> Recently a nursing home was pushed by an advocate to hire a woman from a halfway house.
That's a problem. Nursing facilities are _desperate_ for staff as the baby boomers are retiring or getting more medical issues as they age. The pay in many facilities is very low and good staff tend to burn out very quickly.
> Without being able to get a detailed history of the applicant
That's what references are for. If the HR person cannot be bothered to look anywhere but online, then there is a very different problem in that nursing home's staffing practices.
I'm afraid that there is also a profound danger in high staff turnover in nursing care, child care, and other service work with long shifts. Staff who commit abuses are very, very rarely criminally charged. They are usually given a chance to resign, even for sexual or physical abuse, in order to protect the care facility from lawsuit or loss of funding or accreditation. It is also usually _much_ faster to tell someone to resign or face firing for reasons that such a business may prefer not to have to put in writing or in any public document. The result is high turnover among abusive staff, but it also leaves a clean employment record. And it can be very difficult to separate from normal burnout or turnover, or normal layoffs in nursing care as funding changes.
The key to detecting this seems to be checking personal contacts, outside the list of references an applicant may provide. But that takes far more time than a simple Google search. It often takes getting your own staff to reach out to private contacts at the other facilities, and _that_ leads to HR being concerned about their own jobs, and about staff asking questions or judging candidates based on ethnicity, sexuality, race, or religion which HR personnel are specifically forbidden from using to evaluate candidates.
For hiring technology people, or providing references, _of course_ I reach out to acquaintances who may know a contact to get information that is not on their resume. I'll also have to admit that I've evaluated candidates in the basis of age, gender, marital status, and medical status in ways that are specifically prohibited by law but are nonetheless valid for work performance. The most interesting such case I ran into was someone changing gender: it wasn't on their resume, and they hadn't realized that I'd been present when their parents first met. While gender was not a legal basis for job discrimination, their medical needs for the next few years made them a poor candidate for the role, and they were quite surprised when I discussed it with them. I encouraged them to apply for, and helped them get an offer for, a role better suited to their needs for scheduled hormonal treatment and expected surgery. They were quite alarmed when I brought up their gender change myself in their interview, and a new employee in HR tried to raise concerns about my mentioning it.