All posts by Les Rosen

Employment Screening Resources Expert Quoted in national news magazine

Employment screening expert Lester Rosen was quoted recently in U.S, News and World Report on an article entitled:  Should Your Credit Report Cost You a Job?

http://www.usnews.com/articles/business/careers/2009/07/29/should-your-credit-report-cost-you-a-job.html

Mr. Rosen, who is President of Employment Screening Resources, commented upon best practices when it comes to obtaining employment credit reports.  Mr. Rosen has also been quoted on the same issue in other national publications, such as the Christian Science Monitor and USA Today.

To summarize briefly, Employment Screening Resources advises employers to approach credit reports with caution when it comes to background checking, and to articulate a clear rationale as to why a credit report is related to a particular job.  Employers should also be aware that there is the potential for errors in credit reports, and that negative entries may well not be a valid predictor of job performance.  For example if there is an illness in the family and credit cards are used to pay medical bills, or there has been a long period of unemployment, a consumer’s credit report may show a large outstanding debt that may not affect suitability for employment. In fact, an overly board use of credit reports could lead to claims of discrimination if there is a disparate impact on protected groups.

On the other hand, hiring a person that handles money or other people’s private data without running a credit reports could result in allegations of negligent hiring if a theft occurs and a credit report as part of a background check would have lead to relevant information. Embezzlement, internal theft and identity theft are significant problems in the U.S.

One thing to keep in mind — it is an urban myth that employers receive a credit score. Employment credit reports simply do not contain a credit score since there is no evidence of a connection between a credit score and employment.  On the other hand, employment credit reports do contain a credit history, which will tell an employer if an applicant pays on time, or has such a large monthly debt that it raises a red flag if a person is to be put in charge of cash or assets or placed in a fiduciary position.  In addition, there are limitations on using a bankruptcy for employment, since a person that goes through bankruptcy is entitled to a ‘fresh start’  Two states, Hawaii and Washington, have passed laws regulating the use of credit reports for employment and more states are apparently looking at similar rules.  For more information, see: http://www.esrcheck.com/articles/Credit-Reports-and-Job-Hunting.php .

Another aspect of the use of credit reports are the vastly increased regulations imposed by the credit bureaus on background screening firms and employers, in order to protect privacy and counter identity theft. Legitimate screening firms that are in compliance with the contractual obligations set forth by the credit bureaus are required to essentially do a background check on employers that want credit reports.  This can include on-site inspections by third party agencies of the employer’s premise, as well as checking bank and trade references and other steps to ensure the employer is legitimate, has a permissible purpose and meets the guidelines set out by the credit bureaus.  Certain businesses, such as home based operations, or businesses that share space with prohibited users cannot qualify for credit reports. In addition, the new ‘Red Flag’ rules require employers to have a written policy and procedure in place to deal with address discrepancies.  See: http://ftc.gov/os/fedreg/2007/november/071109redflags.pdf

Although ESR assists employers in navigating the process and supplies a sample Red Flag policy, small and medium businesses (SMB) often find that requesting a credit report adds a significant layer of complexity to the process.  Other searches typically done as part of a background check, such as criminal records, do not carry these added complications. Many SMB avoid these headaches by simply requesting that an applicant obtain their own credit report and present it to the employer.  This is easily done since every consumer by federal law is entitled to one free copy of their credit report from  each of the three major credit bureaus yearly from  https://www.annualcreditreport.com/  However, employer must still use caution to ensure that the use of credit reports is fair and non-discriminatory.

Background Checking Expert Lester Rosen to Present Webinar on Employment Screening

Employment Screening Resources, a leading international employment screening firm headquartered in the San Francisco area, announces that its president, Lester Rosen, will present a national webinar on employment screening background checks on September 9, 2009.  The event is sponsored by NexTrain, a leading training provider for business leaders and a division of BizSummits.  

The presentation is entitled, “Safe Hiring for Your Organization- Everything you Need to Know about Keeping Criminals, Terrorist and Imposters out of Your Workplace.”   More information is available at http://www.companysafehires.com/ 

“NexTrain provides extensive training programs and I am pleased to once again to provide information that will assist business leaders in hiring the best qualified workers.” commented Rosen. “When employers beginning staffing up, it is more critical then ever to avoid unqualified, unsafe or dishonest employees and and it is important to share this information with employers and human resources professionals nationwide.” 

