You have heard plenty from me over the last year about legal issues impacting employers. This week we are changing things up a bit. Now, I have talked here, here, here and here about criminal background checks in the hiring process. We have a guest blogger, someone from the trenches, who actually owns and runs a background screening company. Her name is Brandy Bishop and her company is i-Verified. You can connect with Brandy on LinkedIn here . Brandy’s perspective and practical advice follows after the jump…
As the owner of a background screening company, I often hear a pattern of concerns or statements from small business owners. One of the most common is how to handle county screenings that aren’t online. You know the ones – they think they can stop time as if it is 1952 and computers don’t exist yet. Their databases are only available by either walking directly into the county courthouse or faxing a request form. I envision an elderly woman behind the counter with a beehive hairdo, pictures of her great-grandchildren and ‘ol blue eyes’ Frank Sinatra sound waves wafting through the airwaves. When county databases aren’t online, it takes longer to get the information. Depending on the court, this could mean using a public access terminal for data queries to a physical search of the court’s paper records. In the meantime, the potential employee is in a holding pattern. More than once, I have heard of employees finding and taking another job with a different (second) company, while the first company is still waiting for the background check. The good news is most databases are online now and more join the 21st century (or should we say the 20th century) every year.
Other things hold us up when running background checks, too. When there is a possible ‘hit’ or record, that automatically holds up the process. It takes longer to verify this information. This slows down the employer’s hiring process. Here is the Normal Background Screening Process (fastest to slowest):
1. No Record Found
2. Conviction with Complete Data- These slows down the process a little. Why? The researcher has to confirm the record actually belongs to the applicant, and then checks the information is accurate and up to date. Lastly, we review information for compliance before we send it to the employer.
3. Conviction with Incomplete Data- This requires more investigation. Sometimes, we need to contact a court employee directly. If we are lucky, the court employee can quickly clarify the information we find. However, usually more research is required, which delays the process.
4. Possible Records Found- A possible record is when we can’t determine immediately if there is a record or not. The only way to confirm is contacting the court. This is very frustrating for employers because it can take several days to a week to get a yes or no answer.
When your goal as an employer is to hire people as quickly as possible, this process can make you want to pull out your hair in frustration. As an employer, you can help by planning ahead as much as possible. One of my recent clients had to wait over a week while we confirmed information on a new hire because the person (male) went by three different first and last names and moved every year or so. In addition, he had a common name and a strange life story, including adoption and a full name change. The client told the new hire the job was his pending the outcome of the background check. In other words, she communicated to the new hire throughout the process, so he wouldn’t think she dropped the ball or decided not to hire him.
As the employer, it’s not required you give gory details about what is going on behind the scenes. Neither do you have to tell the candidate, “hey, we have to do some more digging to make sure you aren’t really a serial killer.” You only have to confirm that the background check is still pending and then check in with the potential employee once or twice a week until the background check is complete. If the candidate asks questions, such as “what is taking so long?”, you can explain some background checks take longer if a person moves frequently and/or has several aliases. It doesn’t mean the person has done anything wrong- it just means we have more digging to do.
For my recent client, behind the scenes, we were validating every address and matching it with all aliases and his social security number. We were also checking all criminal databases with each alias, as well as matching credit (because he was hired as a fund-raiser and was dealing with money) with addresses and aliases. We then checked the civil courts for each alias and matched that with the credit history (again, due to his handling money) and the story about the adoption. In the end, my client hired the candidate, because we found no history to indicate criminal activity.
Another issue I hear often is an increasing pattern of candidates misrepresenting their educational achievements. The latest statistics say 40% of all job applicants misrepresent the facts; 30% of candidate representations or statements outright lies. Many small companies do not even stop to think whether a degree is valid or from an accredited university. It’s extremely easy to buy a diploma mill degree. In other words, if I pay $5,000.00, I can buy a doctorate by taking a few correspondence classes. Not to mention, that $5,000.00 provides me a customer service rep who sits in his cubicle all day answering calls from people like you confirming Joe actually does have a doctorate. It’s not an accredited doctorate by any means, but it is a doctorate. As the employer, you now have to figure out how Joe, with the doctorate in business management, is going to handle the work as your COO. Once the business finds out the employee isn’t up to the task, it’s usually too late. You’ve already invested time and money in this person only to find out he doesn’t know a thing about business management or whatever degree he listed on his résumé. This is why it’s extremely important to check for accuracy. You can use the National Student Clearinghouse as a first step.
I actually had a client who almost hired a person as a regional director for a popular grocery chain. The applicant lied on his résumé and said he not only had management experience, but also had a master’s degree in business. The client’s instinct told him to check out the information. He found out not only did the applicant not have a master’s degree; his only experience in grocery stores was as a bag boy!
Whatever you do, please take the time to either research the information yourself or find a company who can research the information for you. Do not take the applicant at his word- even if he does know your sister’s brother’s cousin!
While we have covered the subject of background checks quite a bit, we will come back to one more unexplored piece: background checks under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA). Join us back here, same time, same place!
Disclaimer: Contents of this post are for informational purposes only, are not legal advice and do not create an attorney-client relationship. Always consult with competent local employment counsel on any issues discussed here.
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