Background Checks are Not a Luxury

In our mobile society, it's rare to have firsthand knowledge of a new hire. And the days are gone when an employer would dare to hire based solely on a grade point average and a transcript from a school or college.

Today, an employer needs to know more about applicants − much more. Otherwise, the employer risks hiring problems. To protect your company and its staff members, the trend in hiring is toward intensive prescreening of job applicants.

With fierce competition for a limited number of jobs, applicants may exaggerate and embellish the experience they have − or don't have. They may also try to hide things like a criminal record or previous termination.

For busy employers, background checks on applicants can seem like a luxury, a task that requires more resources or time than they have available. But failing to do good background checks can hurt your bottom line, harm your reputation and dull your competitive edge in these ways:

1. You could end up wasting time and money on high turnover due to poor hiring.

2. Dishonest employees may steal from your business. And imagine the damage to your business reputation if an employee is caught stealing from one of your clients or customers.

3. A negligent hiring lawsuit could ruin your business. If an employee hurts someone while they are on the job, or in your workplace, or if their shoddy work causes injury, your business could be liable.

New hires aren't the only staff members who require screening. Many employees promoted to a job with different responsibilities should get criminal background checks − for instance, a grounds person who is now going to have the keys to tenants' apartments.

One employer wisely decided to check out an assistant manager before promoting him to manager. The employer found out the assistant manager had three convictions for credit card fraud and was engaging in the illegal activity while at his current job.

Background checks should be routine if there is particular liability. In other words, an employee's level of responsibility should determine how involved and extensive a background check should be.


What Should You Check?

The following are items most often checked in background and credentials screening:

Residence information is one of the most important areas of a background check. Applicants may not reveal accurate addresses to you, because checking could turn up information they may not want the company to know.

How do you get all this information? You could gather it yourself, but it's likely to be time-consuming. You can likely save time and money by using a third-party background screening service.

To reduce cost, you can screen in phases. A driving record and Social Security check could be run on anyone being brought in for an interview. Candidates returning for a second interview could have prior employment and education information verified. Checks on criminal and financial histories could only be done on the finalists.

A Word of Caution: Applicants and employees have rights. You must have the individual's written permission to obtain a credit report. An applicant also has a right to see reports that are sent to the employer and to challenge any negative information. State laws and federal laws limit the information you can legally obtain. Be cautious. Follow the letter of the law with information obtained from a background screening.

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