Do You Know Whom You’re Interviewing?

Do you know who you’re interviewing? Really know them? Chances are good that you don’t.

According to Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, between 30% and 40% of all résumés and job applications include outright lies or exaggerated facts. Trusting a candidate solely on the basis of what their résumé says could be a recipe for financial and/or legal disaster.

That disaster could take the form of a negligent-hiring lawsuit if something goes wrong on the job, something that could have been avoided if you had known about certain aspects of the candidate’s past. And even if something doesn’t go wrong, you’re still at risk. For example, if your client company discovers that one of the candidates you supplied has a criminal record, they’re probably not going to be inclined to use you for a search in the future. (Talk about failing to cultivate client loyalty.)

All of this potential disaster can be avoided, however, if you take the time to conduct a background check on a candidate. There are two main things you need to remember about background checks: 1. They should be conducted only after the candidate signs a release form, and 2. Legal experts recommend that a contingent job offer be extended before running the back-ground check.

Checking a candidate’s background helps protect you, your reputation, and the relationship you have with your clients. According to the January 12 issue of the “Staffing Industry Report,” background screening is a $4 billion industry. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Reference and Background Checking Survey Report indicated that 99% of large companies and 93% of small to midsize companies conduct some type of background check on their candidates.

Clearly, companies want to hire candidates who have been properly screened, especially in this day and age. If you truly want to ensure that you’re providing the best possible service – and the best possible candidates – to your clients, then background checks are not a luxury. They’re a necessity.

Ann Walker, MS, SPHR, has been a human resources manager in the business environment, as well as at a medical facility, for a number of years. During her career, she’s seen it all, including the rise in the use of background checks. According to Walker, there’s a reason that more and more background checks are being utilized in today’s market.

“The reason for background checks is simple,” said Walker. “It’s risk management. There’s more potential, as society changes, for candidates to have background issues that may concern a potential employer. From a business perspective, it makes more sense to know the negative information before finalizing the employment offer.”

You never know what you’re going to discover when conducting a background check. One of Walker’s candidate background check screenings unexpectedly turned up a 25-page criminal history.

The Basics

So, where do you start? The answer: a release form. A criminal background check should be conducted only after the candidate has signed a release form. (I really can’t stress this enough.) This form must be separate from a job application or other paperwork. In addition, background checks must be conducted in compliance with state and federal laws, and as I mentioned above, legal experts recommend that a contingent job offer be extended before running the background check.

Once the candidate signs the release form and also supplies his or her Social Security number, you’re ready to go. Below is a list of the standard information you can expect to gather with a background check:

– Bankruptcy records
– Social Security number verification
– Court records
– Credit records
– Criminal records
– Driving records
– Sex offender lists
– State licensing records
– Motor vehicle registrations
– Fingerprinting

In addition, there’s other information you can uncover through a background check if you don’t have time to verify that information yourself. (However, these are things that are part of most recruiters’ process.)

– Education
– Credentials
– Past employers
– Personal references

Drug tests can also be required of a candidate. This can be done either through a standard urine panel screening or through a hair sample. Many companies are now opting for the latter, which produces more accurate results. Along with a drug test, however, you also need an appropriate “chain of custody.” This is a term that refers to the process of providing documentation of proper specimen identification and handling from the time of collection to the time that the lab releases its results. An accurate and exact chain of custody is needed in case the results come under legal challenge.

The Complexities

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While background checks are a necessary and invaluable tool, there are certain steps and procedures that must be followed when conducting one through a third-party vendor. First and foremost, the check must be in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, enacted by Congress in 1970; the Americans with Disabilities Act; and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

In addition, an employer’s screening policy must not have negative effects on the disabled and provide for fair and unbiased treatment no matter the gender, race, color, disability, national origin, marital status, religion, or other protected class of a candidate. As you can see, conducting a background check is not something to be taken lightly. There are a lot of components involved and many requirements that must be followed.

The entire process can appear a bit daunting. Clients want the best and brightest candidates in the industry, but they also want to make sure that those candidates are low-risk. If you don’t provide them with low-risk candidates, you could be damaging your reputation and your relationship with that client. That makes background checks a necessity. On the other hand, if you don’t make sure that those checks are conducted in complete compliance with established laws and regulations, you could potentially be exposing yourself to an entirely different set of legal woes.

And it’s not as though things will get easier in the future. If history is any indication, conducting background checks will become even more complicated as state and federal mandates are added or modified. So at the same time that the need for background checks continues to increase, their degree of difficulty will increase as well.

Our Screening Process

Top Echelon Contracting conducts background checks for candidates being placed on a contract assignment through our back-office. If a recruiter is going to place a contractor or a temp-to-hire candidate through Top Echelon Contracting, we automatically conduct a standard background check.

When candidates are issued their contract employment paperwork, we include a Back-ground Investigation Release Form. Once we have a signed release form, we outsource this critical task to IntelliCorp Records Inc., a subsidiary of Insurance Services Office, Inc. They offer a variety of pre-employment verification and screening services, including criminal background checks, previous employment and education references, motor vehicle registrations, and more.

IntelliCorp typically provides results of background screenings to Top Echelon Contracting in 24 hours or less. Top Echelon Contracting has identified Intelli-Corp as a preferred vendor and has negotiated discount rates for recruiters working on permanent placements. You can find out more about IntelliCorp by visiting our website at www.TopEchelon, clicking on the “Recruiters” tab, and then clicking on “Resources.”

However you choose to conduct background checks, it’s imperative that they become an integral part of your recruiting process because, if you don’t know who you’re interviewing, then you don’t know who you’re placing.

Debbie Fledderjohann is the president of Top Echelon Contracting, the recruiter’s back-office solution. Since 1992, Top Echelon Contracting has been helping perm recruiters nationwide make contract placements. As a contract staffing service provider, they handle all of the administrative details associated with being the employer, including employee paperwork, legal contracts, timesheet collection, payroll funding, payroll processing, tax withholding, benefits, workers’ compensation coverage, invoicing, collection of accounts receivables, background checks, etc. For more information, call (888) 627-3678 and ask to speak with a contract administrator. Please note: This article is intended to give general information only and should not be construed as legal advice for specific situations. Please contact your legal counsel before taking any action.

Debbie Fledderjohann is president of Top Echelon Contracting, Inc., the recruiter's back-office solution. The company was founded in 1992 and places technical, professional and healthcare contractors in 49 states. Top Echelon Contracting helps recruiters make contract placements and handles all of the legal, financial, and administrative details. They also become the legal employer and take care of the employee paperwork, legal contracts, time sheet collection, payroll processing, payroll funding, tax withholding, benefits, workers compensation coverage, invoicing, collections, background checks, etc.