by Thomas C. Lawson, CFE, CII
So what should you be looking for in an employment screening company?
First of all, look for longevity. The longer a company has been providing background checks, the more experienced it is, and as a result, the knowledge, they will have in recognizing the signs of a “suspect” applicant. This is a field where screeners need not only be highly trained, but have extensive experience.
Ask for references and then call them. You want a company with an extensive and positive track record of providing factual information so you can make an informed hiring decision.
Look for the company’s professional memberships in organizations such as ASIS, SHRM, PIHRA, NPRRA, NAPBS, as well as others. This indicates a combined knowledge of the screening and security industries.
Do you as the hiring company; have a complete knowledge of employment law? If not, you need your screening company to know the laws involving background checks. If is extremely beneficial if you hire a company that has an acute knowledge of “negligent hiring” practices, much in the way that an Expert Witness would know.
The company should have an intimate, thorough and long-term knowledge of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA), and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), as well as Sarbanes-Oxley, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, and the myriad local statutes that may or may not apply to the employment process. They should also have the ability to testify for you in a court of law if need be; or even better, keep you out of court in the first place!
Does your prospective screener have knowledge and understanding of current HR management systems? How about corporate due diligence programs or factual employment screening programs that train people to find fraudulent applications and false identities?
Are you beginning to see how there is so much more to background checks than first meets the eye?
In short, can your vendor help keep you from unwanted litigation? Unless you or someone in your company is an expert in employment law, you are putting your company at significant risk by using an online database provider. If you are using any of the multitudes of online databases, it’s not likely you are protected.
Not only do these online companies increase your risk of exposure, they may even add to it. For example, let’s say you are currently using an employment screener that does not require you to provide a signed release for each applicant. Sounds relatively harmless, doesn’t it?
The truth is what these companies have done is had you waive liability to them when you signed up for an account so they can avoid the time and effort it takes involved in this critical step. Their focus in on increasing their sales; which isn’t necessarily in your company’s best interest.
In the case of a credit bureau audit, your company is now responsible for producing an original signed application and therefore also liable if you don’t have one on file. A good employment screener is not only a long-term certified credit bureau, they also provide signatures for these audits on a regular basis and you should never even know when theses audits occur. A typical lawsuit of this nature could cost your company six figures. There is no upside for a company purchasing background checks to take this kind of risk.
What type of criminal conviction research, hand-researched or online databases, does the company provide? Most companies do not realize that there is absolutely NO single source of information available regarding criminal convictions. It doesn’t exist – anywhere. Do they verify these discoveries against subject identifiers and if so, how?
Does your online provider claim to have worker’s compensation claim records? Any information provided regarding worker’s compensation claims potentially provides a false sense of security for the user. The truth is the only records available for worker’s compensation are appeals, not claims, and much of the available files are sealed because they are not as yet adjudicated. This means the file competency rate for this type of data is about 40% – not good enough.
Does the employment screener have international research capability? If not, how will they screen people you might want to hire from overseas? Without the kinds of connections and a network of relationships developed over long periods of time, this information would be almost impossible to get.
Has the company you want to hire ever been involved in a litigation themselves for improper screening processes? Can they provide you with at least three long-term references? Do they have professional liability insurance including errors and omissions? Are they FACTA, FCRA; CCRRA, and G-L-B compliant?
And of course you need to know the practical things such as cost, turnaround time and reporting method. Many competent employment screeners are listed in publications such as the Security Industry Buyers Guide as well as industry publications such as those connected with the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS).
What is needed now in this industry is a standardization of compliance for employment screeners and someone to step up and create an industry co-operative that can police it.
Find out how to protect your company against Workplace Violence and Negligent Hiring Lawsuits