Why Experience Matters Alongside the Employer Background Check During Hiring

How closely do your job applicants match the experience requirements listed in your job posting? What they say on their resume might not match reality. Confirming the truth—and seeing which candidates match your expectations—is an important part of the employer background check process. Learn more about why investigating experience is an effort you shouldn’t overlook.

When most employers think of vetting, they often focus on a candidate’s criminal record. When selecting new candidates, protecting yourself from the ill effects of potentially negligent hiring is always top of mind. That’s why the employer background check is central to evaluating applicants regardless of industry. However, vetting should encompass far more than simply looking for records of wrongdoing and red flags that signal potential danger.

Remember, the hiring process is your best opportunity to evaluate how well someone will fit in with your business. Some candidates can look excellent on paper, but in a real-world setting, abrasive personalities might make them a poor fit for your team. There’s also the possibility that candidates can tell lies or be untruthful in how they represent themselves to you. Prior work experience and skill development is an area ripe for such falsehoods.

As you seek to build up your business and equip it with skilled workers, you must understand the relationship between vetting candidates and checking their employment history.

Why should you verify employment?

A better question might be, “Why wouldn’t you double-check information about a candidate’s experience?” Not every position demands a high level of experience—some are suitable for those who learn on the job—but many other jobs require that understanding. Think about when real experience is a must-have: hiring a master electrician, a high-level software developer, or even a nursing home care provider. All these examples highlight when years of well-developed understanding are a must.

Placing someone in a critical role without the proper experience can damage your business and its reputation. It could even harm your customers or the public. Ultimately, that comes back to reflect on your processes. Establishing clear experience guidelines and evaluating each candidate on those metrics is the only way to ensure you cover all your bases.

How do you conduct an employment verification?

Once you’ve obtained an applicant’s consent to perform a background check for employment purposes, you can begin contacting an individual’s former employers. You may also authorize a background check company to make contact on your behalf. You don’t need separate consent forms to check a criminal record and check employment experience—you can use one form to satisfy your FCRA obligations.

Contact employers listed by a candidate and speak to the HR department. Explain your reason for calling and request details on your candidate. Using this method, you can often uncover information such as:

  • Whether the individual actually worked at the company
  • The individual’s dates of service, job title, and job description
  • The candidate’s reason for leaving the position (in some cases)

With this data and appropriately related interview questions, you can confidently determine a candidate’s experience.

Why is the right experience so important today?

Exploring an individual’s job experience isn’t solely about detecting lies on someone’s resume. Finding candidates who can step into the position and perform at a high level is essential. Here are three big reasons you should invest in confirming that candidates meet your requirements.

Experience helps define candidates.

Skilled labor shortages are occurring in many industries. In others, there are very few open positions but a glut of workers all clamoring for the same role. In both these situations, a candidate’s experience serves as a useful differentiator. For highly competitive positions, someone with more hands-on experience might edge out someone with more educational credentials but less experience. Identifying the correct level of experience needed to perform in the role is vital in areas with shortages.

Evolving workplaces demand more robust skills.

Remote work isn’t the only thing changing the way businesses work. The sudden explosion of “AI” tools, the complexities of a global economy, and increasing automation all mean that businesses need new kinds of skills. For many positions, a proven success record in other companies indicates that a candidate can help you adapt to the new economy. When hiring for remote positions, it’s important to identify those with time management experience and the discipline to stay motivated.

A solid track record may indicate valuable soft skills.

Most of your process involves identifying candidates with the appropriate “hard” skills: knowledge of a programming language, an industry certification, or some other kind of well-developed understanding. However, soft skills matter, too. Good communication is a must, especially in a hybrid office environment. A positive attitude towards teamwork goes a long way, as does understanding how to effectively manage a diverse team (and its conflicts). More verified experience often indicates greater skill.

Creating a hiring process that evaluates experience

Finding skilled workers begins before you start collecting a candidate’s consent to a criminal record check and other vetting forms. To simplify things, write job applications and postings that align with your expectations. At the same time, be realistic. Requiring five or more years of experience for an entry-level position, for example, will degrade the quality of the applications you receive and increase the likelihood of dishonesty.

Evaluate what each position really demands. Compare the skill levels of those currently working in such roles in your business with what you’d like to see from a candidate. Use that as the basis for developing the requirements you advertise. Then, set yourself up to verify the applications you receive. Carefully read cover letters and resumes. 

Be thorough in contacting references—not just past employers, but any others a candidate lists. Ask similar questions to everyone and compare answers. Alongside your interview, these steps should strengthen your confidence in a process that produces reliable candidates.

Establish clear standards for use with all candidates

While evaluating candidates, you must make every effort to avoid allowing bias to creep into the process. For example, candidates with similar or identical levels of experience can present a challenge during selection. Beware of actions that could lead candidates to believe you exhibited bias at this stage. You may choose to document your decision-making process or evaluation to demonstrate good faith in the future. 

No law says you must always hire the more experienced candidate; that’s a determination you have to make. Even so, you should review employment law and its information on protected classes, such as race or sex. Be prepared to explain your decisions if a dispute arises.

Be Sure You’re Ready with the Best Practices for Vetting Candidate

The best candidate for the job isn’t always the one with the most impressive resume of experience. However, you’re more likely to find a good fit when you ensure your pool of applicants contains those with a track record of employment you can trust. As you develop and refine your workflow, be sure that you equip yourself with the right tools for confirming a candidate’s experience.

Building an effective employer background check workflow can seem tedious and time-consuming. There are many elements to consider and efforts to arrange for every candidate. With the appropriate consumer reporting agency and a well-defined policy, you can make smarter choices with greater confidence. Take a step back today and evaluate whether you have the right tools to confirm job experience.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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