Who Has the Time to Conduct Background Checks on Potential Employees?

And is it really necessary?

The trend in hiring is toward intensive pre-screening of job applicants. 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 hire based solely on a grade point average and a transcript from a school or college.

Now an employer needs to know more about an applicant — much more. Otherwise, the employer risks hiring problems.

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.

To a busy employer, background checks on applicants can seem like a luxury, a task that requires more resources or time than is available. But failing to do good background checks will hurt your bottom line 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 you hire hurts someone while on the job or in your workplace or if his or her shoddy work causes injury, your business may be liable.

New hires aren’t the only employees who require screening. Many employees promoted to a job with different responsibilities — for instance, a grounds employee who is now going to have the keys to tenants’ apartments — should get a criminal background check. 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 plying his trade at his current job.

Background checks should be routine where there is particular liability. Examples: Employees who have access to people’s homes or offices, such as cleaning or maintenance employees or real estate agents, men and women who work with children, employees who have access to cash, people who greet the public (such as receptionists), anyone who deals with customers on a regular basis or franchisees, who are entrusted with your name and logo.

What to Check

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

Criminal record.
Credit Report.
Driving record.
Education.
Professional licenses.
Judgments or tax liens.
Drug screening.
Social Security number search.
Workers’ Compensation history [you legally can only check into an applicant’s Workers’ Comp history after a job offer has been made, to avoid violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).]
Past and present residence information.
Past employment verification and work record.
Residence information is one of the most important areas of a background check. An applicant may not reveal accurate addresses to you, because a check could turn up information he or she may not want you to know.

How do you get all this information? You could gather it yourself, but it’s likely to be time-consuming. You will likely save time and money by using a third-party background screening service, such as PayVision Online’s Employee Background service.

An employee’s level of responsibility will determine how involved and extensive you’ll want a background check to be.

To reduce cost, 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 would be done only on the finalists.

Warning: Applicants and employees have rights, too. 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. What information you can legally obtain is limited by your state laws, the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the ADA. Be cautious. Follow the letter of the law with information you obtain from a background screening.