No government-wide requirements exist for the checking of references for job applicants as a part of the federal government’s hiring process, including those who apply for law enforcement positions in the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a report released last week says.
The Justice Department’s office of inspector general, in a 109-page report, says law enforcement personnel at the five federal agencies accounted for more than 60 percent of the department’s new hires in fiscal 2010 but Justice required reference checks only for attorney applicants.
Instead, according to the report, law enforcement components used methods other than reference checking to assess skill and aptitude of applicants for law enforcement positions, such as background investigations; performance assessments; polygraph examinations; logic, cognitive and behavior tests; panel interviews; medical examinations; and drug and fitness tests. “While these methods may demonstrate the applicant’s abilities and suitability for employment and eligibility for national security access, they do not replace a reference check, which provides valuable performance information directly from prior employers and others who have worked with the applicant,” the report says.
Why is a reference check important?
Performing reference checks make sure an applicant is who they say they are, and that they can perform the tasks they claim to be able to perform. Any other tests might show ability, but are unable to verify the integrity or honesty of their claims about past positions, education and successes. Such a screening process is an essential way of verifying the claims made in an application, and provides a potential employer with a much wider understanding of the applicant.