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Background Checks - Four Tips for Employers

Monday, 16 September 2013

Background Checks - Four Tips for Employers

From an article by Neal Custer: 

Poorly-executed background checks pose a significant problem for both  businesses and employees. The entire purpose behind a background check is establishing trust between two parties; a business risks their own integrity by  hiring somebody they know nothing about. 

Likewise, they risk ruining the reputation of perfectly good employees by reacting to a false positive - that  is, information that appears during a background check that is actually  incorrect. So, what is the solution to this problem? 

Should we just throw out background checks altogether like yesterday's bathwater? Of course not. Businesses still  need to know that their employees are who they claim to be, and background  checks are the only way to accomplish this goal. The problem is not in the concept of a background check itself. 

The issue  arises from the way the information about a given individual is obtained and  used. Simply typing a person's name into an online database can potentially  yield hundreds of false positives, and yet this is the extent of what many  employers consider a background check. Why is Wikipedia disallowed as a valid source for students writing academic  papers? 

Put simply, the information on the website is not reviewed by an  authority. While there is some degree of editorial control, virtually anybody  can post what they want to the website. These online "background check" services  operate in a very similar way; they simply compile information automatically  without verifying it. 

There is no human being who actually reads through the  data and puts it in the right categories; it is simply a formless blob of  information online that may or may not be true. Even if these databases say nothing about an employee's dark criminal past,  there is still the possibility of dangerous information not showing up on these  databases. 

Employers owe it to themselves and their employees to hold themselves  to higher standards for background checks. By following these four simple tips, you minimise the risk of encountering a  false positive: 

1. Consult Better Sources 

Almost all of the online "background check" websites are out to make a quick  buck. State and county sources, on the other hand, exist to genuinely provide a  public service. At a minimum, employers should look into both state and federal court  records. Federal crimes do not show up in state court repositories, and  vice-versa. Likewise, employers should do a sex offender check for this reason;  the individual may have engaged in criminal activity in another state, and this  won't show up in local records. 

2. Ask Better Questions 

As a general rule, employers should obtain as much identifiable information  about an individual as they can. An ideal background check would require a  person's full name,  list of previous addresses, and date  of birth. Each of these details can be used to filter through the hundreds of  false records online. Many employers are afraid to ask for these details due to EEOC laws, but this  is important for identity verification. Always include a disclaimer on the  application that the information is simply used for the purposes of an accurate  background check and not for discriminatory purposes. 

3. Introduce the Human Element

Running a search through a questionable database does not constitute a  reliable background check. Businesses should consider using a trained private  investigator or other background check professional for these purposes. These  individuals are very familiar with differentiating between legitimate and  dubious sources of information, and they know how to use that information  properly. An investigator adds the human element that an automated search lacks - they  personally verify personal information, use multiple sources, and sometimes  discover new details altogether.

4. Give an Opportunity to Respond 

What happens after the background check is over? Most employers simply  terminate engagement if suspicious information is found. Put simply, this is the  wrong approach. Instead, employers need to give the individual an opportunity to  explain the circumstances of the suspicious event. Identity theft is rampant,  and past instances of identity theft can ruin an individual's future forever. By  simply giving them a chance to elaborate on the situation, you minimise the risk  of dismissing a perfectly good employee. There is no one-click solution for conducting a background check. A truly  accurate and reliable background check is only possible by consulting valid  sources, employing trained investigators, and getting the right kind of  information from the employee.  


Learn more about Barringtons Background Checking Services here

Blayne Webb, Director, Barringtons  

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