AMONG the entries in a job applicant’s letter is a list of “character references,” information sources a potential employer could call for supplemental or confirmatory details.

Some applicants, especially those supervisory or managerial positions, don’t identify the information sources nor their contact details. Simply they write “List available upon request.”

The understanding, therefore, is that the applicant allows a background check.

Some protocols are expectedly followed. That the applicant previously obtained the reference’s permission to be contacted. That the reference agreed to be listed because he/she knows enough of, and can speak positively about the applicant.

Yet, experience has shown that many applicants are clueless about these protocols. So when the references register surprise or worse, irritation, this becomes a minus factor about the applicant.

What about off-list references? Such as the previous employer/s, clubs joined--- especially where the applicant held leadership or influencing positions, civic organizations, credit investigations, etcetera.

Resourceful reference checkers, usually from companies’ human resources department, often get the desired information and thus, can validate the applicants’ interview responses, and/or complete the listed reference’s inputs.

Whichever, the effort generally produces a more complete profile of the applicant and defines the final decision.

It is, thus, surprising that some U.S. universities are still debating, to this day, the propriety of doing off-list reference checks. Faculty advocates in California universities, for instance, oppose the idea, citing “unnecessary harm to job applicants’ privacy and restraints on academic freedom.”

Huh? “Academic freedom”? Exactly how?

Rather, politics and/or turf protection could be the real reason. Some faculty organizations endorse job applicants and holler when the latter are not hired.

Then the questions start about “off-list reference checks as incursions on shared governance.”

Still, there’s no ignoring the importance of background checks for effective employment screening.

Employers need to be more cautious. Child abuse by their own teachers, and child abductions by volunteers who serve as coaches for youth sports or scouting activities are on the rise. Double-check the applicants and shoo away those with criminal records; better safe than sorry.

Even here in Cebu, there were cases of small children falling prey to their pedophile teachers. Must we wait for more victims before we tighten the screening on such creatures clothed as applicants?

Even big organizations are hoodwinked into hiring applicants with impeccable credentials. Only when there’s trouble in paradise do the former realize they’re victims of resume fraud, through either embellished records or outright falsehoods.

How many cheating husbands, for instance, get revealed in Facebook postings? So with the lavish lifestyle of Napoles’s then jobless daughter?

In this information age when millions of records of personal data are available through computer databases, listed references are not enough.