Check Reference-Checking Firms Before You Hire <I>Them</I>

Make sure the firm you choose is doing its job of checking potential hires.

Do professional reference checkers tell you all you need to know about prospective employees? Before retaining an outside firm, do some checking of your own, says Peter LeVine, president of Peter LeVine Associates Inc., a professional reference-checking firm based in Framingham, Massachusetts. LeVine offers these tips for evaluating reference-checking firms:

Ask for and check references. Just because it checks up on people doesn't mean the company is on the up and up.

Ask what sets the firm apart from its competitors.

Find out how it gets information. Does it simply check databases, credit files, court records and drivers' license files? Or does it also conduct personal interviews?

Ask who does the research and what their experience and background are. Is the work done by a clerk or an investigator?

Will you receive full transcripts of interviews or a summary? Although full transcripts take more time to evaluate, LeVine believes they provide a better foundation on which to make your hiring decision.

Is the company up to date on employment issues? Be sure the checker incorporates topical issues in employment law-such as sexual harassment, disabilities and workplace violence-in its research.