Performing these checks is simpler than it may sound and they are a valuable tool in the decision process. Background checks fall into three categories: personal/employment, driving, and criminal.
Personal/employment reference checks are designed to gauge the applicant’s personal character and work history. These checks can be done over the phone or by mail.
If you choose to do them by mail, include a list of questions (a sample questionnaire and reference check worksheet can be found at the end of this handout), a copy of the signed reference/background information release form, and a self-addressed stamped envelope.
Checking references by phone is quicker and it may also give you a better feeling for the "tone" of an answer. For example, if your mailed questionnaire asks "Did this employee perform all the tasks required of them?" you may get a simple "yes" answer. But if you ask the same question over the phone, you may get a very positive "Yes!" or a very hesitant "Yes". Both answers are the same, but each tells you something more than you would get from a written answer.
When checking references over the phone, be sure to identify yourself and the reason you’re calling. Keep track of who you spoke with, when you spoke with them, the answers they gave, and your personal impressions.
Some employers (and acquaintances) will not discuss an applicant or their background without having received a copy of a signed reference/background information release form. Make sure you ask about this at the start of the conversation.
Here are some questions to ask when checking personal references:
Employment reference checks help you judge what kind of employee the applicant has been in the past. The following questions will help you do that.
Note: Some employers will only answer two questions for legal purposes.
- Dates of employment.
- Would they rehire the person.
Once you’ve collected all the personal/employment information you need, place your notes in the applicant’s folder for future reference.
If the position will require driving, you should check their driving record. You can get a copy of this either by mail or by going directly to the Department of Transportation. You will need to provide them with the applicant’s full name, their date of birth, their driver’s license number, and a copy of the reference/background information release form. If you’re requesting a driving record by mail, be sure to include your address and daytime phone number.
There is a small fee for obtaining a copy of someone’s driving record, but that fee can change from year to year, so call your Department of Transportation, Motor Vehicle Division for the current amount and to whom you should make the check payable. (See below for address).
The driving record you receive will show the person’s last five years of driving history, including what, if any, moving violations they’ve received, including Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charges. It may also offer information about vehicle accidents.
Some things to consider when reviewing a driving record are:
Remember, you need to feel comfortable with the applicant’s driving skills and background.
To obtain a copy of a driving record, contact:
Minnesota Department of Transportation
Motor Vehicle Division - Transportation Building, Room 108
395 John Ireland Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155
The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension will perform a criminal background check for a small fee. You will need to provide them the applicant’s name (last, first, middle initial), their date of birth, and a copy of their signed reference/background information release form. (Note the release form must include the applicant’s signature or the background check will not be performed.)
For more information about criminal background checks:
Bureau of Criminal Apprehension
1246 University Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55104
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