Candidates get caught in a lie
However, they tend to be less impressed when job candidates become too creative with their academic or career achievements.
For instance, in the 2010 HireRight Employment Screening Benchmarking Report, 69 per cent of employers canvassed indicated they have caught a previous applicant lying on his resume.
According to Kelvin Ko, founder and CEO of Verity Consulting, which specialises in conducting employee background checks, employers request independent background checks for several reasons.
"White collar crimes involving fraud, leaking information to competitors and people simply not being able to do the job they have been hired to do have led employers to become more cautious," he says.
Pre-employment background checks can avoid damage to the reputation of a company resulting from hiring the wrong person. They can also save time and the expense of restarting the recruitment process,Ko adds.
According to data from Verity, the main areas that job-seekers falsify include their previous salary package, stock options and bonus payments.
Their dates of employment have also been changed to hide career gaps in their resume.
"The drive to secure a well-paying job or the fact that the offer is being made in cross-border jurisdiction possibly make some people feel the checking process will be minimal," Ko says.
Ko is a former Hong Kong policeman and director of several commercial investigation firms.
He says that in the main, his firm is able to check deeper and wider than the capabilities of internal human resources departments and recruitment agencies.
Verity's checking processes usually begin when the number of candidates has been short-listed to three or four.
Background checks can vary depending on the position the candidate is applying for.
For example, if the job involves financial responsibility or the public image of a company, there might be a need to check lifestyle choices for evidence of socially unacceptable practices, which could include excessive gambling.
Eunice Ng, director at Avanza Consulting, Pacific, says they conduct thorough academic and previous employment checking on candidates, but would use the services of specialist firm if it was necessary to conduct criminal or lifestyle checks.
Jack Clode, managing director at Kroll, which offers risk mitigation services, says pre-employment checks conducted by the firm go beyond following up on references.
"Our in-depth checking on senior executives can go back as far as 10 years and can cover different countries they might have worked in," he says.
The research can cover areas including litigation, criminal checks, reputation and media scandals, he adds.
By talking to peers and former colleagues, Kroll investigators are able to provide a rounded profile of the job applicant. They then check whether the candidate is a good team leader, popular with clients or as good as he says he is at generating business revenue.
Clode is also quick to point out that it is not all bad news for job-seekers and employees who fear employers digging into their past.
"In many instances, we are able to confirm the person applying for the job is indeed the best candidate and possesses exemplary capabilities," he says.
Dan Shoemaker, vice-president for international business at HireRight - Kroll's sister company in the Altegrity group - says Kroll's investment in data, proprietary systems and expertise allows the firm to gather and provide information in a more comprehensive and consistent manner than an employer's own screening programme.
"We also know from our own work that roughly one-third of all verifications turn up some level of difference between what the applicant provided and what we were able to confirm."
Top 10 lies
- Salary package - stock option, discretionary bonus
- Change dates of employment to hide career gaps
- Academic qualification
- Reasons for leaving
- Job title or designation
- Duties and role, such as local versus regional
- Work experience
- Business interests
- Size of department or number of subordinates
- Language fluency