All posts by Les Rosen

New Study on Impact of Past Criminal Record on New Employment Creates More Questions Than it Answers

A new study just released by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University has attempted to devise a model to quantify the relevance of a criminal record for employment on the basis that the importance of a past criminal record recedes over time when a person is not re-arrested. The study looks to develop a methodology to measure how much time must pass before an applicant with a criminal record is no greater risk than an applicant without a criminal record. (Blumstein, Nakamura, “Redemption in the Presence of Widespread Criminal Background Checks,” Criminology, Volume 47, Number 2 (2009)).
The study, based upon limited data just from the state of New York, found that with time, a person with a criminal record was no greater threat than persons without a criminal record. It suggested that depending upon the offenses included in the study and the age at which the offenses were committed, that after approximately 4½ to 8 years without further arrests, an offender had a minimal risk of re-offending. Of course, the more violent the offense, the longer the time would be required before a person could be considered “redeemed.” Serious crimes such as murder, rape, or child molestation were not part of this particular study, but presumably more serious crimes would have a different result. 
Although there is a temptation for the press to take “sound bites” from the findings, it is abundantly clear from the authors of the study themselves that this is only a beginning. The authors were clear that much more study was needed and that there are substantial issues still to be addressed. The author’s characterization that the study represents a “significant step forward in area where so little is known empirically” is well-taken. 
The study does not have nearly enough data to reach conclusions from which policy recommendations can be effectively made, has not been reviewed critically by other professionals, and most importantly has a number of drawbacks that can affect its reliability. Many of these limitations were acknowledged by the authors.  There are also unstated assumptions in eh study that would certainly skew any results. 
For a more in-depth analysis of why this study cannot be the basis to make policy changes, see a more complete analysis by ESR at:

Beware of Rip-off web sites

A web site came to our attention that makes outright falsehoods to the public when it comes to criminal records.  It says:


Our 50 State Criminal History Search Is Generated Using Federal, State And County Databases Containing Over 1.2 Billion Criminal Records Which Are 100% Accurate, Reliable And Updated Daily For A Complete Comprehensive Report Containing All Arrests And Convictions Including Felony, Misdemeanor And Sexual Offenders/Predators 

It is unclear whether this site is just ignorant of the facts or is an intentional rip-off but the results are the same-it is a fraud and a scam.  The suggestion that there is a” complete comprehensive report” of all arrests and convictions is a pure nonsense. 

For the real story, see an article on the ESR website called, 


There are commercially assembled criminal databases that can be helpful to employers when used by a screening firm since it may lead to further courts to search.  However, any suggestion that these databases all by themselves are real background checks is just a ploy to rip-off the unwary. These databases are far from complete, and accurate.  They can falsely label someone a criminal who is not, and can falsely clear someone who in fact has a serious criminal record.   They may contain records that are not legally useable or have been set aside by a court.  Not all jurisdictions are included, and even included jurisdictions do not always update records. 

For more on why these database claims should be ignored, see:

ESR Article on Trends, Developments and Best Practices Featured in Leading International Security Magazine

Security Management Magazine, the official publication of ASIS international, featured an article on background screening by ESR as a cover story in its May, 2009 edition.  ASIS International is considered the preeminent international organization for security professionals.  The article can be found at

The article, authored by ESR President Lester Rosen, was titled, “How to Avoid Hiring Mishaps,” and covered a range of current issues affecting background screening and due diligence.  Some of the main points are:

  1. Criminal databases, although valuable due to the millions of records, should not be used as a primary tool for screening, due to issues of accuracy, timeliness and complexities.
  2. Criminal databases are also subject to a number of legal issues, especially surrounding the application of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act.
  3. Even if an employer locates a criminal history, its use for employment is limited by discrimination laws.  The State of New York for example, just passed a series of new laws to ensure that individuals with criminal records are not locked out permanently from society.
  4. Employers need to be especially carful in the use of automatic “adjudication rules” for criminal records without taking into account the particulars of the crime, the person and the job.
  5. Education fraud is on the increase, and now even includes fake accreditation agencies to accredit fake degrees.
  6. Although employers have discovered a treasure trove of information by using the internet and social network sites such as Facebook and MySpace, the jury is still out on whether it is a good idea to utilize those sites.  There can be issues concerning discrimination, violation of privacy rights, the improper use of legal off duty conduct and problems with authenticity and reliability.
  7. Given the mobility of workers across international borders, employers need to factor international screening into their programs.

For more information, see

New UTAH Privacy Laws Impact Employers and May Show Future Trends

Utah is the latest state to pass tough new privacy laws with it come to Personally Identifiable Information (PII). 

