Yearly Archives: 2009

Employment screening blog on applicant lies in top ten list in 2009 on major recruiting web site

A leading recruiting web site, RecruitingBlogs , has released its list of the ten most read blogs posted on its site for 2009.  RecruitingBlogs  is a network that is home to over 20,000 recruiters, HR Professionals and recruiting vendors. 

Employment Screening Resources is pleased to note that a blog posted by its president, Lester Rosen, was on the top ten list. 

The blog dealt with the six biggest applicant lies.  The blog was posted at: http://www.recruitingblogs.com/profiles/blogs/the-six-biggest-applicant-lies 

For the entire list, see:  http://www.recruitingblogs.com/forum/topics/top-read-posts-of-2009-on 

ESR will continue to update its blog at leat twice weekly to fulfill is mission of keeping employers, Human Resources and Security professionals  advised of trends, best practices and legal development.  The purpose of the ESR blog is to be the one place employers need to go to keep on top of critical safe hiring issues.  

Although ESR will at times comment on stories in the news that are relevant, ESR does not simply rehash new stories.  The majority of content on the ESR blog is original content written for employers, Human Resources and Security professionals.  Between the blogs, the whitepapers and resources, the ESR web site is a one source encyclopedia for hiring information.  ESR looks forward to continuing to serve its clients in 2010.

Employee Problems are Caused by Problem Employees

Question from the mailbox:  Is performing background checks worth the time and effort it takes?     

Answer:  For employers that do not perform background checks, one of the most frequently asked questions is why do it?  The short answer is that employee screening is one critical way to keep problem employees out of the workplace.  As any employer or human resources professional know, a great deal of time is spent dealing with employee problems. As Employment Screening Resources (ESR) advised  employers in the first edition of The Hiring Manual back in 2005, “problem employees usually cause employee problems.”  An employer is certainly ahead if they can try to minimize the problem employees in the first place. 

Of course, there is no perfect system to prevent bad hires.   Background checks alone are not going to keep an employer from hiring people they later regret having in the workforce.  The hiring process has a number of moving parts, but the background check is the critical final step. 

In addition, the cost if a background check will typically be less than the cost of that new employee on his or her first day on the job. That is pocket change compared to the damage one bad hire can cause. It is ironic that some firms will spend hours shopping for a computer bargain yet at the same time try to save money by not adequately checking out a job applicant, even though each hire  represents an enormous investment and potential risk.   

Nor is it difficult to set up a screening programming. Even for an overburdened HR, security, or risk management department already handling numerous tasks, outsourcing background screening can be done very quickly and effectively. ESR can set up the entire program, provide all the necessary forms in a short time and assist with legal compliance.

Defenses That Do and Do Not Work in Negligent Hiring Cases

If an employer is sued for negligent hiring on the basis that they hired someone that they either knew or in the exercise of reasonable care should have know was dangerous, unqualified, unfit or dishonest, and it was reasonably foreseeable that some of harm could occur, an employer can be sued for negligent hiring.  That is the opposite of due diligence.  If the subject of a legal action, employers do have some potential defenses in a court case, but they are far from a sure thing.

The best defense is that the employer did in fact exercise due diligence and reasonable care, but despite those best efforts, a bad hire fell through the cracks. An employer would have to show that they took a number of steps designed to avoid bad hires. An employer can review the adequacy of their hiring efforts by taking the safe hiring audit offered by ESR. See: http://www.backgroundchecktraining.com/Safe-Hiring-Audit.asp

Another defense that had been successful is that the crime or injury was too remote or unconnected from the employer’s negligence, or was not foreseeable. An example is the California case ESR recently reviewed where a plumber with a criminal record was hired, meet a woman on the job that he started dating, was terminated by the employer and then murdered the girlfriend two years later. The victim’s family’s argued that but for the negligent hiring, the two would not have met in the first place and the murder would not have occurred. The court found that the murder two years later and long after termination was not sufficiently connected to the hiring to hold employer legally responsible. See: http://www.esrcheck.com/newsletter/archives/September_2009.php#T1

Another defense that a background checks would have not have revealed anything anyway so that the employer’s failure to conduct an adequate pre-screening was not the cause of the injury.  As the old adage goes, “every dog has its first bite.”  If there was nothing for a background check to locate that was a potential a “Red Flag,” that is also a defense.

Some defenses that do not work? Employers have not been very successful in defending lawsuits on the basis that due diligence and background checks cost too much, especially considering how inexpensive it is to screen. Another argument that may not go far with a jury is that the employer did what every other employer did in their industry. The fact that all employers in an industry engage in the same practice does not mean that the employer has meet the legal duty of due diligence, since a “standard practice” is not the same as a “standard of care.” The least successful defense is the argument that the employer is also the victim as well, or that they were victimized by an applicant lying.