Mr. Rosen is a nationally recognized background checking expert, and speaks nationally on the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), pre-employment screening, and safe hiring issues. In addition, Mr. Rosen is the author of the first comprehensive book on employment screening, “The Safe Hiring Manual Complete Guide to Keeping Criminals, Imposters and Terrorists Out of Your Workplace.”  He also wrote, “The Safe Hiring Audit, “ as well as a 20 hour online course devoted entirely to background checks. 

He has testified in the California, Florida and Arkansas Superior Court as an expert witness on employment screening and due diligence. Mr. Rosen, who is also an attorney, was the chairperson of the steering committee that founded the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), the professional trade organization for the screening industry, and served as the first co-chairman in 2004. 

More information about Employment Screening Resources can be found at www.ESRcheck.com

Employment Screening Resources Releases Training and Education Site for Employment Screening Background Checks

Employment Screening Resources,  (ESR) a leading international employment screening background checking firm headquartered in the San Francisco area, announced the release of a new web site devoted entirely to training and education in the field of pre-employment background check.  It provides a catalog of books and courses by ESR as well as training DVD’s featuring ESR and online resources.  The books and courses were authored by employment screening expert Lester Rosen.

The background check training website is the first of its kind and is located at www.backgroundchecktraining.com/ .  The goal is to help employers navigate the maze of legal requirements and potential pitfalls in order to minimize lawsuits from applicants for violation of their rights, or litigation for negligent hiring if a background check is insufficient. 

“This web site underscores the fact that employment background checks are a professional knowledge-based service and not merely data that can be purchased over the internet.” commented ESR President Lester Rosen, a nationally recognized expert on employment screening background checks.  “Given the amount of legal regulations and the complexities involved in gathering and reporting relevant information legally, this site serves both employers and the background industry as a training and education tool.”

 Mr. Rosen, who is also an attorney, speaks nationally on the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), pre-employment screening, and safe hiring issues. In addition, Mr. Rosen is the author of the first comprehensive book on employment screening, “The Safe Hiring Manual Complete Guide to Keeping Criminals, Imposters and Terrorists Out of Your Workplace.”  He also wrote, “The Safe Hiring Audit, “ as well as a 20 hour online course devoted entirely to background checks.

 Mr. Rosen was the chairperson of the steering committee that founded the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), the professional trade organization for the screening industry, and served as the first co-chairman in 2004. He has testified in the California, Florida  and Arkansas Superior Court as an expert witness on issues surrounding safe hiring and due diligence.

 More information about Employment Screening Resources can be found at www.ESRcheck.com

The Rush to Source Candidates from Internet and Social Networking Sites

The following article by ESR President Lester Rosen first appeared on www.recruitingtrends.com

The Rush to Source Candidates from Internet and Social Networking Sites — Let’s Slow Down and Think About This for a Minute

No discussion on recruiting these days is complete without an analysis of how the Internet is used for sourcing candidates.  From social networking sites such as MySpace or Facebook, to blogs, Twittering, online videos, and business connection sites such LinkedIn or Plaxo, recruiters have become focused with laser-like intensity on how to make use of these sites.

What is sometimes overlooked in the rush to use the Internet to recruit is the one question that needs to be asked first: What are the legal risks in using the Internet for recruiting, and how do we manage those risks?

Discrimination allegations
Allegations of discrimination is one critical area where employers and recruiters can find themselves in hot water when utilizing social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook (sometime shortened to “MyBook”).  Recruiters may be accused of disregarding candidates who are members of protected classes by passing over the online profiles of people based on prohibited criteria such as race, creed, color, nationality, sex, religious affiliation, marital status, or medical condition. All of those are things that may be revealed by a Facebook or MySpace search.  There may even be photos showing a physical condition that is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or showing someone wearing garb suggesting their religious affiliation or national origin. This issue is sometimes referred to as Too Much Information or TMI.

The problem is that once a recruiter is aware that an individual is a member of a protected group, it is difficult to claim that the recruiter can un-ring the bell and forget he or she ever saw it.

