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Screening Smarter with Background Checks

While it’s important to find a company that’s competent at verifying credentials, it’s also crucial to check for the right things.

May 20, 2002
Related Topics: Recruitment, Staffing Management

For many employers, the tragic events of September 11 offered a chillingreminder about workplace security and the importance of knowing someone’sidentity.

Yet long before any airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center andPentagon, recruiters and hiring managers had to deal with individuals whoinflated their qualifications or lied on applications and résumés. Accordingto Kessler International, a New York-based security and investigations firm,more than 25 percent of 1,000 résumés it examined for technology companies in1999 contained phony information or false credentials.

Today, numerous companies conduct background checks, including several firmsthat offer their services over the Web. And while it’s important to find acompany that’s competent at verifying credentials, it’s also crucial tocheck for the right things. "The level of deception that exists isfrightening. A lot of people think nothing of misrepresenting theirqualifications and lying about past events," says Lou Adler, president ofPower Hiring. In the past, courts have consistently ruled that employers areliable for the actions of their workers while on the job -- a fact that makesscreening even more imperative.

Depending on the particular position, it might be necessary to checkapplicants’ driving records, criminal history, educational achievements, andreferences, and to verify whether they actually worked where they say they did.Foreign workers must have an H-1B visa, and obtaining information from foreigninstitutions can prove difficult. Further complicating things is the easyavailability of false documents over the Internet and, increasingly, outrightidentity theft. "An employment offer should be conditional on passing abackground check," observes Jane Paradiso, recruiting solutions practiceleader at Watson Wyatt Worldwide. "These days, the stakes are too great toignore."

Workforce, June 2002, p. 58 -- Subscribe Now!

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