Protecting our most valuable assets
July 1, 2015
By Lori Stewart, SPHR®, SHRM-SCP, HCS, Partner, Human Resources Consulting
As we all know, employees are our most valuable asset. Employees are also usually our most expensive asset. So how can we help protect this investment? During the candidate screening process, interviews, references and skills tests are all valuable tools we can use, but sometimes they just aren’t enough. Another method that may provide crucial insight on a candidate’s past behavior, as well as potential future issues, are pre-employment background checks/screenings. Background checks are a great tool and a multitude of providers are readily accessible. As pre-employment screening tools have increased in popularity among employers, so have the number of providers offering this service.
Due to the multitude of vendors and options, employers should proceed with caution: Buyer beware, not all background checks are created equally.
To simplify the scenario, you get what you pay for. Conduct an Internet search for background check providers, and your results will seem limitless. Fees for these can range from less than $20 to over $200 for each search. So why the large price difference? Which provider and what options do you choose?
First, find out how the provider is getting their information. Some providers will actually search the court records while others search one or more databases. For those providers that use only database searches, it is important to know the number of records and number of databases used. The greater the number, the more accurate the information is likely to be. However, even if the database consists of hundreds of millions of records and/or multiple databases are used, it does not guarantee complete accuracy. The courts may not have released the information to these specific databases meaning the search could result in ‘no records found’ when there are actually reportable records for that individual. The providers who have personnel to search the actual court records will have information that is likely more accurate. Also consider whether the company uses licensed investigators and what training they have.
Next, look at the type of customer support you will receive. What processes does the vendor take to ensure accuracy in all reporting? If the reporting shows a criminal offense for a potential employee that they didn’t actually commit, it could be detrimental to that applicant and could result in losing a prime candidate for a position. A quality vendor will have specific steps they take to prevent this from occurring and will have a quick and smooth process for addressing the discrepancy if it does occur. Many vendors will list some customer reviews directly on their website or an additional quick Internet search can provide you with additional reviews.
In addition, what is the turn-around time? While it is important to a business to get a candidate in place quickly, an accurate background screening must be conducted. Some vendors on the web boast their instant (or practically instant) background checks. Again, buyers beware! Instant results are nice, but reality is, in order to properly conduct research, a reasonable amount of time is required. Nearly every vendor estimates a turn-around time of a week or less and often the actual turn-around time is closer to 24-48 hours. Of course, if there are common names, a name change, or multiple places of residence, this can increase the amount of time it takes to retrieve the proper information. Good customer service includes alerting you when the screening is taking longer than the normal range of time.
Other items you will want to consider are the services provided and reporting features. For example, if you are going to run credit checks (for those positions that handle the company assets), you would like to conduct drug screens and check employee references, a company that can do all of these for you would be desirable. You will want to consider the reporting format and user interface in order to ensure the reporting is easy to access and use as well as secure.
With so many options for background checks today, it is important to take the time and do the research needed to find the vendor that best fits your needs. Doing so will help ensure you are getting the most from your investment and protecting all of your most valuable assets.