It could be argued that if a passive candidate is passed over because of discriminatory criteria revealed on a social network site, how they can be harmed, since they did not even know they were disregarded and are none the wiser. The problem with that approach is three-fold.  First, discrimination and civil rights laws would likely still apply, even in recruiting passive candidates. Secondly, there are few secrets in the world. If a firm is using discriminatory criteria, a member of the recruiting team who feels uncomfortable about such a practice may well say something – either publicly on the web, or within the organization. Third, it can be argued that discriminatory criteria were being used if it turns out that the entire workforce happens to be homogeneous and does not include members of protected classes.

Of course, the analysis is complicated by the fact that the aggrieved individual may have placed the information on the web themselves. However, it would be challenging to suggest that a person somehow consented to discrimination by placing material on the web that was then used illegally by recruiters. Until Courts rule on these issues, employers can only try to apply established legal concepts to their online recruiting efforts.

Protection from allegations
The issue for employers and recruiters is how to protect themselves from allegations of discrimination if no further action is taken after the recruiter discovers on the Internet that a person is a member of a protected class.  For employers that want to use social network sites to screen a current candidate, the safest path for the use of social network sites is to obtain consent, and only search once there has been a conditional job offer.  This helps ensure that impermissible information is not considered before the employer evaluates an applicant using permissible tools, such as interviews, job-related employment tests, references from supervisors, and a background check.  At that point, the reason for searching social networking sites would be to ensure that there is nothing that would eliminate the person for employment, such as saying nasty things about your firm, or if the applicant engaged in behavior that would damage the company, hurt business interests, or be inconsistent with business needs.

Different rules apply
For sourcers and recruiters who are looking for passive candidates, however, that approach does not apply. By definition, the recruiter does not have consent, since sourcing is at the start of the hiring process.

Sourcing Stage Considerations
Employers and recruiters in the sourcing stage may want to consider some of the following:

  1. Ensure each position has a detailed job description written for that specific position that clearly lays out the essential functions of the job and the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA) required for the position.
  2. Have a clear internal policy that internet sourcing is NOT being used in violation of federal and state discrimination laws and that only factors that are a valid predictor of job performance will be considered, taking into account the job description and the KSA require for the job.
  3. Have documented training on legal recruiting techniques.  The training should include clear information on what would constitute a discriminatory practice.
  4. Have a clear procedure that outlines key words, criteria, and methodology for sourcing, so recruiters can demonstrate that they are searching for objective requirements to be considered as part of the pool.  Even better is if the criteria being used can be measured or have a metric attached.
  5. If someone meets the objective requirements but is not placed in the pool of potential candidates for other reasons, a recruiter may want to note why the exception is being made.  For example, if the social networking website demonstrated behavior inconsistent with business interests, that should be noted. 

Computer twins, cyber slamming, credibility and privacy
Of course, social network sites need to be taken with a grain of salt.  Employers need to be careful that the site they are looking at actually refers to the applicant.  Many Americans have online computer twins,  people with similar names.  Another problem is “cyber slamming,” online smearing usually done anonymously, such as derogatory comments on websites or even setting up a fake website that does not truly belong to your applicant.  Yet another issue is whether the statements made are even true and credible, keeping in mind that the idea behind these sites is friends talking to friends, and users of these sites have been known to embellish.

Another problem yet to be fully explored by the courts is privacy.  Contrary to popular opinion everything online is not necessarily fair game.  Certainly if a person has not adjusted the privacy setting so that his or her social network site is easily available from an Internet search, that person may have a more difficult time arguing that there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.  However, the terms of use for many social network sites prohibit commercial use and many users literally believe that their social network site is exactly that,  a place to freely socialize.  The argument would be that in their circles, it is the community norm, and a generally accepted attitude, that MySpace or Facebook pages are off limits to unwelcome intruders, even if the door is left wide open.  Another issue is legal off-duty conduct.  A number of states  protect workers engaged in legal off-duty conduct. 

Until the courts sort this out, one thing does seem fairly certain if an employer uses subterfuge to gain access, such as by creating a fake online identity just to penetrate a social network site, then the privacy line has probably been crossed.

The bottom-line as always when using the Internet for employment related matters: Proceed With Caution.  There has yet to be clear law or court cases that set forth how to proceed in this area. In the meantime, employers and recruiters may want to approach the Internet with some caution before assuming that everything is fair game in the pursuit of passive candidates.

