Larger companies make offers of employment contingent on background and reference checks.

Background checks are generally handled through H.R. and performed by outside agencies.

References can be checked through a number of sources including internal recruiters, staffing agencies and background check firms.

For contract employees, the staffing agency is usually responsible for checking references. You want the agency to check for red flags prior to start date.

For direct hire employees, the best way to match your expectations of the candidate and to allay any concerns is to personally call one or two references, preferably former managers to whom the candidate reported.

Ask references:

  • Greatest strengths and accomplishments of the candidate
  • Areas of improvement.
  • Why is he/she no longer with your firm?
  • Would you re-hire?

Prior to hire, take time to learn about the candidate.


Company background checks can include social security verification, state and federal criminal records, DMV, sex offender, financial and a myriad of other public record searches.

Background checks can also include education verification, past employment and professional licenses.

When preparing employment references:

  • Call your references and ask their permission.
  • Be sure to thank your references.

When you leave a firm, consider asking prior supervisors for written letters of reference.



As we move into Labor Day weekend, it’s a great opportunity to acknowledge diversity in the workforce.

Federal laws prohibit discriminatory practices in employment including hiring, firing, compensation, job advertisements and recruiting, testing, training and other conditions of employment.

Have you discounted qualified candidates due to a personal bias?


At some point in your career you will be asked a question that could be perceived as controversial. It’s inevitable. Usually, the question is innocently asked. Your goal is to get the job.

How old are you?

This is only OK to verify that you are of legal age.

What have you been out of the job market for so long?

Jobs end for a myriad of reasons including layoff, downsizing, or your need for personal time. When asked, be honest about your situation.

Are you married?

Yes, however I can work late hours or travel as required.

Do you have kids?

This can be a trick question as some have an unspoken bias against working parents. Answer honestly and say one line indicating that you keep your family and professional life separate. This is about getting a job. In other words, your family does not interfere with your career.

Legally, interviewers may not ask questions about your date of birth, religion, national origin, political beliefs, or the age of your children.



Here are some red flags to listen for during an applicant’s interview:

The candidate says:

“I didn’t see eye to eye with my boss.”

“Why not? What happens if I want things done my way?”

“My boss was difficult.”

“If you believe your last work environment was difficult, what about ours?”

“I had too much work.”

Does this mean you were slow? Not a team player? Unable to handle your workload?

“I worked too many hours.”

Does this mean you won’t work hard for us? This position requires that you give your all

What people say about past employers can be insightful.


You feel an immediate sense of rapport with the interviewer. This feels like a good sign!

Remember, the interviewer is not your friend. Do not divulge too much personal information that isn’t pertinent to the job. Keep the conversation professional. Every word counts.

For example, if you just got out of rehab – don’t share! Family issues? Don’t share!

Things NOT to say during an interview:

  • I didn’t see eye to eye with my boss
  • My boss was difficult
  • I didn’t like my co-workers.
  • I had too much work
  • I worked too many hours

It’s OK to articulate that you don’t like the commute, the pay, or the atmosphere. No matter how unhappy you were in your current or last position, this is not the time to vent.




Begin in a friendly way. Candidates are nervous when they are meeting with you. Start with small talk to diffuse tension.

Find out what the candidate knows about your firm:

  • Did the applicant take time to study your company’s Web site?
  • Does the candidate understand your core business?
  • Do you Google well?  Did the candidate Google you to research your personal background in the industry?
  • Does the candidate show a sincere interest in the position?

Where does the candidate live?

  • Is the candidate local? Distance can be an issue. How will the applicant get to work?
  • If the resume shows international work experience, save time by asking upfront regarding the candidates “right to work” in the country.

Start with basic HR questions regarding the resume:

  • Is the applicant currently employed?  Why is the candidate looking?
  • Why did the candidate leave his/her last few positions?

Listen more than you speak.



The better prepared you are with answers to common interview questions, the more comfortable and confident you will feel.

Interview questions are an opportunity for you to prove your communication and interpersonal skills. 

Common questions can include:

Tell us about yourself:

This question asks who you are and what’s important to you.  Answer with a few lines and concrete details as to why your professional skills make you a fit for the position. Do not ramble!

Tell us what you know about this company:

Set yourself apart.  Do your research.

Describe a typical work day or work week for you:

This tells the employer what you expect from the position.  This is the time for you to weave into the conversation how well you work with upper management, colleagues, and clients.  How do you problem solve. How has your work made a difference or has saved the company money.

If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?

If you’re interviewing for a tech job at one of the entertainment studios, do not say that you really want to be an actor or director. Your dream job is ALWAYS the job for which you’re applying.

Be authentic.  Be yourself.  The right job is out there for you.