Fear of lawsuits makes reference checking harder than ever these days. That means you'll have to exercise a little caution and dig a bit deeper. Robert LoPresto, coauthor of The Reference Checking Handbook (Society for Human Resource Management, 800-444-5006, $20), offers these tips:

· Obtain job candidates' written permission to check references. Consider asking applicants to sign a liability waiver for employers who give reference-checking information.

· "Gather as much historical factual data as possible" from the employee and past employers. "Past success predicts future success."

· Beware of inaccuracies. "What we look for more than anything else is integrity. It's the number one criteria for success."

· Talk to former supervisors, peers, and, if appropriate, subordinates. "You want to find out what they're like to work with and for."

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