Applicants also need to realize that those photos  and writings that seemed funny in college may not play well in the  job hunt.  Applicants should not be the last to know what will show up on the internet, and if there is something an applicant wants to keep private, then he or she should either delete it or make certain they have adjusted their privacy setting on their favor social networking site to keep out intruders.  Better yet, use your social networking site as a job hunting tool, by extolling your qualifications on the web.

For more information, see: www.ESRcheck.com

Genuine “Fake” Diplomas on the Rise: Another Reason to Verify Education and Credentials

Getting a college diploma apparently no longer requires years of hard work, going to class, 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.

With statistics showing that resume fraud is a significant issue, employers must be very cautious about accepting a physical diploma as proof of a degree. 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.

These fakes have not entirely escaped official attention. In Illinois, the legislature passed a law in 2004 aimed at addressing educational fraud. It is now a Class A Misdemeanor to knowingly manufacture or produce for profit or for sale a false academic degree, unless the degree explicitly states “for novelty purposes only.”

Employment Screening Resources (www.ESRcheck.com) has expertise in verifying legitimate education credentials and in spotting phony degrees and or worthless degrees from degree mills.

Hawaii Puts Limits on Use of Credit Reports

A new law in Hawaii effective July 1, 2009, regulates the use of employment credit reports by making their use an unlawful discriminatory practice except under certain circumstances.  This will impact Hawaii employment screening background checks significantly.  See the July ESR Newsletter and Legal Update for the full story. To sign up for the ESR Newsletter, go to: http://www.esrcheck.com/newsletter/ and see the full story by employment screening expert Lester Rosen.

Background checks and job boards do not always mix

On the surface, it is easy to see why a job board may see the  appeal in an excluisve integration with a background firm.   The idea is that an employer can use the job board to find the candidate and at the same time, perform a background check through the partner background firm.  From a business development perspective, it looks like a good arrangement for both the job board and the screening firm, and gives the job board an additional stream of revenue.  

The reality however, may turn out to be much different.  First, very knowledgeable observers of the recruiting world have predicted rough waters ahead for the big job boards.  The July 6, 2009 edition of Business Week noted that the job boards are losing ground to sites such as LinkedIn, Craigslist and Twitter among others.  According to one expert quoted in the article, “The big boards have peaked.”  

What that means is that recruiters are finding candidates from numerous sources.  Since all candidates need to be screened in a similar  fashion to prevent claims of disparate treatment, it make little sense to utilize  background services offered through just  one  job board for some candidates and to make other arrangements for all other candidates.  There is a lot to be said for uniformity of treatment of candidates.  

These types of tie-in arrangements also assume that Human Resources professionals are swayed in large numbers simply by the fact that there is a built –in economic association.  However, most HR professionals have an understanding that just because one firm enters into a business development deal with another does not mean that HR is getting the best deal or that their needs are being meet.  HR professionals do not sacrifice their own due diligence and blindly accept the recommended partner.  

The smart move for job boards that want to retain traffic, service thier clients  and increase business would be to allow employers to do their employment screening with whatever background firm the employer chooses.  That would make a job board even more valualbe as part of the hiring process.  Through standard integration tools, that is something job boards could easily allow.   Exclusive business development  deals with just one screening firm  carries with it the unstated premise that the job boards know better than  HR and recruiters what is good for them.   That  is the same “old school” thinking that may have gotten job boards in trouble in the first place.   Besides, HR professionals clearly understand that when a job board has an exclusive partner, that most likely there is some sort of economic sharing as well. 

For information on how to select a screening firm, a sample Request for Proposal (RFP) or how to audit your current screening firm, see information at http://www.esrcheck.com/ESRadvantage.php

The sample RFP is at: http://www.esrcheck.com/backgroundscreeningrfp.php and the article on how to select a screening firm is at: http://www.esrcheck.com/SelectingBackgroundScreeningFirm.php

Selecting an employment background screening firm

An essential element of any due diligence plan is a yearly audit of your current practices.  In the event of a worst case scenario, and an employer hires someone that is unfit, unsafe or unqualified, the best defense is that the employer exercised due diligence in its hiring practices, including the choice of a screening firm.  ESR has developed a checklist, provided below, that can be used to send to a screening provider every year to document your due diligence and to measure the effectiveness of your current screening program.  For a Word version, contact Jared Callahan at 415-898-0044 or email him at jcallahan@esrcheck.com.  More information is at www.ESRcheck.com .

