The 12 Days of Background Checks

‘Tis the season of gift giving and what better gifts to receive than gifts to help you ensure you have the best workforce possible?

On the 1st day of Background Checks my screener gave to me: A terrific, jurisdictionally compliant Application to be used for all futures hires.

Ann says, “Don’t let your applicants just give you their resume. It’s a great advertisement for them, and it doesn’t put YOU in the driver’s seat with the information you need to know about them. Also, be sure NO ONE writes “see resume” anywhere on this state-of-the-art application you will be using.”

On the 2nd day of Background Checks my screener gave to me: Authorizations and Disclosures.

Pre-employment background check Authorization forms have a wonderful side effect: some people with unsavory backgrounds won’t bother applying. Given our “hit” rate, however, a lot of them still apply. Be sure your Authorization and Disclosure forms are FCRA compliant, both with the federal FCRA and any state Fair Credit Reporting Acts if applicable.

Ann says, “Major law suits have been won and lost based on the compliance of the Authorization and Disclosure forms. It’s an easy thing to have compliant forms, don’t be a statistic.”

On the 3rd day of Background Checks my screener gave to me: The Right Criminal Searches.

(What’s this? Client reaches into stocking. . .) The right criminal searches means not depending solely on a criminal database (which is a mile wide and an inch deep), searching ALL the necessary jurisdictions, not just the applicant’s current place of residence, and checking the FEDERAL courts.

Ann says, “If you are getting instant results on your criminal searches, your background screener may be pulling from a database and you may be missing crucial criminal convictions. Ask your searcher, and it may be a good idea to call around for a second opinion.”

On the 4th day of Background Checks my screener gave to me: Employment Verifications.

If employment claims aren’t checked, people can claim anything. Arm yourself with the facts. Nearly 1/3 of job applications list dates that are inaccurate by more than three months. Job titles get inflated, reasons for leaving curiously left blank.

Ann says, “I spoke with a previous supervisor once who told me that the applicant in question had been fired from the convenience store for embezzling. He didn’t know if they were going to press charges or just be glad he was gone. That’s a great reason to verify employment.”

On the 5th day of Background Checks my screener gave to me: Reference Checks.

Your applicants should be able to give you five good, useful references with daytime and evening phone numbers and email addresses. Supervisors, co-workers, even suppliers. Not their grandmother, their girlfriend’s brother or their neighbor. Good references are a gold mine—you can find work habits, strengths, weaknesses, punctuality, communication skills, etc.

Ann says, “Oftentimes, in today’s world the best we can get from Human Resources is dates and position held. That’s where references will fill in the blanks. They are fast (when we have good information) and can yield valuable information.”

On the 6th day of Background Checks my screener gave to me: Education Verifications.

Education is by far the most falsified piece of a person’s curriculae vitae. To be frank, people lie regularly about their high school diplomas, and we also see people stretching a couple years at a university into a degree. 35% of job openings in the coming years will require a bachelor’s degree, 30% require some college or an Associate’s degree, and 36% will not require education beyond high school. Competition is fierce and getting more so.

Ann says, “Don’t accept any documentation presented by the applicant. With Adobe (or even tape and a scissors) diplomas are easy to fabricate. Be sure to get graduation verification from the institution itself.”

On the 7th day of Background Checks my screener gave to me: Driving Records.

Driving records: Because they are commanding 4000 pounds of steel and rubber on your time. And what is “your time?” Ever send someone out to pick up lunch for the office? Run to the post office for the business? Swing by the Big Box office store for paper and staples? That’s your time. Regardless of who’s car they are driving, if an accident happens you may be the deep pocket. Especially if you could have known that their license was suspended.

Ann says, “Remember that the term “driving for work” is very broadly defined in most jurisdictions and not limited to driving positions. Just because someone can produce a physical license doesn’t mean that license is in good standing.”

On the 8th day of Background Checks my screener gave to me: Licensure verifications.

Different from driver’s licenses, we mean verifying that the attorney you are hiring has passed the bar and is in good standing to practice, that the nurse you are hiring is licensed, CPA’s, engineers, etc.

Ann says, “It is the responsibility of the employer to know that their employees have the proper licenses to conduct the work for which you have hired them. Like education verifications, don’t count on the paper license the applicant waves under your nose. Go to the state registries and verify that their license is in good standing.”

On the 9th day of Background Checks my screener gave to me: Pre-Adverse and Adverse Action Notices.

Many states have their own rules and regulations about how these notices need to be handled. Be sure you understand the federal and state requirements in your jurisdiction, check with your background screening firm and your attorneys.

Ann says, “Trust me, you really want these. They are not the chocolate in your Christmas stocking, maybe more like the toothpaste Santa brought. It is very important to get this right.”

On the 10th day of Background Checks my screener gave to me: Diploma Mills.

Okay, your screener didn’t give you diploma mills, but critical information about them. They are highly profitable: $200 Million annually. 500 estimated PhD’s awarded every year. 400 diploma mills, 300 websites run by diploma mills and 98 fake accreditation agencies operating in the U.S. today. Just because a school is accredited, doesn’t mean that the accrediting body is accredited.

Ann says, “I had an applicant one time that claimed a degree from an online university. We determined that: Yes, he had the master’s degree. The university was not accredited. The university also gave a master’s degree to a cat. This stuff really does happen.”

On the 11th day of Background Checks my screener gave to me: Ban the Box.

Also known as the Fair Chance Initiative and other names, Ban the Box requires employers to consider a job candidate’s qualifications first—without the stigma a conviction or arrest record. So the “box” asking about criminal convictions or arrest records is banned on employment applications in (at last count) 31 states and over 150 cities and counties.

Ann says, “For information on specific jurisdictions, check with your background screening professional or visit (national Employment Labor Project).”

On the 12th day of Background Checks my screener gave to me: A Barrier to Juries and Headlines.

In the end, much of what we do is to protect our customers from juries and headlines. The likelihood of getting sued—much less successfully sued—by someone with a criminal past is minute, but jury awards are huge if it is determined that you could have know something but didn’t.

Ann says, “Be diligent. Run the criminal searches—don’t rely on the $12.95 nationwide supersearch instant check. You can’t defend yourself in court if that’s your best move. Verify the employment, check the licenses. Call the references or have your background screener do it. We are trained professionals who do this ALL DAY LONG. You don’t have to be perfect, just show that a diligent effort was made.”


Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a new year free of liability and risk!