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DOJ skimps on employee reference checks

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The Justice Department does not consistently check references for potential law-enforcement hires, says the agency's office of inspector general.

In a Jan. 17 report (.pdf), Justice's OIG says there is no hiring policy mandating checks--just recommendations to make them--and many "hiring managers told us that they did not conduct reference checks when hiring these new staff."

Only three of the agency's 39 components reviewed for the audit have clear written policies that give specific guidance and questions for reference checks, says the report, despite the Office of Personnel Management and the Merit Systems Protection Board suggestions that agencies check references for all potential hires.

The report said that parts of the department, such as the FBI and the Federal Bureau of Prisons, rely heavily on background investigations, performance and cognitive tests, examinations and polygraphs, but rarely contact references.

The only time Justice specifically requires reference checks is for new career attorney applicants, but the report says that even in such cases, checks were not always performed. The department leaves the authority to mandate reference checks for other hires up to individual components.

The report recommends the Justice Management Division develop departmentwide guidance on how to conduct reference checks, what information should be requested and when they should be conducted, as well as developing a resource center to provide updates to and training on this information.

The Justice Department largely agreed with the suggestions, but said its resource center likely will not include information from outside groups, such as OPM and MSPB, which the IG suggested.

For more:
- read the report, I-2013-002 (.pdf)

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