This is a yearly process to document that our company is utilizing due diligence in its employment screening processes.  Please fill out and utilize additional paper if necessary.

  1. Have there been any material changes in the past year that would adversely affect your ability to provide industry standard employment screening reports?
  2. Is all work performed in the USA to protect privacy and control quality (i.e., nothing sent offshore to India or other places)?  If not, please explain in detail how privacy is protected. (See: http://www.concernedc ras.com/)
  3. Are all employment and education checks conducted by professionals in a controlled, call center type environment, so that nothing is sent to at-home workers?  If not, please explain how data privacy and the quality of work are monitored.
  4. For employment verifications, are anti-fraud procedures in place, such as independent verifications of all past employer phone numbers instead of relying upon an applicant supplied number?
  5. For education verifications, are steps taken to verify whether a college or university is accredited and to watch out for Diploma Mills?
  6. Are criminal searches conducted using the most accurate means, which normally means on-site (no database substitutes)? (See: http://www.concernedcras.com/)
  7. Do you search for both felonies and misdemeanors when available?
  8. When a criminal hit is reported, does a knowledgeable person in your firm review the findings to determine whether there are any legal issues in reporting the findings to the employer (as opposed to having the information entered by a court researcher)?
  9. When there is a criminal “hit”, do you contact the employer immediately to advise that there is a potential problem?
  10. Does your firm take measures to ensure that ALL legal and relevant criminal records are searched, as opposed to just going back “seven” years?
  11. If a client orders a “multi-jurisdictional” database search, do you re-verify any criminal “hit” at the courthouse level for maximum accuracy, instead of relying on notifying the applicant of a potential hit? 
  12. Do you notify your clients of changes in the FCRA and other applicable laws?
  13. Do you at least, on a yearly basis, conduct an internal FCRA compliance audit?
  14. Do you offer international background checks? If “yes,” please describe
  15. Is your firm “Safe Harbor Certified” to perform screenings of applicants from the EU (European Union)?
  16. Do you have data protection, privacy security and data breach policies?  If so, please provide information.
  17. Are you a member of the background screening trade association, the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), and does your firm actively participate and support professionalism in the screening industry?
  18. What is your average turn-around time?
  19. If there is a delay for reasons that are out of your control, are your clients notified online with in-depth notes and the anticipated ETA of information?
  20. Are your clients provided with written documentation and resources on safe hiring, due diligence and legal compliance issues?
  21. Are your clients provided with upgrades in technology that would enhance workflow, such as the ability to have applicants consent online or integration with an ATS or HRIS system?
  22. Please describe your initial training program for team members that work on our account, as well as any ongoing training.

Free Interview Generator creates standardized questions for Human Resources and hiring managers

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) has released a free web based interview guide generator to help employers build printed interview forms for any position. The tool allows employers to select from generic interview questions, or to create their own questions, and then create a printed form that can be saved or modified.

 The tool also gives employers the flexibility of adding their own question to different sections of the interview guide. 

This free tool solves several issues for employers. It helps employers and HR professionals produce a printed structured interview guide and focus on developing relevant questions for each position. Printed interview forms also help employers ensure that interviewers are asking the right questions every time, in the right way. It  helps to ensure that all applicants for a position  are treated fairly and uniformly  Using a “structured interview “guide helps employers ask permissible questions in a consistent fashion for all applicants for a position. An employer should only choose those questions that are valid predictors of job performance for a particular position.  The tool was created by employment screening background check expert Lester Rosen.

The tool can be found at:  http://www.esrcheck.com/Interviewgenerator.php

Cost Effective Employment Screening and Safe Hiring Techniques for Large Employers

American industries that hire large numbers of hourly, temporary or seasonal employees are caught in a Catch-22. 

On one hand, they know that if they don’t take measures to conduct pre-employment screening and exercise due diligence in hiring, it is a statistical certainly they are sitting ducks for expensive litigation, workplace violence, false claims, theft, embezzlement and economic loss.

