Employment Background Screening
by Greg Belknap

The tragic events of September 11, 2001 were a wake-up call for everyone. Are your company and employees safe from terrorism? Probably not, but what are your odds with over 280 million Americans? The real threat is the fact that your actual risks lie within your business. 70% of illegal drug users are employed. One out of every 20 persons will serve time in prison during his or her lifetime. 30% of business failures are caused by poor hiring practices. 30-40% of resumes are fraudulent. Over 40,000 Americans are killed each year in automobile accidents and almost half are drug and alcohol related.

It is safe to say that 10% of your workforce needs your immediate attention. There are some employees working for you who should be back in prison, and if you knew the truth about them, you may not have hired them in the first place. Even your corporate veil cannot protect you against negligent hiring. There are many ways to avoid a negligent hiring situation. Implementing a company wide employment hiring procedure is the first step. Yes, you can always go back and screen your current employees as well. The issue, first and foremost is "SAFETY". Of course there is protocol, which must be followed to ensure fairness and protection of a person's privacy.

The cost of conducting background checks is always a factor, but what is the cost of your Attorney for just one hour? One applicant should cost less than 10 minutes of your Attorney's time. Sometimes we miss the upside to Employment Background Screening such as the reduction of workplace violence, turnover, sick days, theft, workers' compensation claims, negligent hiring, and negligent retention lawsuits. Productivity and morale increase, as does the bottom-line. Cost may be a factor, but the benefits far out-weigh the costs. Do not let cost stand in the way of doing the right thing.

Each employment position requires its own selection of background services, relative to the job. For instance, it may not be necessary to check an individual's credit history when they will not be in a position of handling money or some type of monetary control. You also may not wish to verify a college degree if they will not be applying that knowledge or skill to the position. There are three items of background screening that represent the minimum you should be conducting:

Criminal History

Felony and Misdemeanor convictions and, in some cases, arrest information are warranted. Most felony cases are reduced to misdemeanors in order to expedite the judicial process. However, the charge was a felony and should not be minimized in our minds by the reduction to misdemeanor. Most records released cover a 7-year history. Your criminal search should include everywhere the applicant has lived or worked in the past 7 years. Comparing the application and the authorization and release form, along with the information gathered by the motor vehicle report and the social security trace, will dictate which counties to search. This could mean searching only one county or it may necessitate checking multiple counties. Other names used (AKA's) should also be checked. There may be a reason why someone will change his or her name. Criminal searches are conducted by county. Very few states offer a statewide search. Criminal searches are conducted by hand at the courthouse to ensure accuracy and reliability. Databased criminal searches lack updated information. It is important for you to know the disposition of a case and whether there are any outstanding warrants. It is just as important to know if there is an active case.

Motor Vehicle Report

The applicant may or may not drive for you. The purpose is to further identify the person working for you. AKA's may be revealed, warrants due to failures to appear or pay, suspensions, restrictions, holds, violations, accidents, and sometimes-criminal activity. Verify the vital information given. If the report indicates that the driver is 6'-5" tall, with blue eyes, but your applicant is 5'-9" with brown eyes, there is an obvious discrepancy that should get your attention. Identity theft is on the rise and is not very hard to accomplish by the willing.

Social Security Trace

A Social Security Trace will assist in further identifying the applicant. The individual provided the information and it is your responsibility to verify that it is accurate. Any names and addresses used with the number should be disclosed. It is very important to compare this information to the application to ensure all names and counties are searched. If another person's name is shown on the report, it may be that your applicant is using the number fraudulently, or that someone else is falsely using your applicant's number. In addition, the year and state of issuance of the number is available. If the applicant was born in 1968 and the card was issued in 1959, we have a problem. Social Security traces are a tool in detecting identity theft and may also disclose counties to be searched that your applicant did not list on the application or release form

Results are returned to you within 24-72 hours. Some courts may take longer. There are many other searches that your organization may want to consider. What you do with the information is just as important. You must set the standards for hiring and apply them fairly to avoid prejudice claims. There are many qualified applicants who deserve a position within your organization and you can weed-out that unwarranted 10%. Risk is a daily reality in business; however, tools are available to reduce your personal exposure. Terrorist attacks are political, difficult to detect and may happen. By thoroughly screening your applicants, you can prevent hiring fraudulent and unwelcome personnel. Your company deserves the best and most qualified employees, which starts with the Background Screening process.

This informative "Backgrounds", article was contributed by Greg Belknap, Special Projects Manager of Absolutebackgrounds.com a Nationwide Employment Background Screening Service Company. Greg has been the CEO of American Labor Resources, LLC Background Company for over seven years. Prior to this position he spent nine years with the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department as a Narcotics Detective. Greg holds a B.S. degree in Business and Management from the University of Redlands and an A.S. degree in the Administration of Justice at the Victor Valley College. Web site: http://www.absolutebackgrounds.com Email: www.greggb@absolutebackgrounds.com (800) 600-3610.