Are you really hiring the person you think you’re hiring?

How to conduct a thorough background check.

In 2003 the Bundaberg Base Hospital announced the appointment of Dr. Jayant Patel as their new Director of Surgery.  Patel came with very impressive qualifications and glowing references from the US.  The small, regional hospital could not believe their luck in securing such a high profile candidate.

Fairly quickly there were rumblings amongst the nursing staff that Patel operated unnecessarily, causing patient injury.  Quietly staff within the hospital began to refer to him as Dr. Death.  But management was besotted with their high profile catch.

A Google search by a journalist researching the story finally uncovered that Dr. Patel had been sued for malpractice and wrongful death in the United States, and the Oregon Board of Medical Examiners had restricted his medical license.  The information was buried on page five of Google.  But had it been revealed before Patel was hired, it might have prevented at least some of the 87 deaths Patel would be linked to in Bundaberg.

This is a dramatic example, but there is no question that a bad hire can be costly, so it is worth the time and effort required to conduct a thorough background check before making an employment offer.  Here’s a list to consider!

1. Establish a background check policy and use it for all potential staff.  This not only limits the possibility of a bad hire, it also protects you from claims of bias or prejudice.
2. Make sure the candidate attended and graduated from the schools, universities and TAFEs they claim.  To do this you will need to contact each school directly, or use a background-checking service.  (See the list of services below.)

3. Conduct a Google search on the candidate’s name and make sure you go back several pages.

4. Check out social networking sites for the candidate’s name, looking for any posts that might embarrass your company or indicate unprofessional behaviour.

5. Particularly if the candidate will be responsible for handling money, you might want to consider a check of their police history.   You can lodge an application with the Criminal Records Section of the NSW Police Force or use one of the background checking agencies listed below.

6. Verify all past employment.  You will need to contact the HR department for each past employer and double check the dates of employment and positions held.  Again, a background checking agency can help with this if it proves too time consuming.

7. If you require the employee to use a motor vehicle as part of their work, then check their driving record.  Due to privacy legislation you may need to ask the applicant to provide you with a copy of their driving record.

8. Check all references personally.  Employment agencies will often offer to check references on your behalf, but we recommend that this is something you do yourself.  A reference interview can provide hints as to whether or not a potential employee will be a good fit for the job and your organisation.

Background Checking Agencies

Verify – provides a range of candidate background checks.
CVcheck – provides a range of candidate background checks for Australia and overseas.
Veritas Check – provides National Police History Checks.
National Crime Check – provides National Police History Checks.

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