Five Steps to Effectively Screen Top Level Executives

August 2012

The big kahunas are a different breed of animal to recruit and hire, and the way their backgrounds are screened should be, too.

Whether hiring a top level manager, financial executive, or sales executive, employers should give thoughtful and extensive consideration when making an offer for a high ranking position.


The first reason is the liability to the company’s reputation. The news is full of examples of executives who faked their education, provided fraudulent reference, or who were out and out criminals! Making a bad decision in hiring a top level executive can cause great damage to a company’s reputation. Just one PR nightmare can take years to clean up.

The second reason is the risk to the bottom line. A top ranking employee has a much greater effect on the bottom line than the ‘average’ worker. Not being able to perform their jobs at a productive pace (or at all) because they misrepresented themselves can have catastrophic effects on the company’s profits.

Here are 5 easy steps to implement into the hiring process of Senior Level Executives. These actions will go a long way toward assisting in making the right decision:

1. Verify education. One of the most embarrassing media frenzies a company can fall victim to is finding out a member of their top level management faked their degree. Degree fraud is rampant, and nobody is immune to the temptation. Use a trusted third party to check into any claims of degrees, verify dates, classes, and any graduation honors.

2. Thoroughly follow up on references. Make certain the applicant supplies several work references. These references should be verified by calling a phone number that is found online for the company where the reference says they are/were employed. Do not utilize personal phone numbers when verifying a reference, as this could link you to the applicant’s friend or family member.

3. Ask the right questions. All information on the resume should be verified as completely as possible. Ask about (or have your background screening company ask) specific duties handled, projects completed, goals attained, etc. Broad, vague questions like “Did Tom do a good job” really don’t glean valuable answers.

4. Utilize assessment surveys. By reviewing an assessment survey, hiring managers can discern a top level executive’s inner core values and perceptions. This information is invaluable in deciding whether or not a person will fit well into the company culture.

5. Employ social media screening. Checking social media sites during the hiring process is becoming an increasingly more popular practice. Tweet, posts, and blogs can give a company insight on a potential new hire that they cannot find in a resume or job interview. Social media screening shows negative information on a candidate (bad judgment, drug use, inflammatory racial comments) that may be unadvisable for a company to take on. On the other hand, well-written blogs, interesting posts, etc can also show that a candidate would have a positive impact on the workplace. Social media screening provides valuable information on a potential candidate’s online persona. (Keep in mind to NEVER ask for a candidate’s online passwords, and DO NOT friend a candidate to dig for information).

There is always a great deal riding on hiring top level executives. Employers can minimize the risk of a bad hire by trusting a reputable, third party background screening company and performing thorough and complete checks of the applicant’s background.