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Vetting a Candidate's Past

You can't rely solely on search firms.

September 18, 2003
Related Topics: Recruitment, Staffing Management

References are only one part of the background-checking process. Here are some other steps that fine-tune the vetting of a job candidate’s past.

Background checks for everyone.
    In many companies, human resources is involved in hiring lower-level workers, but executive recruitment is handled by those at the top, who tap into their own executive network. This is fine, but if the executive team wants to build and maintain a company that holds integrity and honesty in the highest regard, everyone should be subjected to the same level of background-checking once a job offer has been made, industry experts say. One way to do this is to talk about the potential financial consequences of not conducting thorough checks.

Treat all employees fairly.
    All employees should be subject to a standard background-screening that includes a credit check; a review of motor vehicle and criminal records; reference checks; and verification of employment, education, professional licenses and Social Security number. However, Lester Rosen, an attorney and president of Employment Screening Resources, says that it’s "perfectly acceptable to have different levels of screening for different positions as long as everyone is treated fairly." Someone on an assembly line, for example, would not necessarily receive the same level of scrutiny as a potential executive. But all assembly-line workers should be treated the same way and all executives should be treated the same way.

Dig deeper with executive candidates.
    When hiring executives, Rosen suggests going beyond a standard security-screening and conducting something he calls an "integrity check." "The typical pre-employment screening is a low-cost risk-management tool that looks at verifiable, known factors," he says. An integrity check, however, is more investigative and entails looking at such things as involvement in lawsuits, the financial performance of the person’s previous firm and when and why the candidate might have appeared in local or national newspapers.

Don’t rely solely on search firms.
    Search firms that don’t conduct a thorough background check of candidates can be misled as easily as any employer. In March 1998, Robert Half International Inc. recruited T’Challa Ross as a temporary bookkeeper for Fox Associates Inc., a small advertising agency in Chicago. She performed so well at the job that the company hired her permanently 30 days later. Within months, Ross was taking blank checks from Fox and forging signatures. Within a year, she had embezzled more than $70,000. What makes the case especially disturbing is that the staffing firm had failed to uncover the fact that just two months earlier, Ross had pleaded guilty to stealing $192,873 from another employer and been sentenced to four years’ probation and 100 hours of community service.

Workforce Management, September 2003, p. 54 -- Subscribe Now!

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