When speaking with other small business owners, I am consistently surprised when I hear that some do not perform background checks when hiring new employees. The reasons frequently cited include the thought that doing so is ‘a waste of money’ or because ‘I hire so few people.’ Generally speaking, unless something with an employee has gone terribly wrong in their own company many small business owners are not interested in incorporating consistent and thorough background checks as a preventative measure in their hiring policies.
The prevailing idea seems to be, ‘I can hire someone else if they don’t work out;’ however, this way of thinking can be potentially disastrous for your business. I certainly don’t believe that this risky behavior is intentional, but small business owners may not fully understand, or have not yet experienced, the impact of a bad hire. Some of the more common consequences that can be avoided with a proper pre-employment background check include:
- Occupational fraud, embezzlement, and theft
- Workplace violence, hostile work environment, and sexual harassment incidents
- Liability connected to negligent hiring lawsuits
- Hiring persons not suitable for position based on fraudulent resume/qualifications
- Damage to current and potential customer relations
- Negative publicity and loss of good will
A professional background check, when performed in full legal compliance, is one of the best ways you can protect your business. One bad hire can cost you unnecessary time and money, not to mention frustration. While it is true that you can’t predict human behavior and there really is no such thing as a perfect hire, you can take important steps to protect your company by implementing a professional background check as part of your hiring process. With all that you do to foster customer relationships, build your brand, and encourage your company’s growth, conducting thorough and routine pre-employment screening is a no-brainer, right?
Good employees are the key to success and growth. With that in mind, maybe it is time to re-think how you hire and protect your business. Whether you decide to perform these checks in-house, or utilize a reputable provider that is FCRA compliant (a topic that is extensive in itself, and will be addressed in future posts), these are some of the most basic areas you need to cover to protect yourself and help prevent a bad hire from damaging your business:
- Check Criminal History. This should at least be performed on the state level with the relevant criminal justice agency and/or court administration office (access to which will vary by jurisdiction). Don’t be fooled by those offering a ‘nationwide’ check on the cheap. There are so many websites out there that offer something along these lines, just take care to read the fine print and see exactly what is included. The nationwide check may be valuable in conjunction with statewide criminal record inquiries, but by no means is it a substitute. If your budget will allow, I would also strongly suggest a county level criminal check in each location connected with the applicant. This will catch any potential criminal filings that have not been reported to the state criminal record repository.
- Confirm Professional Licenses & Degree Information. Verifying credentials of this nature is essential and is the easiest way to confirm whether your potential employee is being truthful about their qualifications. If the position requires specific licensing you can contact the state licensing board directly to verify issuance, current status, and disciplinary history. When contacting schools, make sure to not only confirm graduation, but also major/minor information, graduation date, and honors bestowed. One of the most common resume inaccuracies is attributed to false or embellished education claims.
- Contact References & Verify Work History. This may be time-consuming, but it is really one of the best tools available to you. I typically recommend that potential employers make these phone calls themselves because references will often speak more candidly with potential employers directly. Additionally, you will be privy to the details of the conversation such as tone, hesitations, and other indications of a possible issue. With many fake work reference services popping up online, you should also be sure to confirm that the person with whom you are speaking is a legitimate source of information.
Implementing these procedures into your hiring process can help ensure you pick the right person for your company. Think of it as an investment in the future of your business, one that will help protect you from a litany of potential issues. Take the necessary time to select the proper background check for each position you are hiring for and make sure your screening policy is compliant and consistent for all new hires.
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