The bottom-line: Exercising due diligence in hiring and conducting background checks is a small price to pay to avoid the “Parade of Horribles” that can befall an employer that makes bad hiring decisions.

Employment Screening Guidelines Released by Foremost Security Association

The second edition of the ASIS International Preemployment Background Screening (PBS) Guideline has been released to the public. ASIS is the preeminent organization for security management professionals worldwide. According to the press release:

The guideline, designated ASIS GDL PBS-2009, is an educational and practical tool that organizations can use as a resource in understanding the reasons for preemployment background screening of job applicants, as well as the legal principles surrounding the issue of preemployment background screening. The PBS guideline can also assist in developing policies and procedures that will enhance an organization’s hiring policy.

ASIS and the National Association of Professional Background Screeners, in an effort to promote shared cooperative interests, collaborated in the revision of the 2006 version of the ASIS Preemployment Background Screening Guideline.

This PBS guideline presents practical information concerning the value of preemployment background screening, the importance of the application form, important legal issues and considerations (such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act, privacy issues, state laws, rules and regulations), the key elements of preemployment background screening, the types of information to utilize in verifying the key elements, the use of credit reporting agencies in preemployment background screening, and an appendix of a sample preemployment background screening flow chart.

A number of members of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) joined together with security professionals to serve on the committee that updated the Guidelines. ESR is pleased to note that its president, Lester Rosen, had the privilege of serving with this outstanding group of dedicated professionals on the original committee as well as the committee that produced the second edition.

The Guideline is available on the ASIS web site at www.asisonline.org

Job Hunting and Credit Reports

For some reason, there are individuals and groups bent on scaring job applicants about credit reports by spreading miss-information that is just plain wrong.  Whether these people are just not well informed, or have their own agenda to push, the fact remains that job applicants are under enough stress without having to worry about things that are simply not true.

In previous blogs, ESR debunked two commonly held myths. See: http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/815/basics-of-credit-reports-and-background-checks.

First, employers do NOT obtain your credit score if they order an employment credit report. Credit score has no relationship to job performance and is simply not provided to employers.  The reports do include a credit history, but not a credit score.

Secondly, employers are not running credit scores as some sort of insidious conspiracy deny jobs to applicants.  Employers only run credit reports AFTER an employer has gone through the time, cost and effort to find the right candidate, usually from a large field of applicants. An employer does not invest money in a background report just to find ways not to hire.  When an employer initiates a background check, it is because they are interested in hiring the applicant and are conducting due diligence to make sure there is no reason not to hire.

Another myth is that employers are running credit reports in large numbers on all applicants.  In fact, even though studies show a significant usage by employer of credit reports, they are not widely used on all applicants.  Most employers and Human Resources professionals understand that credit reports should be limited to those jobs where there is a business justification, such as positions with access to cash, assets or personal information or other sensitive positions.

What should a job applicant do regarding credit reports and job hunting?

First, understand that if you get to the point where an employer is running a background check, that is great news.  It means you made it though the hiring process and that you are most likely a finalist for a job.

It also means that the employer has spent considerable time recruiting, interviewing and making decisions, and that you rose to the top after the employer has reviewed lots of other resumes and applications.

Secondly, if you are concerned that a background check may include a credit report, do not be the last to know what your credit report may say.  As a consumer, you are entitled to a free credit report YEARLY from each of the credit bureaus.  A consumer just needs to go to https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp to run a free report.  If you see some sort of error, it would be a good idea to get that corrected as soon as possible.  There is a well established procedure for contacting the credit bureaus to bring an error to their attention and request it be remedied.

Third, if you are concerned that your credit history may reflect negatively, than have a discussion ahead of time with the hiring manger or Human Resources about your credit reports.  As most experienced Human Resources professionals can tell you, information honestly disclosed by an applicant has much less impact than information the employer discovers for themselves.

Also keep in mind that HR professionals understands that people have to deal with the realities of life. For example if a consumer was undergoing economic stress due to the recession, and relied on credit cards, or there was a medical issue that caused bills, let HR or the hiring manager know.  Also keep in mind that the only reason you are having this discussion is that the firm is seriously considering hiring you, and has gone through allot of time and effort to make that decision, including reviewing numerous other resumes.

Fourth, applicants need to keep in mind that they have rights.  Under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), a credit report is only obtained after the applicant has given consent and after a legally required disclosure on a standalone document has been given.  If the employer utilizes the credit report in any way not to hire, an applicant is entitled to a copy of their credit report, a pre- adverse action notice as well as a statement of their rights. Before any decision becomes final, the applicant also has the right to challenge the credit report before any denial of employment is made final.

