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This is the last in a three-part series on the resume. I hope some of these hints will be helpful to you in your next career search. Please let me know what you think.

References, Credential Verification, Background Investigations

These are important issues for candidates entering the job market. Managing this part of your job search is critical to your success. Before discussing the guidelines for these issues, it is important to establish some context concerning the job search process.

First, most jobs are not filled by outside recruiters. That is why establishing and maintaining a robust network of contacts is so important.

Second, when a recruiter contacts you, it is important to understand the type of recruiter you are dealing with – Retained or Contingency. Retained firms are client centered. This means that they are engaged by the client to fill a specific position or number of positions. The vast majority of the time, retained recruiters hold the exclusive rights for the position(s). They are paid for the work they perform regardless of whether the position is filled by the firm. Contingent recruiters, however, are paid only if their candidate accepts the offer. It is more common for clients to use several contingent recruiters for the same position. When this happens, it is possible to be contacted by different recruiting companies for the same position. Contingent recruiters who do not have an exclusive for a specific position are reluctant to share too many details about a job posting until they have your resume. The problem is that if two recruiters have your resume, and submit it for the same job, there is a chance that a disagreement over “ownership” may result if the client does not keep accurate records concerning who submitted the resume first. Clients do not want to find themselves in the middle of a fight between recruiting agencies over candidate ownership. If this does occur, the candidate may discover that they have been eliminated from further consideration. If a recruiter calls and offers an opportunity that sounds similar to a position for which your resume has already been submitted by another recruiter, ask the recruiter to name the city. Candidates do not want to give the second recruiter too much information because they may attempt to obtain the rights as a competing recruiter to work on the same assignment, thus creating more competition for the position. Use discretion.

When giving your resume to a contingent recruiter, always specify that your resume cannot be distributed to other clients without your prior verbal or written approval. Include that directive in your email when sending the resume. The vast majority of contingent recruiters are ethical professionals. However, there are numerous examples of situations where recruiters have used resumes, sometimes with all contact information, as a “tease” to capture an assignment.


There are no standards on the number of references a candidate should have. At a minimum, it is four or five. JohnMarch Partners requires eight: two superiors, two peers, two subordinates, and two personal references. Recruiters for certain positions may require additional resumes from former bosses.

The timing of the submission of references depends on the process used by the employer or the recruiter. Our Firm requires four references during the vetting process. Confidentiality – and possible negative repercussions from a current employer – is always a concern for candidates who are currently employed. This is understandable. In our case, we wait to check current employer references until an offer has been extended and the candidate has notified their current employer. However, as a rule, these offers are contingent on final background and reference verification.

Candidates should be very clear that the current employer or related parties should not be called. You should only provide initial reference information from colleagues who will respect your confidentiality. Recruiters will try to accommodate candidates who express concern that their interest in a new opportunity will compromise their existing employment relationship. However, candidates need to understand that few recruiters will submit a candidate without vetting their previous performance, which is why candidates should always be candid and forthright when asked about prior performance and professional employment relationships.

Secondary References

Ninety plus percent of the time, references provided by the candidates are favorable. Clearly, candidates are not inclined to provide the names of former employers or colleagues unless they know what will be said. That is why recruiters and the best employers will attempt to collect additional names to verify this information. These are commonly referred to as secondary references.

When asked to name others you have worked with in the past, candidates should be aware that these individuals might be contacted to verify certain information concerning your scope of responsibility, performance and even reporting relationships. A rule of thumb is to only mention names in your interviews that you know will be supportive if they are contacted.

Recruiters increasingly require candidates to sign release of information forms before they check references. This typically allows them to talk with anyone excluding those references that you exempt to protect confidentiality of your interest. If you mention a name that may have a connection with your current employer, specifically tell the recruiter not to contact that individual based on those ties.


After several highly publicized events where candidates misrepresented credentials, employers and recruiters now routinely verify this information.

Remarkably, recruiters or employers will need your social security number and date of graduation in order to verify degrees. Most colleges and universities now use a national database company to process these inquiries. A valid social security number is essential in order to obtain that information. This raises the fear among some candidates of identity theft. That is why it is important to verify your recruiter, especially if you are dealing with a contingent fee firm about which little is known. There have been examples of people posing as recruiters asking candidates for social security information and even driver’s license information in order to conduct a preliminary background check. If this occurs, candidates should take steps to verify the authenticity of the recruiter and the assignment before complying with this type of request.

A common candidate mistake is to list a credential related to a professional association whose membership renewal was forgotten or allowed to lapse. It points to a candidate’s lack of attention to detail.

Background Checks

With increasing regularity, recruiters are now conducting background checks on their candidates with the help of services like NCC: National Crime Check. Fifteen years ago, recruiters who drilled down to this level were the exception. Eight years a recruiter with one of the largest healthcare search firms even asked me why I went to the trouble since the clients did not seem to care and were not requesting that service. Hopefully, times have changed for that firm. There are now more companies like Sterling Check, that offer background checks as times have evolved and different needs have to be met by organizations, businesses, etc.

Background investigation firms report continued incidents where candidates fail to disclose material issues: undisclosed arrests, material problems with personal finances, problems with credentials, or unreported employment that is relevant to the search.

Contingent recruiters rarely go to this level of detail because of time and financial constraints. They have to move quickly to submit the resume in order to get the credit -and to be paid –if the candidate is hired. More often than not, employers are left with the responsibility for more in-depth candidate screening as well as the all-important background checks, that can be carried out through somewhere like this Missouri criminal background checks service to find out all of the information that want, or need to know before recruiting people for their company.

At JohnMarch Partners, we complete a background review prior to the candidate’s face-to-face interview with the Engagement Partner. We routinely verify previous employment, academic and professional credentials, civil and criminal court filings, driving record, and credit history. Because we use outside investigators to conduct this work, our Firm falls under the rules of the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1998. That law specifies the language of the release of information form. It also establishes rules concerning what information can be shown to the client. For example, credit reports may not be duplicated and can be seen only by the company making the request. At JohnMarch we report to the client only if there are any material findings related to employment, and we are precluded by law from providing the client with a copy of the actual credit history report.

Disclosing a prior mistake is not necessarily fatal to a candidate’s chances of landing the job. Failure to disclose usually is a deal killer. We view disclosure as a positive sign of the candidate’s integrity. However, there are certain types of issues that will disqualify a candidate, depending on the job. This will vary based on the ownership of the company, the job title, and/or scope of responsibility.