Utah passed a new law effective May 12, 2009 called, “The Employment Selection Procedures Act.”  See:  

The new law prohibits an employer above 15 employees from collecting an applicant’s social security number, date of birth or driver’s license number before a job offer or before the time when a background check is requested.  In addition, if the person is not hired, the employer will not keep the information beyond two year, the An employee also may not use the information for any other purposes and must maintain a “specific policy regarding the retention, disposition, access, and confidentiality of the information.” An applicant has the right to view the policy.   

The idea appears to be to limit the flow of personal data before or unless it is needed and to destroy it if no longer needed.  For employers using paper applications, it creates an administrative burden since the employer needs to add another step to get the data required for a background check if an applicant moves forward in the hiring process.  However, electronic hiring procedures, such as the Applicant Generated Report system offered by ESR solves this issue, since an applicant is only asked to provide confidential data only if the employer decides to perform a background check and the information only goes to the screening firm.   

ESR provides Utah employers with a sample policy in the ESR proprietary 50 state guide available after logging onto the ESRnet system. 
The Utah law is part of a growing trend to restrict access to PII in order to prevent identity theft.  Some courts have attempted to restrict access to identifying information in public records, which makes it harder for employers to receive accurate reports on a timely basis.  State legislatures are also getting involved in privacy issues.    Future blog posts will cover other states.

Why Interviews Are Not an Effective Means to Tell if a Job Applicant is Lying on their Resume or Job Application

Even if Diogenes had found an honest person, there is a body of modern evidence that suggests it is difficult for anyone, from ancient philosophers to modern day employers, to use an interview to determine who is really who. Employers have a distinct challenge when it comes to spotting liars; industry statistics suggest that as many as 30% of all job applicants falsify information about their credentials, but trying to spot liars at interviews is, well, difficult, if not impossible.

There are lists of so-called “tell-tale signs” that a person is lying . For example, employers might observe if a person is avoiding eye contact, fidgeting, or hesitating before answering. Unfortunately, it can be a costly mistake for an interviewer to think lying can always be detected by such visual clues by relying upon one’s own instinct or intuition, since some of the so-called “visual clues” can simply be a sign of nervousness about the interview, or stress, and not an intent to lie. In fact, accomplished liars are more dangerous because they can disguise themselves as truthful and sincere. An experienced liar will often show no visible signs.

The problem is further complicated because many people feel they can detect who is lying and who is not. Studies have demonstrated that most people are poor judges of when they are being told the truth and when they are being deceived. Paul Ekman , a psychology professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California Medical School in San Francisco , is the author of thirteen books, including Telling Lies. Ekman has tested about 6,000 people who are professionals trained to spot liars, including police officers, lawyers, judges, psychiatrists, and agents of the FBI, the CIA and the Drug Enforcement Administration, to determine if they can tell if someone is lying. According to his research, most people are not very accurate in judging if a person is lying. The average accuracy in studies is rarely above 60%, while chance is 50%. Even among professional lie catchers, the ability to detect liars is not much better than 50%. In one study, customs agents who interviewed people at customs stations did not do any better than college students.

Some interviewees tell lies they have ingrained in their life story. They have created identities and legends of their own and, when they tell their stories, they are not fabricating on the spot. They put “it” on their resumes and talk about it and tell their friends about it. It becomes part of their personalities and personal histories because they have told it so often. It becomes second nature as they retell it again and again.

Conversely, even if a hiring manager does have an inkling a person is lying at an interview, a hiring manager may squash that instinct as just a feeling and not act on it.

That does not mean that some liars cannot be detected at interview. Some firms offer a one-day course specifically designed around interviewing of applicants. However, for most people, it’s a flip of the coin.

Employers, HR and Security professionals should remember that as valuable as instinct may be, it does not substitute for factual verification of an applicant’s credentials through employment screening  background checks and other safe hiring techniques.

Due Diligence and Temporary Workers—Background Checks are Still Critical

An excellent article appeared in the Abilene Biz today about the trend for employers to hire temporary workers in these uncertain times. See: The gist of the story is that employers that are uncertain about the future, can lessen their risk by hiring temporary workers.

However, employers need to realize however that just because the worker is on someone else’s payroll does not mean an employer is not responsible for them. For example, if a temporary worker engages in harassment or creates a hostile workplace that is still something the employer needs to deal with. In addition, employers need to clearly understand what type of background checks staffing agencies are doing. An employer cannot assume the temporary agency is performing due diligence or background checks. Background checks are critical to make sure an employer is not exposing their workplace, workers, customers and the public to a worker that is dangerous, unqualified or dishonest. An employer needs to clearly understand what sort of due diligence screening the staffing agency performs, and to require that appropriate background checks are conducted.