The bottom-line:  If an employer feels a credit report is job related, and a consumer is concerned about that, keep in mind that the employer has made you a finalist, and therefore has an interest in hiring you.  You were evaluated without the employer having any idea of what was in the credit report.  If there are negative entries, be prepared to share it before the credit report is run. (ESR advises employers by the way not to utilize credit reports unless there is a clear business justification and the use is non-discriminatory and to take into account that credit reports can contain errors or material not relevant to employment.)

One other interesting point: there is no evidence that employers routinely engage in pulling back job offers after the review of the credit report.  There are certainly anecdotal stories, but on the whole, once an employer decides they want a particular person, and they have spent time and effort to make that decision, it usually takes something significant that was unexpected for an employer to change their minds.

International Background checks

Did you know?  Given the mobility of workers across international borders, an employer’s obligation of due diligence may no longer be limited to employment screening just in the United States. A 2000 government study shows that 11.5 percent of the population consists of immigrants, and an increasing number of workers have spent part of their professional careers abroad.

Employers cannot assume that the U.S. government has conducted background checks on workers who hold visas. Government checks appear to be aimed at reviewing watch lists rather than verifying past employment or education or checking criminal records for employment purposes.

Given these issues, employers should consider background screening internationally for criminal records, employment history, and education credentials. Standard background checks conducted in the United States do not include international employment and criminal records. One caveat is that international checks typically take longer and are more costly than domestic screening, but they can be worth it if they help a company limit its exposure to future liability. Another issue is data and  privacy protection issues. 

For more information, see: http://www.esrcheck.com/international.php  ESR was the third U.S. background firm to be Safe Harbor certified for dealing with the European Union.  More information about international background checks is available in The Safe Hiring Manual.

Joseph Mahfet, Jr. joins Employment Screening Resources

Industry Veteran now Southern California Representative for Nation’s Top Rated Background Firm 

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) is pleased to announce that Joseph Mahfet, Jr., a name synonomous with employment screening background checks in Southern California, has joined the company as a Senior Account Executive. Mr. Mahfet’s office is based in Southern California, as an extension of ESR’s corporate offices, which are headquartered in the San Francisco bay area.

HIs contact info is  jmahfet@esrcheck.com 

Phone: 818-800-7520

The Basics of Education Verifications

By Lester Rosen, President of Employment Screening Resources (ESR)

Educational credentials can be an important part of an employer’s decision making process in hiring. Educational achievement tells an employer a great deal about an applicant’s ability, qualifications, and motivation. Many employers feel that educational qualifications are a critical factor in predicting success on the job. For many positions, education is a prerequisite in terms of subject matter knowledge or for obtaining the appropriate license for the position. 

Surveys suggest that as many as 30% of all job applicants falsify information about their educational backgrounds. The falsifications can include outright fabrications such as making up degrees from legitimate schools the applicant never attended or valueless degrees from diploma mills.

An applicant can also falsify his or her educational achievements based upon some semblance of fact, such as claiming degrees from schools the applicant actually attended but did not obtain the degree claimed. Typically a candidate turns their months or weeks of attendance into an AA degree, or claims a BA or an advanced degree even if they did not complete the course work or fulfill all graduation requirements.

Colleges and universities also have a vested interest in confirming educational accomplishments. Confirming an applicant received a degree from their school helps their graduates and promotes the reputation of their school. Conversely, uncovering the fraudulent use of the school’s good name helps to preserve and protect the school’s reputation.

Background firms verify education in the U.S. in two ways. One way is to contact the school, usually through the registar’s office. Before doing that, however, a competent background firm will first run the name of the school against various databases to ensure that the school is legitimate and accredited, and not a phony degree mill. A number of schools will require a written release or a fee, which can delay the verification. Delays can also occur because schools operate on an academic schedule, which can mean the administrative offices are closed during holidays and the summer months.

The other options available to screening firms and employers are online services that have contracts with schools to gather degree information from schools, thus acting as the schools’ agents.

For some job applicants, getting a college diploma apparently no longer requires years of hard work, taking tests, paying tuition or even reading a book. Why bother going through the formalities when all a person needs is a credit card and a web browser in order to buy an authentic looking diploma that mimics real colleges, universities and even high schools across the U.S.? Go to any search engine and run keywords such as “Fake Diploma” and anyone can instantly “graduate” from nearly any school in America with a very handsome and authentic looking diploma suitable for hanging. 

One such website advertises that it creates “very realistic diplomas/transcripts. These diplomas/ transcripts are extremely high quality printed on official parchment quality paper. You can show your employer and they will never doubt that you indeed attended college. You will not find better quality anywhere!!!” 

Some of these sites “officially” caution that the diplomas and transcripts are intended for “Novelty and Entertainment Use Only.” However, the fake documents you receive do not have a disclaimer written any place on them. When presented with a physical diploma or transcripts, employers should fax a copy to the school to confirm its authenticity. Most background firms can tell stories of faxing copies of degrees, supplied by the applicant, to high schools and colleges only to be told the degree is a fake. 

