By Kristina M. Taylor, Chief Operating Officer, ATS, Inc.
Published: 30 AUG 06

On any given day you can find a stories in the news of deception, theft, violence, drug or alcohol abuse and fraud. The one thing that is in common with many of these articles is they occur on the job.

Could some of these incidents be prevented with proper screening? The answer is clearly yes. The main challenge is that many companies check criminal backgrounds, but fail to check further.

Most recently Radio Shack’s CEO stepped down over falsified information about the degrees he claimed on his resume. Radio Shack has stated that they now check credentials which is something they did not do when the CEO was hired. In 2002, it was discovered that the CEO of Bausch & Lomb Inc did not have an MBA as he had lead the company to believe. Both of these incidents caused a public relations problem which hurt company stocks.

Increasingly more and more people are lying on their resume to get a job. Diploma mills are on the rise. As applicants become more skilled at deception those charged with hiring must be more skilled at detection. The first line of defense is simply to check. Recent statistics show that only about 15% of all resumes are checked for valid diplomas.

Companies and institutions can be hurt in other ways by not properly screening a candidate. Take a former Police Department records clerk charged with felony theft of $23,245.75. Further investigation showed a gambling problem, a history of drug use, theft, fraud and financial problems. The problem is the investigation took place after the fact.

The department knew of one incident of theft and drug use which was revealed through a criminal background check and verified during the polygraph test. Despite these facts they accepted her to the position. Often applicants will explain away violations or the hiring manager may see them as not so severe.

Hiring managers must learn to look objectively at an applicant. If they are not going to be denied based on a discovered transgression then further investigation should be required. A next step would be to run a credit check on the applicant to ensure there is not a history of poor financial management. A check of references especially former employers would also be a good measure.

Many hiring mangers feel that a former employment verification is a waste of time since often the former employer will only give position, dates of employment and possibly salary. Hiring managers should consider that even limited or basic information will help identify applicants who misrepresent themselves.

What many employers are beginning to realize is that they are protected from liability if the information they provide is factual. A further measure is a good consent form completed by the applicant which protects the former employer from liability.

In a few rare cases some employers have been sued by not disclosing information that could prevented a problem. An example would be if a mail room clerk is fired for striking a coworker. Often in case like this no charges are filed. The employer, who fired the clerk, should disclose this violent tendency to the next employer. If the next employer fails to call there is no other way to discover this infraction.

Many employers wonder what to do if an applicant does not have an adequate work history. A company in Reading, PA that offers elder care sends nurses aides to people’s homes. This field is growing rapidly. However the people filling these positions have little experience. The solution is professional references that are not from family members. A teacher, a neighbor or someone who has known the applicant for at least 3 years who can vouch for their character. Often this step is overlooked or the HR department is too overwhelmed to make this extra effort which can have costly consequences.

Another area which is gaining attention is the use of a Motor Vehicle Report (MVR) through Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Once reserved just for the truck driving industry more companies use this report on anyone with a company car or who regularly drives during the course of their job. One HR manager realized that they had executives driving between their multiple locations and none of their driving records had been checked. Had any of them been in an accident with a suspended license it could be a PR nightmare. The firm has since started dong these checks closing a gap and thwarting a potential problem.

Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America today. From an HR perspective the biggest risk is hiring illegal immigrants who have a false or stolen social security number. For a fee illegal immigrants can purchase social security cards which will pass scrutiny. Some people have had their social security numbers used over 30 times by illegal immigrants to get employment.

Congressman David Dreier, Chairman of the House Rules Committee in testimony submitted to a joint hearing of the House Ways and Means Social Security and Oversight subcommittees advocated reform of the social security system specifically relating to employment verification. He sights these same examples and is actively seeking a solution. A pilot program is available in some states for I-9 Verification. The drawback to this process is that the applicant must complete the entire hiring process before this can be checked. A Social Security Search will identify multiple names attached to a social security number which may shed light before its too late in the process.

The bottom line is that applicants should always be screened unique to the position they will hold in the company. There are many pitfalls in hiring and a simple criminal background check will leave holes which will be exploited. A thorough screening process and/or a reputable screening company will ensure the safety, security and qualifications of your workforce.

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