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Attorney General

The FBI doesn’t require reference checks, except for lawyer applicants

Posted Jan 18, 2013 9:57 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The U.S. Justice Department requires reference checks for new lawyer hires, but not for those who apply for federal law enforcement positions, according to an inspector general’s report.

The FBI, for example, rarely conducted reference checks for new law enforcement applicants, but did use reference checks for those seeking attorney positions in the FBI’s offices of general counsel and professional responsibility. Other job applicants likely to get a pass on reference checks: those seeking law enforcement or correctional officer positions with the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The Washington Post and the Washington Times have stories.

The Justice Department did rely on other screening devices for law enforcement applicants, including background investigations; polygraph tests; and tests to assess behavior, logic and cognitive abilities. The methods “do not replace a reference check,” the report (PDF) says.

A report appendix reveals that 15 percent of the hiring officials interviewed said they also check social media sites at least occasionally during their reference checks.

The report recommends that the Justice Department’s human resources division develop across-the-board guidelines on reference checks and provide training in the procedures.

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