All Background Checks Are Not Created Equal: What You Need to Know When Hiring

Posted by Cheryl Savit, Savvy Words, EM NARI PR Committee on 10 September 2019 | 0 Comments

With Labor Day in the rear-view mirror, we’re all gearing up for fall’s hustle and bustle. Your in-box has resumes and responses to your latest employment advertisements. Time to interview, assess and hire new team members. Before you make a job offer, you want to do your due diligence and learn as much about the candidate as is legally and ethically allowed. So how do you do that?

September’s guest speaker was David C. Sawyer, CPP, and President of Safer Places, a company specializing in screening, testing and consulting for background checks and security.

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Sawyer walked the group through vital sources for background checks and a list of what not to do. Clearly employers want to learn important information about a candidate’s potential criminal record, but there are laws around this sensitive topic that you have to be aware of so as not to end up in an embarrassing situation or even court. Understand that some questions are illegal on an employment application and can only be asked face to face.

You probably also want to know something about a person’s:

  • Job history – verification & references
  • Education history – verification
  • Driving record
  • Credit history
  • Sex offender registry (separate from criminal)
  • Drug testing history

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Professional background services like Safer Places can conduct legally compliant searches. They are familiar with public and private databases and best practices. You absolutely need to know the proper steps to inform a candidate that you are conducting background searches and the steps to take if something you find prompts you to withdraw an offer or stop further interviewing. 

“You need to know the data you are receiving is from the most accurate and up-to-date sources.  Missing a critical piece of information or making a technical error when it comes to following federal and state laws can be costly to your wallet and more importantly, your reputation,” says Sawyer.   

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Sawyer warned about what not to do:

1)    Do not buy background checks from third party online sites who call themselves CRAs (consumer reporting agencies) as they are not legal for employment screening.

2)    Do not search a person’s social media accounts yourself because if what you see turns you off or makes you question whether you want to hire him or her, you may be leaving yourself open for a discrimination lawsuit that protect that person’s age, religion, sexuality, politics, or family planning status. You may be asked under oath and have to answer the question why you didn’t hire someone. Keep that in mind.

Consider the level of risk for the person being hired. Are they working in your office around sensitive, confidential information? In clients’ homes? Driving company vehicles?

Educating yourself in this area will prevent costly mistakes. You can learn a lot about hiring laws from government (federal, state, city) websites, HR sites, or you can hire a professional screener. Safer Places offers free webinars on many topics around hiring and screening. Their next one is called, "Are You Covering All the Bases?"  and is on Sept. 26 at 1:00 p.m. Link to Registration Page 

For the handouts from David Sawyer's presentation, see below. 

Compliance Checklist

Individualized Assessment 

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