Background Screening Process
When it comes to checking on potential new employees, there is no foolproof way to know if all your hiring decisions are correct, whether you outsource the background check or do it in-house.
But the key to consistently hiring the right people is to avoid shortcuts in screening potential employees. In recent months, as the economy has tightened, some companies are asking for "quick and easy" background checks. At the same time, some of the background-research firms are making disreputable claims, offering to do things that are simply not possible at the price being advertised.
In the personnel field, as it pertains to due diligence, a little extra work -- and a little experience -- can be the key factor in hiring Mr. or Ms. Right.
It starts right in the office of the human resource manager, who can ensure that the proper information is collected about the potential new employee.
While it is not mandatory for a job applicant to reveal a birth date, the personnel office should ask to see a drivers license to determine that the applicant is giving the proper name and correct birth date. It is not unusual for an applicant with a shady history to give you a nickname or to substitute a middle name for the first name. That can sometimes throw off a private investigator, particularly when part of the background check involves computers.
You should also ask if the person is known by another first name. Sometimes, court and government employees are lax in entering data on individuals. They may put "Chip" for a persons first name on a court index, when that persons legal first name is really Charles.
It is also critical to have confidence in the ability and experience of your investigator.
If you delegate the work to an in-house employee, make sure that person understands the public records systems. While the paper trail is quite extensive, you must be sure that your researcher is not wasting time by going to institutions or depositories that do not pertain to your job applicant. For example, it makes little sense to do civil or bankruptcy research on a recent college graduate.
In almost all cases, court records are crucial to the investigative process, but it is crucial that the investigator search the correct courts. Each court, whether it be a federal court, state Superior Court or local district court, has its own databank of information. An experienced researcher will be able to suggest a plan that will give you the most for your money.
If you are outsourcing, interview your investigator. Ask about his or her experience and background -- and find out how information will be obtained. Let the person tell you what information is available -- and how much it will cost. Find out how the investigator accesses the data. If he or she does it online, that should send up a big red flag. Internet research is limited.
You should also be leery if the research firm says they do a lot of work on the phone. Many public records are still indexed on paper or index cards. Court personnel and the workers in government offices are very reluctant to do the work for you. At best, you will get only partial results.
You should also ask the potential researcher what courts of institutions offer the most valuable information. Too often, companies tell you what is easiest to access.
A Superior Court search, for example, is far less likely to uncover civil or criminal activity. But the district courts offer tens of thousands of cases each year that are inaccessible from a Superior Court. If an investigator tells you district court searches are not offered, he or she is really telling you they do a cursory search. Many of the cases in these district court involve relatively minor charges like motor vehicle violations. But they also handle drug charges, assaults, robberies, embezzlements and even rape.
Ask the investigator about a potential employee. Say for example, you are interested in hiring a young man who grew up in Groton and is just about to graduate from Boston College. Ask how long it will take. Find out what courts and institutions would be researched. Ask who he deals with at the courts to be researched.
One potential researcher might say he would do a search only in Middlesex County Superior Court. Another might suggest Middlesex Superior, Suffolk Superior, Ayer District Court, Newton District Court, Brighton District Court and the state Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Clearly, the second search would be more thorough, but is the additional expense worth the effort? Ask each researcher to explain the rationale behind each type of investigation. The answer would speak volumes about the credibility of that researcher -- because sometimes too much research can simply be money wasted.
In summary, you should take considerable time and effort in determining who will do the research work on potential employees. It certainly may be cost effective to have an employee do the work. But you should make sure the employee is well trained and familiar with the public record process.
If you outsource, treat all candidates just as you would treat a job interviewee. After all, his or her experience and expertise will be the main ingredient to successful hiring.
Steve Winter is a former investigative newspaper reporter who specializes in pre-employment screening. He can be reached at 617-696-2178 or online at email@example.com. His website is Masscourtresearch.com.
Article by Steve Winter from http://www.nehra.com/articlesresources/article.cfm?id=485