Protecting Your Business

Completing background checks may prevent problems with employees

By Eddie Nadal

While large organizations may be able to absorb the impact of an untrustworthy employee, small businesses can be much more vulnerable. A single employee can do a great deal of damage to a small business, whether by malice or mistake. Failure to complete due diligence on employees may open your business up to a negligent hiring claim, resulting in costly litigation. And perhaps most importantly, a dishonest employee could seriously mar your valuable reputation for a long time.

Nationally, examples of repercussions from failure to complete an adequate background check abound. A high school principal was forced to resign after the school newspaper’s staff investigated her credentials and found that they were not as she had presented them. Though she had supposedly been vetted by the school district, nobody thought to verify her education and it went unquestioned until the students began to investigate.

This school district isn’t the only organization to be embarrassed by a failure to complete a thorough vetting. Wal-Mart’s Vice President of Corporate Communications resigned after it came to light that he had falsified his degree on his resume, and the University of Notre Dame discovered that their new head coach hire, George O’Leary, had lied about having played football in college (he never actually played a single game).

To prevent a hazardous hiring error, consider implementing a background check policy. This type of procedure will help decrease the likelihood of a hiring mistake that could drastically impact your business.

Why can’t I just Google them?

While it can be tempting to simply do a quick online search of your prospective employee, this tactic is fraught with problems. First, there is plenty of inaccurate or misleading information online that may give you a false impression of your candidate. Second, there may be multiple people with the same name, making it impossible to determine whether what you’ve found applies to the right person. Finally, some of the most important information you need may not be available to the public, or may require deeper digging. For example, criminal records may require searching individual court websites, a time-consuming and labor-intensive process.

What kind of background check is necessary?

Not every position requires an in-depth vetting. For most positions, a basic background check will suffice. The most critical things to discover with a background check are:

  1. Is the information the applicant provided true and accurate?
  2. Is there any important, relevant information the applicant failed to provide?

For positions that deal extensively with large sums of money or sensitive financial information, a credit check is always appropriate, and for positions that involve a high degree of physical safety concerns, a drug test may be necessary.

To do a background check, the prospective hire should sign a consent form. If you are engaging a company to perform background checks for you, they will usually supply a standard form to have your employees sign. Credit checks and background checks performed by a third party are governed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and you must obtain written consent beforehand, as well as follow additional requirements set out by the law. If you are performing the check yourself, written consent is not legally required, but it’s considered good practice to have employees sign anyway. This way, they are aware that the background check is being performed and you have a record of obtaining their consent.

A small investment in background checks can help your business avoid the headache of expensive and potentially embarrassing damage from dishonest or unqualified employees and provide you with peace of mind, knowing that you have the truth about those you trust to work for you.

About the Author:

Eddie Nadal is the owner of Nadal Investigative Services, a private investigation firm based in Broad Run. He is a 27 year veteran of the New York City and Nassau County Police Departments, where he investigated homicides, narcotics, and many other cases. For more information visit his website. He may be reached at 703-957-9349 or via email.

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