Monday, April 16, 2007

Background checks - what you may not know

Once you are at the offer stage, it is more and more likely that a prospective employer will want a background check. Certainly, a background check is going to be ordered by a state licensing board if you are seeking professional licensure as a medical professional. If your job has any responsibility for dealing with confidential information, trade secrets, finances or public safety - like many in compliance roles might experience; anticipate a background check will be done.

Once upon a time in my business, during the process of a background check on a candidate, we discovered disturbing information that made a difference in how the hiring proceeded. On the client's part, they asked for more information. On the candidate's part, he refused. The search ground to a halt and we went to our strong back up candidate to fill the position. This happens more than I'd like, but you need to be aware as a candidate that you might experience a background check.

Attached is an article about a background checking service. It is from the Cincinnati Post, April 2, 2007 and written by By Greg Paeth, Post staff reporter.

Peering into the past
Screening firm will delve into the background of job applicants

Jason Rinsky remembers a pre-employment background check his company handled a few years ago for a Minnesota firm.

The company had interviewed an applicant for a call center job and planned to hire him pending the results of a background report by Employment Screening Associates, a Deer Park firm where Rinsky is the director.

ESA, which works with investigators all over the country, established pretty quickly that the job applicant had been convicted of sexual offenses against children and passed that report on to the Minnesota client. The company then asked ESA to double check its work and provide more information, which ESA did.

But Rinsky said the company still couldn't believe the ESA report. "They said it can't be - this is the nicest guy you've ever talked to. He's a Mormon - he prays before every meal," Rinsky recalls.

ESA went back for a third check and obtained a police mugshot of the man, delivering it to the company as proof that its job applicant and the sexual predator were one and the same.

Although it's somewhat unusual for any company to request a triple check of ESA information, the fact that the company uncovered discrepancies between information on a job application and the truth isn't that unusual, Rinsky said.

Of more recent vintage is a Cincinnati job check last week where an applicant for a job as a driver - Rinsky wouldn't be more specific - failed to disclose that he had served time in prison on aggravated robbery and kidnapping charges.

Employment Screening Associates, founded in 1991 and owned by Michael Kaufman, specializes in background checks on prospective employees for companies that don't have the time or the resources to do their own detective work.

Heightened security concerns since the 2001 terrorist attacks and the hot-button issue of hiring illegal immigrants are two reasons why ESA has experiencd double-digit growth for each of the last five years, said Rinsky, who declined to disclose revenue figures for the company.

Besides employment and criminal history checks, the company also can be hired to handle reference checks; education and certification verification; worker's compensation, military service and credit histories; alien registration, and drug and health screenings.

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that some 60 percent of job applicants are less than candid about their educational backgrounds and about a third of all applicants are less than truthful about their work experience or job responsibilities at previous jobs.

Rinsky said his company generally finds that 25 to 30 percent of job applicants overstate their educational backgrounds or the role they played with a previous employer.

What happens after ESA delivers its report is the decision of ESA's client.

"We look at our role as that of a fact finder and an information gatherer," Rinsky said. "We're not there to implement the (hiring) policies that a client might have."

Rinsky and Rick Weber, ESA's sales and marketing manager, both stressed that unlike some companies that might do no more than a database search on the Internet to check out a job applicant, ESA has a network of people who can examine records in every courthouse in the country and also track down data outside of the U.S.

The pricetag on ESA services vary, depending on the amount of information that an employer requests.

Simple drug tests can be $10 or less while more extensive lab-based drug testing typically runs $30-$40.

Criminal backrgound checks can be as little as $10-$15 while a more extensive report will typically range from $50 to $75, Rinsky said.

"We understand as do a lot of HR professionals that it costs tens of thousands of dollars in both hard and soft costs to hire someone.

"So to spend $50 to $75 to make sure that someone is who they say they are and have the skills that they say they have is a very minimal investment," Rinsky said.

If you have issues in your background that are sensitive, be sure and disclose them up front. Never make the assumption that derogotory information will not be discovered - it is easy and inexpensive to get a legal and comprehensive background completed. Employers are "just doing it."

Happy and healthy job search and hiring.