At the Absolute Minimum What you Need to Generate Effective Background
It's impossible to find a common standard for thorough background checks
into today's expanding employment screening world. Below you will find what
I consider to be the minimum amount of information needed to do a thorough
and effective background check. Keep in mind this recommendation comes from
someone who has run an Pre-employment Screening business for
30+ years and is
also an Expert Witness for Negligent Hiring lawsuits.
Here's how you need to set your standards:
- An embedded policy in the company's procedures manual to ensure
consistency in screening each class of employee.
- An updated Background Information Form that allows candidates to
disclose any and all identification data. This provides a better background
check and allows you to discover discrepancy which permits dismissal/elimination
of candidacy base don omission of data.
- Positive Candidate Identification – a background check is worthless
if the subject is not really who they say they are. 30% of the population
possesses undisclosed aliases!
- Thorough financial history (credit etc.) to give better identification,
current financial condition which is important for fiduciary-based positions,
and general responsibility attitude indicators.
- A thorough driving history even if not driving a company car. This
information shows societal attitudes toward basis laws and the attitudes
of the subject toward resolution of violations such as Failure to Appear
in court for traffic tickets. It is great for identification data and
also as an additional responsibility attitude indicator.
- A multi-level criminal conviction check is critical. Federal, State
and Local courts should always be checked. Why? For example: In Los
Angeles county many lower grade felonies and high-grade misdemeanors
never see the Superior Court level due to busy court calendars. If Superior
is the only court searched, much information is missed in the types
of crimes that employers need to know before making a hiring decision
including: narcotics, crimes of violence etc.
- NEVER rely on database criminal checks alone for your ultimate decision!
This rule can't be stressed enough. These databases, including any online
source, lack the perfection which can only be obtained by a hand searched
at the jurisdiction. You are essentially buying the amount of investment
the purveyor has made in his search logic software, not necessarily
in what is being purveyed, if you use these kinds of database services.
As an Expert Witness in Negligent Hiring lawsuits, I have been called
many times to testify as regarding Improper Employment Screening only
to render an opinion as to the inadequacy of a database search. This
is particularly severe when databases searches miss cases such as rape
and murder. Unfortunately it happens a lot.
- Be sure to QUALIFY your vendor if you are buying third-party background
check services. Make sure the vendor is in the business of employment
screening and that they update their screening program regularly through
counsel. Be sure that they did not just get into this business because
it is the latest money-making or marketing fad (that includes all online
purveyors of database searches).
Determine the following:
- how long they have been in the employment screening business
- how well known or thought of they are in the Human Resources field
- how well known they are by industry associations such as NAPBS and
The Background Investigator
- Find out how they advise their clients as to the soup-to-nuts approach
to this type of service. This business is a heck of a lot more than
just selling units of data to an end user. It needs to b e a symbiotic
relationship between the client and vendor since extremely sensitive
decisions are being made about consumers. Be aware that a consumer is
a very important legal term in this field as is defined in the Fair
Credit Reporting Act which governs most of the employment screening
- Have your entire program reviewed by counsel. Changes in this area
of the law occur almost daily in the form of "new interpretations,"
and if you are caught behind the times, your company opens itself to
- Remember that this service is not to be taken lightly any more.
With new laws continuing to be introduced daily and would-be purveyors
selling you everything online and instant, you can get into trouble
fast if you haven't thought your employment screening process through.
More care and thoroughness at the front end will help you avoid big
headaches in the end!
Thomas C Lawson, CFE, CII is the CEO and
Founder of APSCREEN the
nation's oldest, continuously operated Factual Employment Screening firm
based in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. Mr. Lawson was the first court-certified
Expert Witness on Negligent Hiring from the Improper Employment Screening
perspective and also testifies on other HR matters. Published credits include
Fraud Magazine, Business Week, LA Ties, ABC's American Agenda, CBS Syndicated
Talk Radio, NBC's EXTRA! and KNX News Radio. Mr. Lawson is a member of SHRM,
PIHRA, ASIS, ACFE, CII, WAD, WIN NPRRA and is a founding member of PRRN
and NAPBS. Lawson can be contacted at 800 277-2733.