Verifying high school education can present particular problems, due to the fact that there are so many high schools, and the fact they operate on an academic schedule. The most difficult degree to verify is typically a GED, since it requires additional time and effort to track down the office that has the information. 

Adding to the challenge is that some degree mills and fake online schools have even created fake accreditation agencies to falsely vouch for the fake schools. In the U.S. schools are generally accredited by private organizations, that are recognized as legitimate accreditors by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) found at http://www.chea.org. The U.S. government, in response to these issues, has created a web site where employers can look up a school to determine if and how it is accredited. The U.S. Department of Education has created The Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutuions and Programs which provides searches of schools by accreditation agency. The web site is available at: http://www.ope.ed.gov/accreditation/

ESR goes through an extensive procedure to verify that a school is legitimate.  First, ESR compares the schools to schools that are known to be legitimate.  If the school does not pass that test, ESR examines numerous “diploma mill” lists. However, those lists are a moving target since new diploma mills can be easily created.  If a school is not on either list, ESR then carefully reviews the schools web site and in particular, looks to see what “accreditation” the school claims.

The problems with degree mills, however, should not be confused with legitimate vocational or trade schools. Each state has an agency in charge of certifying state-approved educational programs. If there are questions about the legitimacy of a vocational or trade school, then an employer should contact the appropriate authority in their state. There are numerous distance learning programs available on the internet as well. An employer should evaluate the program to determine if it has relevance to the job.

The bottom-line is that employers should not take educational accomplishments at face value without ensuring that the applicant actually has obtained the degree, and that the degree is from a legitimate educational institution. For more information, contact Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Employment Screening Background Checks Annual Criminal Statistics

Various organizations publish their annual criminal “hit rates,” showing how many applicants subject to background screening had criminal records or other discrepancies. On one hand, these figures are extremely valuable because they confirm an already compelling case that background checks are critical for any employer that wants to exercise due diligence and protect its workforce and the public. In fact, as Employment Screening Resources has been advising employers for sometime, without a system of pre-employment screening, it is a virtual statistical certainty that an employer will hire someone with a serious issue that has the potential to create a legal and financial nightmare or cause workplace violence.

On the other hand, as with all statistics, these yearly reports need to be taken with a grain of salt. First, not all criminal records come as a surprise to employers. Given the number of Americans with some sort of criminal records, many employers are still willing to hire someone for an appropriate position, providing the applicant was not dishonest in the application. In fact, certain industries by nature of their workforce are more likely to draw upon a pool of potential applicants that may tend to have higher levels of past criminal conduct. Examples might be construction or firms that provide employment for entry level workers.

A statistic that would be very interesting but much harder to obtain is how many criminal records were discovered where the applicant was dishonest about past conduct. Of course, that gets complicated by the fact that an applicant may have been genuinely confused about what is or is not reportable on an application.

A related issue is that not all criminal records have the same impact. A criminal record for underage drinking is not in the same league as a conviction for armed robbery.

In reviewing these types of statistics, employers also need to keep in mind that not all of the criminal records located are job related. Employers should NOT automatically deny employment to an applicant with a criminal record unless there is a business justification that takes into account the nature and gravity of the crime, the nature of the job and the age of the crime. As noted in a recent blog on this site, the EEOC takes the position that the overuse of criminal records without a business justification can create a disparate impact, and therefore can be discriminatory. See: http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/1057/new-eeoc-lawsuit-for-discrimination-based-on-credit-report-and-criminal-records

Finally, it is difficult to draw firm conclusions from the statistics without knowing the search methodology. Depending on how the searches were conducted, it is entirely possible in fact that such annual statistics may even understate the number of criminal records applicants had. The most accurate criminal record searches are done by accessing information directly from the county courthouse level, either by physically going the court, or by use of the court computer system that is the functional equivalent of going to the courthouse. That is the method used by Employment Screening Resources. Databases on the other hand, although much wider in scope, are not nearly as accurate, do not have all courts or jurisdiction, may not be updated, or may not contain sufficient identifiers.  To the extent any searching was done by the use of databases, the numbers could potentially be understated.

The bottom line: These statistics are an excellent reminder that employers need to be careful in hiring. However, as with most statistics, there is more to the story. Contact Employment Screening Resources for additional information.

Delay in Canada Criminal Searches through CPIC

The screening industry had been advised that the Canadian Government Administration has temporarily suspended providing criminal records though  the CPIC system (short for Canadian Police Information Centre) to Consuemr Reporting Agencies for pre-employment screening reports.    

The suspension related to a review of security measures.  CPIC is used by US employers for a national search of Canadian criminal records for employment purposes .  Employment Screening Resources (ESR) will keep employers advised when the service is resumed