In the process of finding genuine general contractors, pop a surprise challenge during the interview so that they have to complete right then and there. Make sure it is something that pertains to the work you would have them doing in the home. If you are hiring a plumber, rig a pipe or two in the home and see how he handles the situation. If a suggestion for new pipe work is mentioned, you know that he is just trying to get more money out of you.
Another thing to do is ask for their license number or ROC number. You should always work with someone that is licensed, bonded, and insured. Call to verify all license and ROC numbers. If any are expired or invalid, it is best to steer clear altogether. Some fields do require re-certification after a period of time. Ask for re-certification proof as well. This should be documentation directly on letterhead.
Ask for references that you are actually able to call and verify. When you can actually speak with previous customers about a general contractor, they will be honest. This action will either help ease your mind or make you feel as if you were lied to. If there are no references available, search for customer reviews or complaints online. The Better Business Bureau is a great place to start since any formal complaints and resolutions made regarding this person will be listed. Their website provides detailed information from those filing the claims. It is one of the most trusted sources for researching companies and private workers.
If you follow the tips above, hiring general contractors that will do the work as promised will be simple. The general rule of thumb is to not hire the first person that comes along or anyone that does not have documented proof of licensing. Those that freelance or work independently often do not guarantee their work nor are they fully qualified to perform the job needed in your home. Always ask for signed permission to perform a background check. This helps to ensure the safety of you and your family as work is being done in your home.