Just one bad hire can cost a firm literally millions. Studies show that screening reveals criminal records for up to 10% of job applicants, and at least one-third of all resumes contain materials falsehoods. For food establishments, manufactures, hotels and other business that have a national brand, one negative employee caused event can result in damaging national publicity and significant harm to the brand. 

The catch, however, is that large hourly employers face enormous financial and logistical challenges in implementing safe hiring programs. Screening large numbers can be expensive and time consuming. Some industries hire at multiple locations, and can experience large turnover.

The problem is compounded when firms hire seasonal, temporary or contract workers as well.  Such industries can include hospitality, manufacturing, service, retail, food and restaurants, and tourism. The challenge is how industries with a large numbers of hourly, seasonal, temporary or contract workers or significant turnover, can protect themselves in a cost-effective and efficient manner.

The answer is probably less complicated then it first appears-due diligence and safe hiring does not require a large budget when employers implement a safe hiring system, as opposed to buying background checks. 

Many firms make the mistake of believing that in order to show due diligence, they need to spend a great deal of money to perform background checks and criminal record research. These firms view pre-employment screening as a process that starts after a hiring manager has selected an applicant, and the name is submitted to security or human resources for a background report. Depending upon the employer, it is either outsourced to a background company or investigated internally through corporate security. 

An effective background-screening program, however, does not need to cost a great deal of money because it is much more then just checking background and criminal records after a candidate has been selected. In fact, in an effective safe hiring system, the primary tools are the application, interview and reference checking process, also known as the AIR process. These processes are performed in-house as part of the routine hiring program, and do not cost employers a dime, as long as it is followed. A brief review of the AIR process is contained in the attached Safe Hiring Checklist. 

AIR PROCESS

1. Use an application form, not just resumes.

Use of an employment application form is considered a best practice. Resumes are not always complete or clear. Applications ensure both uniformity and that all needed information is obtained, prevents employers from having impermissible information, and provides employers with a place for applicants to sign certain necessary statements. 

2. Make sure the application form contains all necessary language.

a. Use the broadest possible language for felony and misdemeanor convictions and pending cases. One of the biggest mistakes employers make is to only ask about felonies on an application form since misdemeanors can be very serious. Employers should inquire about misdemeanors to the extent allowed in their state.

b. Statement that criminal records do not automatically disqualify an applicant. This is important for EEOC compliance. It is critical for employers to understand that the background screening is conducted to determine whether a person is fit for a particular job. Society has a vested interest in giving ex-offenders a chance. However, an employer is under a due diligence obligation to make efforts to determine if a person is reasonable fit for a particular position. For example, a person just out of custody for a violent crime would not be a good candidate for a job that require them to go into people’s home, but may perform very well on a supervised work crew. If a criminal record is found, an employer must determine if there is a business reason not to hire the person, based upon the nature and gravity of the offense, the nature of the job and when the crime occurred. There are also limitations to the use of arrests not resulting in a conviction, and a number of states also have rules about criminal records.

c. Statements that lack of truthfulness or material omissions are grounds to terminate the hiring process or employment no matter when they are discovered. This is particularly important if a criminal record is found. Although a criminal record may not be used automatically to disqualify an applicant, the fact an applicant has lied about a criminal matter can be the basis for an adverse decision. 

3. Require a release for a background check in the application process. Have each job applicant sign a consent form for a background check, including a check for criminal records, past employment and education. Announcing that your firm checks backgrounds may discourage applicants with something to hide, and encourage applicants to be truthful and honest about mistakes they have made in the past. If a firm outsources to a third party vendor, then under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), there must be a disclosure on a separate standalone document. 

4. Review the application carefully. In most instances, when there is an employee problem or lawsuit, a careful review of the application would have alerted the employer in advance that they were hiring a lawsuit waiting to happen, Look for the following red flags:

Applicant does not sign application.

Applicant does not sign consent or background screening.

Applicant leaves criminal questions blank (the honest criminal syndrome-dopes not want to lie about a criminal past).

Applicant self-reports a criminal violation (Applicants can self report matters incorrectly.)

Applicant fails to explain why he or she left past jobs,

Applicant fails to explain gaps in employment history.

Applicant gives an explanation for an employment gap or the reason leaving previous job that does not make sense.

Excessive cross-outs and changes (as though making it up as they go along) 

Applicant fails to give complete information (i.e. insufficient information to identify a past employer, leaves out salary, etc).

