By Neil Feldman
When a seemingly ideal candidate with an impressive résumé, a professional demeanor, and an aura of confidence graciously accepts an employers’ offer, it’s difficult for a hiring manager to think of much beyond how the department will likely benefit moving forward. But before this perfect fit moves into his or her new office, a series of background, drug and other checks and verifications should be conducted to ensure the employee is honest and doesn’t have any alarming skeletons in the closet.
“This is simply practicing responsible risk management,” said Nancy Shilepsky, managing partner and employment law attorney with Shilepsky Hartley Robb Casey Michon LLP in Boston. “There’s too much potential liability to not ensure you are hiring the right person,” she said.
Shilepsky has litigated cases where employers that failed to conduct background checks were held accountable for malfeasance committed by employees that had records with related wrongdoings.
According to Robert Mather, CEO of Pre-Employ.com, a firm that specializes in background checks, companies like his conduct between 4,000 and 12,000 checks per day at a cost ranging from about $19-$56, depending on the type of information the company is seeking. Regardless of the type of background check to be conducted, Mather points out that organizations must first obtain written authorization from the prospective employee. Somewhere within an application for employment is typically where the release would be located.
While not every type of check or verification is always essential to run, employers are advised to act conservatively when making pre-employment decisions. The following are some of the most important ones to consider:
1. Criminal history. Felony and misdemeanor searches can be conducted by county, state or throughout the nation. Each respective search costs an additional fee and some states will only provide information for the past seven years. Only information of public record is available and juvenile records cannot be accessed. Mather indicates that identity theft and false criminal reporting are on the increase and can appear on a background check, “so employers should require additional verifications if there’s a major disconnect between what the report states and what the prospective employee contends.”
2. Civil history. This will provide data showing whether the individual has been a party in a civil lawsuit and will indicate whether the job candidate is/was a plaintiff or defendant.
3. National wants and warrants. If the candidate is “wanted,” it will appear through the National Crime Information Center system.
4. Credit report. This is increasingly a common request for employers conducting background checks, said Mather. “It is particularly suggested,” he said, “for prospective employees who will be in finance or accounting positions that command significant trust.” Bankruptcies prior to seven years will not appear.
5. Social Security reports. This will reveal where the candidate has lived for the past seven years. Name variations are frequently used to verify addresses and locations.
6. Previous employer verification. The concern prospective employees have here centers on what the prior employer will say and whether they will release employment files. Due to a dramatic upsurge in lawsuits from job seekers who received false or embellished negative references, said Shilepsky, previous employers typically only confirm dates of employment. Compensation and additional comments are not generally provided as they once were.
7. Drug tests. This can be done either through a background check company or directly with local clinics that provide the service. Though It can be expensive, “the benefits far outweigh the costs of drug screening,” said Stuart Blaugrund, a partner and employment attorney at Dallas law firm Gardere Wynne Sewell. “It’s not prohibitive when you can reduce costs associated with accidents [and] workers’ comp claims and reduce potential harm to employees, customers, and others. Having to litigate a claim is going to cost a lot more than the screening,” he said.
8. Reference verification. The employer or background check firm should contact references provided by the job candidate. Questions posed, said Mather, should be “very specific regarding job performance as opposed to personal or private information.”
9. Education. The background check should verify attendance, majors, degrees, certifications and dates earned. “This has become a common background check item in recent times as a result of more falsification by job candidates,” said Mather “There are websites that anyone can go to and have a false degree and transcript created for a nominal amount of money,” he said. “This is one of the biggest reasons why verifying education information is essential.”
10. Driving history. This is a common and almost mandatory background check item for those required to operate a vehicle as part of their job. They are checking for license status, holder, dates of issuance and expiration, violations, suspensions, or other actions. While delivery drivers would be an example of an obvious candidate, it’s becoming more common for employers to check others like sales people.
Distributors that take the time to follow through with a comprehensive screening program are ensuring the new hire is ethical and honest with a clean background while protecting the organization from unnecessary risk. “In the grand scheme of corporate budgets,” said Blaugrund, “you’re laying out a relatively small sum of money in contrast to the potential liability that exists. And these are the kind of steps that help executives and senior level management sleep better at night,” Blaugrund said.
Neil Feldman is a senior manager in the distribution industry and a freelance writer whose byline has appeared in “The New York Times,” “The Boston Globe,” and numerous magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.