Living history

New employees face more than standard background checks

Posted: Monday, August 21, 2006

With the advent of new technology, the threat of terrorism, not to mention greater concern of employees breaching immigration laws, comes the need for a more sophisticated system for hiring new employees. Gone are the days of making a few simple phone calls to references. In are social security verifications, criminal and driving record inspections and even credit checks.

Companies are even beginning to specialize in these services, eliminating the burden on the employer. Alastair Watson, marketing director for First Advantage, an employment services and risk mitigation company based in St. Petersburg, Fla., says information such as previous employment dates and education verification provide employers with a more detailed view of the candidate.

Identifying factors

Checking in

According to a study conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management, 96 percent of those surveyed said they conduct some sort of background or reference check. Below is basic resume information and the percentage of times the candidate's response differed from the true data.

Dates of previous employment: 58 percent

Criminal record check: 54 percent

Former job titles: 49 percent

Driving record check: 46 percent

Past salaries: 45 percent

Former job responsibilities: 44 percent

Credit check: 38 percent

Former employers: 34 percent

Degree(s) conferred: 32 percent

Schools, colleges attended: 31 percent

Certifications, licenses, etc.: 24 percent

"Seventy-three percent of HR professionals polled state that background checks are very or somewhat effective in identifying poor performers," says Watson in reference to a study conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management. "Employers look to companies like First Advantage to verify as much information as possible regarding the applicant to help ensure the resume and application reflect their real experience."

Though some employees might think that fudging their past salaries or omitting criminal charges on their job application won't make a difference, think again. According to the SHRM study, respondents who sometimes or always found discrepancies in background searches reported 54 percent of criminal record checks did not match the applicant's information. Additionally, past salaries did not match 45 percent of the time, while former job titles differed 49 percent of the time.

"Searches done against national databases of criminal records allow employers to cast a much wider net when looking at applicants," says Watson. "[We have] a national database with over 150 million records in it and includes sex offender registries, the OFAC list and FBI terrorists and fugitive lists. Since applicants can commit crimes in states and counties where they didn't live - criminal searches are usually done based on counties and states were an applicant has resided - wider searches can aid employers in identifying incidents more thoroughly and give them the ability to further investigate prior to making a job offer."

Many issues

Though employees may argue that these methods are an invasion of privacy, it's easy to question your co-workers - especially in the wake of increasing workplace violence.

"There are too many issues whereby the employee uses a company credit card for business purposes where the company is a guarantor of the card and the employee runs up a huge bill, doesn't pay and leaves," says David Lewis, president of OperationsInc, a human resources outsourcing and consulting firm based in Stamford, Conn. "If my client knows someone is a credit risk because of current issues, they may choose not to hire them or establish tighter guidelines for credit card use."

Lewis adds that identity theft is a huge issue these days, which makes verifying a candidate's identity a must.

"The amount of fraud on resumes is mind boggling," he says. "Verifying dates and place of employment helps cut down on bad hires based on false claims made by the candidates."



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