Applicant failed to indicate or cannot recall the name of a former supervisor. 

5. In reviewing applications, look for unexplained employment gaps.

It is critical to verify past employment to determine where a person has been for the last 5-10 years, even if you only get dates and job titles. Look for unexplained gaps in employment. Generally, if you can verify that a person was gainfully employed for the last five to ten years, or their whereabouts can be verified it is less likely the person spent time in custody for a serious offense, although this does not eliminate the possibility of lesser offenses.

6. In reviewing applications, examine reasons for leaving each job.

7. Always ask these five questions (during housekeeping stage of interview). Since they have signed consent and believe you are doing checks, applicants have a powerful incentive to be truthful. These questions are the equivalent of a New Age Lie detector test.  Good applicants will shrug it off and applicants with something to hide may reveal vital information. 

a. We do background checks on everyone we make an offer to. Do you any concerns about that you would like to discuss? (Good applicants will shrug off)

b. We also check for criminal convictions for all finalists. Any concerns about that? (Make sure the wording of the question reflects what an employer may legally ask in that state)

c. We contact all past employers. What do think they will say?

d. Will past employer tell us that e.g. your were tardy, did not perform well etc.

e. ALSO, use interview to ask questions about any unexplained employment gap

8. Check references and look for Unexplained Employment Gaps:

Verifying past employment is one of the single most important tools for an employer. It can be as important as doing criminal checks. Past job performance can also be an important predictor of future success. Some employers make a costly mistake by not checking past employment because they believe past employers may not give detailed information. However, even verification of dates of employment and job titles are critical because an employer must be concerned about unexplained gaps in the employment history. 

In addition, documenting the fact that an effort was made will demonstrate due diligence. Although there can be many reasons for a gap in employment, if an applicant cannot account for the past seven to ten years, that can be a red flag. 

It is also critical to know where a person has been because of the way criminal records are maintained in the United States. Contrary to popular belief, there is not a national criminal database available to most private employers. Searches must be conducted at each relevant courthouse, and there are over 10,000 courthouses in America. However, if an employer knows where an applicant has been as a result of past employment checks, it increases the accuracy of a criminal search, and decreases the possibility that an applicant has served time for a serious offense

After the AIR process, a firm is well advised to perform a criminal check. The good news is that with an effective AIR process, the possibility of locating a serious criminal record is greatly reduced. A firm can dramatically lower their cost by concentrating on the most recent counties where an applicant resides or spent a long period of time. Some experts contend that statistically, a person is more likely to commit a criminal offense in their county of residence. As a result, a check of the county of current residence gives an employer the most return for the expenditure.

An employer may wish to do a more in-depth search depending upon the type of position. An employer may want to review those positions with a greater risk for increased scrutiny, such as:

a. Supervisors

b. Workers handling cash or Personal Identifyable information (PII).

c. Remote or unsupervised workers

d. Workers that go into people’s homes

e. Workers with Access to assets

f. Vendors

g. Temporary workers

h. Contractors

Employers who hire vendors, temporary employees or contractors can insist that the provider of these services do screening. Many firms may have janitorial crews in the faculties at night, or vendors supplying vital parts or services. Employers are within their rights to insist that third party provider certify that they have performed checks as well. 

Implementing a Program throughout the company

The biggest challenge for an organization is to promote safe hiring and due diligence across an organization. The goal is to ensure that hiring managers across different divisions and sometimes across different physical locations follow procedures and pay attention to safe hiring.

The answer is to set up a S.A.F.E. Hiring System. It stands for:

S-Set-up a program, policies and procedures to be used throughout the organization, including the AIR process

A-Acclimate/train all persons with safe hiring responsibilities, especially hiring managers.

F– Facilitate/Implement the program.

E-Evaluate and audit the program by making sure that everyone responsible understands that their compensation and advancement is judged in part by the attention they pay to the hiring process. Organizations typically accomplish those things that are measured, audited and rewarded. The attached chart will help supervisors implement the program and for management to audit hiring practices.

By following the AIR process as part of an overall S.A.F.E. Hiring System, employers can demonstrate due diligence in the hiring process and protect themselves from bad hires in a cost-effective manner.

This article was prepared by background checking expert Lester Rosen.