September 11, 2019

Is This Normal? Seven Documents Companies Can Request Before An Offer

by Kris Gibson

Working as a recruiter for the past 10+ years I’ve seen and experienced a multitude of different hiring practices utilized by insurance organizations across the country. I’ve also had the good fortune to meet a great many interesting people conducting job searches and at least once each week one of them asks me “is this common” or “is this normal” relating to a step being taken in a hiring process by a prospective employer. 

While I generally reply with a version of “there isn’t necessarily a set norm”, there are some requests or steps that are certainly not uncommon, and you should be prepared to take some or all of them when conducting your own search. From my experience being prepared and understanding why a company might do it helps ease concerns about a given step.

So, what are they? First let’s look at common and universally applied steps; that is to say, these can be asked of anyone, for any position, with any organization.

1. Personality Assessment

If you’ve been in a professional job search in the past decade, it’s likely you’ve been asked to take a quick assessment aimed at identifying your personality traits.

Why? Employers want to understand their employees. They want to know what motivates them, what they aspire to do/be, how they interact with others, and how they might respond to situations, among other things. It’s all about knowing who you are hiring so you know if they fit and if you’ll be able to manage them in the way they need to be.

Impact: It is as much for your benefit as theirs. In order to be successful and happy you need an employer and work environment that suits you, your strengths, your weaknesses, your quirks, and your desires.

2. Application

Pretty straight forward. We’ve been doing these since we sought our first job as kids but sometimes get confused as to the need for them in a more professional setting.

Why? EEOC, HR files, accuracy of information. Applications are, in many ways, a perfunctory step but it is something you should be prepared for. Companies like to get dates of past employment, compensation requests, address, contact information, etc. for a company file on you as an employee. Consistently asking this of every person they consider hiring protects them in many ways.

Impact: There isn’t much impact on you. It’s a formal step in the process but a simple one and more for the organization’s needs than your own.

3. References

You should always have three references ready as you embark on a search. The best ones are always former supervisors but colleagues, vendors, and others who can speak to your professional life are acceptable.

Why? It is a step of due diligence companies take, generally toward the end of the process. They are looking for references to speak to looming concerns or questions that remain for them or simply to reinforce their read on you. 

Impact: The impact of references can be huge. You’d expect that anyone can stack the deck and find three people who will say great things about them, but you’d be surprised. If your references drive home the positive feelings the organization has already, you’re often looking at an offer very soon. If references create doubt, the process is often over. It is that important.

4. Review of Your Contract(s)

Many of us have signed non-compete agreements, non-piracy agreements, or employment agreements/contracts. It is not uncommon or unwarranted for a prospective employer to request copies of all in-force agreements you may have.

Why? Employers don’t want to walk you, or themselves, into any liability or fallout that could come from a former or current employer whom you have a legal agreement in place with.

Impact: This is another situation that is as much for you as them. It is just about putting all of the cards on the table to everyone knows what is being dealt with. It’s rare for a non-compete to create an issue that cannot be worked around but a review of them is needed to know that for certain.

5. Background Check

This can be narrowly defined or a much broader and more all-encompassing complete check. Areas that can be looked at range from credit and driving to criminal searches on a state and federal level as well as education and employment verifications.

Why? Employers want to know any history a person has coming in. Some jobs require driving, handling money, or other responsibilities where they need to be able to seek insurance for their employees. It also helps speak to a person’s reliability and character.

Impact: This is a situation where at best you push, and at worst you lose. It is kind of like your car having a steering wheel. When you shopped for and bought it, you didn’t buy the car because this one came with a steering wheel, did you? Of course not, you expected it to. They expect a clear background with no major issues so when that happens, it doesn’t get you the job.  Had the car not had a steering wheel, there is no way you bought it. Same here. Too big of issues will likely shut the process down. Many things, from DUI’s to bankruptcy can be worked through, so fear not there. Often disclosure ahead of time helps with that. It’s major issues like felonies and the like where you can run into issues.

Now let’s take a look at a few less generally applied steps. These tend to come more frequently in cases of leadership or sales roles.

6. Business Plan

If you are going to be selling or leading a team, division, or the entire organization, getting asked for a business plan, in some fashion or another, should not seem foreign.

Why? Your history is great. Your interviews shape your past success. A business plan will demonstrate to them how you intend to carry that success forward. It speaks to an alignment of your vision and goals with the organization’s.

Impact: This helps everyone. You get to lay out your plan, what you’ll need in terms of support to achieve it, and how you measure success.  They get to see if they share similar views or, to simplify it, if your plan is a fit for the organization’s goals and thoughts on how to achieve them.

7. Verification Documents (W2s, 1099s, book of business reports, etc.)

If you’ve looked at higher level, high income roles, you’ve likely been asked for one of the aforementioned documents or some combination thereof. It’s growing somewhat less common as certain states pass legislation prohibiting some lines of inquiry but it’s still out there with levels of regularity.

Why? Frankly, anyone can say anything when asked about past sales success, growth success under their leadership, and the like. Asking for these kinds of things backs up claims that have been made.  

Impact: You don’t want to get caught in a fib here. If you are a producer and say you’ve sold $200,000 in new revenue each of the past 3 years, but the book of business report nor income statements support that, you’re toast. For the organization, this affirms you are what you have said you are, which is a good thing all around.

By no means is this an all-inclusive list. Short of a few legalities, companies can ask for any number of things as part of their hiring process. It is up to you to decide if you’re willing to take part in the process. While certain things may seem a waste of time to you, or not necessary, it is often a step taken for a reason. There are most assuredly unreasonable requests made as well, but you always have the right to refuse; it just likely means you won’t be working for the company in question.


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