strong and weak points?
3. Disciplinary actions? (Or complaints raised against management).
4. How about the attendance (tardiness and absences)? History of long illness? Being a team-player? Able to work overtime if need be? And similar questions.
5. Some positions also require further questions. For example Cashiers. You need to ask history of errors, shortages, not giving correct change or amount or cases of kiting. (That’s when the Cashier takes some money, without permission of course, then returns it a day or two after hoping nobody notices).
6. Personality wise, typical questions include relations with superior, peers or subordinates; cooperativeness in joining committees or company activities; is he or she engaged in smoking, gambling, substance abuse or other vices. (It’s not all negative though. I once had the experience of interviewing a female former varsity table tennis player for a casual position. Naturally we hired her because all things being equal, she had that advantage. We ended up winning the inter-company tourney!).
7. If the applicant has been separated, what were the circumstances? Was he or she forced to resign? If so, why?
8. Character references are often indicated in the applicant’s resume or in the company application form (or both). Due diligence is for HR to get in touch with them and ask how they know the person. Have they observe them work or know the applicant’s character?
9. In some instances, it may be important knowing if the applicant is affiliated with an organization whether it be professional, civic, political or otherwise. This includes any previous military or law enforcement experience (and of course the reason for leaving).
10. Applicant’s true residence. It is prudent to have someone actually go to the residence to verify. Should the applicant plan to acquire a new residence permanently or temporarily (like an apartment or boarding house), it would do well to check once that happens. Residence and address can be tricky in the provinces where street names and house numbers can often be absent. Thus the need to have the applicant draw a map to the residence.
11. But I guess, if there were just two questions an HR practitioner is allowed to ask it would be : If there is still a vacancy, would you re-hire this former employee of yours? And why? The answer to these questions provides you an insight and recommendation to management whether to hire or not.
Your options to gather these data are to call the former employer (which is faster) or send an email or fax (which is slower since you have to wait for the reply. And yes you obviously need a form but don’t fret, at the end of this write-up is a sample form you can adopt). Another advantage of calling is you can verify the salary and benefits package of the applicant. For all you know he or she is over-pricing him or herself in the hope of getting higher pay through another employer. (But will not leave current employer if the increase isn’t worth it). The only drawback in calling is that you do not hold on to a document from the source.
Of course, you can only contact the former employer if the applicant has previous work history. Otherwise, if he/she is a fresh grad, then you are left with school and community background check.
Which leads us to verifying the applicant’s education and license since it is still possible to acquire fake documents. When I was working with the government, it was found out that the probationary lawyer did not pass the bar and even worse did not take up law! I was not in recruitment then but it was an eye opener of the value of background investigation.
Vetting or a more rigid form of background check is conducted in a few organizations. This occurs where high premium is placed for secrecy or confidentiality of information like in the military, diplomatic or companies which have well-guarded formula or product secrets. Other than the usual checks mentioned earlier, this can go as far as tracing your family history, nationality, credit history, lifestyle and even your spouse! Vetting is also conducted regularly : prior to employment, every year, every negative report. (Before you conclude this seems like a James Bond fiction or is too far-fetched that it does not happen in the Philippines, think twice. Recently an official who had been a long time head of a well-loved sport in the country turned out to be a non-Filipino! It took the Supreme Court to kick him out).
SAMPLE BACKGROUND INVESTIGATION FORM
Name of Addressee
Name of Company
Fax Number/Email Address
ABC Company wishes to conduct a background investigation of Mr./Ms. ______________________. He/She is applying for the position of ________________________ at our ______________Department. We shall appreciate it very much if you could take a few moments of your time to answer the questions below.
1. Last position in your company ________________________________
2. Date separated _________________
3. Reason for separation (check one) : __ Resignation __ Dismissal __ Retrenchment/Retirement
4. Last Salary _________________________ (If confidential, please indicate range)
5. Work Performance during the last 12 months (check one ) :
a. __ Outstanding __ Above Average __ Average __ Poor
b. If you wish to use to use a different rating or add details use this space
6. May we also know if you had issues with the applicant on the following :
a. Tardiness __ Yes __ No Comments _______________________
b. Absences __ Yes __ No Comments _____________________
c. Disciplinary Action __ Yes __ No Comments __________________
d. Relations with :
i. Subordinates, if any __ Yes __ No Comments ____________________
ii. Peers __ Yes __ No Comments _________________________
iii. Superiors __ Yes __ No Comments ________________________
e. Health :
i. Physical __ Yes __ No Comments ___________________________
ii. Mental __ Yes __ No Comments _________________________
iii. Emotional __ Yes __No Comments ________________________
f. Smoking __ Yes __ No Comments ___________________________
g. Alcohol __ Yes __ No Comments _____________________________
h. Gambling __ Yes __ No Comments ____________________________
i. Drug/Substance Use __ Yes __ No Comments _____________________
j. Family __Yes __ No Comments _____________________________
k. Political/Religious Belief __ Yes __ No Comments ____________________
l. Finances/Loans __ Yes __ No Comments _________________________
m. Union/Affiliation (if Rank and File or Supervisor) __ Yes __ No
n. Others _____________________________________________________
Thank you for your assistance in providing us these information. Rest assured this shall be treated with confidence by our organization.