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) is privileged to work with outstanding staffing professionals and recruiters  that take great care of their clients and protect their clients with appropriate background checks. Ask your staffing firm if they work with ESR to perform background checks on the workers they send to your business.

Webinar: Avoiding Bad Hires: Strategies For Exercising And Rating Your Due Diligence

Kennedy Information, the leading source on all things related to recruiting, is presenting a national Professional Development webinar on, “Avoiding Bad Hires: Strategies For Exercising And Rating Your Due Diligence.” The presentation is set for Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 1 p.m. (ET). 

The presenter is ESR President Lester Rosen.

According to Kennedy Information:

“Let’s face it, the job market is extremely competitive and jobseekers everywhere are doing whatever it takes to land a job – including stretching the truth or outright lying on resumes, applications and in interviews. With a record number of candidates contacting recruiters, it is imperative to exercise due diligence. You can’t afford not to – a bad hire is a costly mistake with potential legal implications.

Employers who fail to exercise due diligence in their hiring practices risk hiring criminals, unqualified workers and can leave themselves exposed to workplace violence, theft or litigation. Save yourself the time and trouble, and join us on June 4 for practical, how-to advice on employing due diligence in the hiring process.

Key takeaways include:

–An overview of the laws related to negligent hiring; and complying with discrimination, privacy laws and identity theft

–Strategies that can be implemented immediately, at little or no cost, to protect your company from a bad hire and the time wasted recruiting, training and hiring the wrong talent

–How to audit your own hiring practices, in effort to avoid negligent hiring, wrongful termination lawsuits and other workforce problems

–A report card that grades your organization’s hiring due diligence”

To register, go to:

The Dangers of "do-it-yourself" Background Checks: Another Easy Way for Employers to Get Sued

The Wall Street Journal published an interesting article on do-it-yourself  online background check sites that allow people to do their own background checks online. S ee:

In order to make sure that employers reading the article had an understanding of the impact of using these sites for employment screening purposes, ESR posted the followng brief comment on the WSJ site:

“Excellent article.  However, it underscores the dangers of “do-it-yourself” background checks for employment.  Employers need to realize that since job and livelihoods are at stake, background checks are legally regulated.  A federal law called the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) as well as similar state laws regulates what background screening firms can do.  Even if an employer attempts this in-house, there are numerous ways for an unsuspecting employer to violate applicant’s rights and get sued.  For example, New York recently implemented a series of new law that affect how a criminal conviction can be used, and requires certain rights be given to applicants.  Discrimination laws in general impact the use of background data.  The use of bankruptcy information is potentially discriminatory and in violation of federal law.  There are also issues as to privacy and accuracy. This is one of those efforts that most employers leave in the hands of professionals.  Our firm’s website at  does contain a great deal of information on how to perform checks properly in the articles section. as well as the problems with employers trying to use Facebook or MySpace to make employment decisions.” 

Of course, the longer and more accurate story is that “do-it-yourself” background checks opens up a potential Pandora’s box of nightmares for employers.  The amount of legal difficulties an employer can get into is enormous.  Doing your own background checks is somewhat like trying to install your own electrical system in your house-it is possible, but fraught with danger.

Credit Report Red Flag Rules Address Discrepancies Easy as 1,2,3

Questions have been sent in by employers who receive Credit Reports as to what to do with the RED FLAG ADDRESS MISMATCH alerts.  This all came about from new Federal regulations that took effect late last year to curb ID Theft.

The resolution for your company is as Easy as 1, 2, 3.

First, have a written policy in place at your office on how you will deal with this issue.  Specifically the issue is that the address the applicant listed differs from the address that the Credit Bureau has on record.

Second, contact the applicant and ask him/her to send you or show you some documents that indicate the new address.  Any official document will do driver’s license, apartment lease, utility bill, etc.  (The attached sample policy includes the full list of the items that will adequately prove the new address.) Once you review the evidence of the new address and you’re satisfied with it, that’s all you need to do.

Third, if the applicant is concerned that the Credit Bureau doesn’t have the new address, you can give him/her a document that ESR will provide that explains how to make the change with them.

TO RECAP: You will want to create a written policy for your company as soon as you can. You will want to watch your Background Reports to note whether the Credit Report is Red Flagged.  And you will want to take the easy address verification steps with your applicant if there is a different address on the Credit Report and the Background Report. As simple as 1, 2, 3.

A sample policy that ESR has written is available to ESR clients. ESR also provides a link to a page with information an employer can give an applicant if they are concerned about an address mismatch with useful information.

The Federal Trade Commission did announce that it was suspending the rules until August 1, 2009 to provide creditors and financial firms more time to comply.  However, since it is not clear whether the suspension applies to employers, and since this is a best practice to avoid identity theft, ESR suggests that employers begin to implement these rules as soon as possible.