Background Checks

I saw a provocative article recently that prompts me suggest that it’s important for employers to check the reliability of any company they’re planning to select to do their background checking.  This particular company, located in Baltimore, provided criminal background checks and fingerprinting services for candidates for employment with the State of Maryland.

The company, along with more than forty other private vendors, had partnered with the state to help meet the demand for fingerprint requests.  Candidates for employment with the state paid a fee for having the fingerprinting done; the company doing the fingerprinting, in turn, paid the state a processing fee.  In this instance, an individual needed the background check and fingerprint check to obtain a nursing license.  The company in question was paid by the prospective nurse who, shortly thereafter, successfully passed the required examinations and just assumed that the background and fingerprint check had been done and was on file.  The new nurse discovered that the company who had done the background and fingerprint check had moved and there was no sign of them!

As it turned out, the company that did the checking owed the state over $330,000 in unpaid processing fees.  A local newspaper became involved and found the company at a new location just down the street.  A reporter for the newspaper later talked with the owner of a similar background checking company who said he had seen numerous checking companies come and go, some closing after only a few weeks or even a few days in business.  Most were never heard from again.

How can an employer avoid this sort of situation?  One way is to only utilize firms that have a history of reliable service over an extended period of time.  Another is for employers to do their own reference checking by asking a prospective vendor to provide a list of customers with whom they do business.  Then, it’s just a matter of calling those references and asking for an assessment of the vendor’s overall customer service, reliability, and performance.  If a prospective vendor of background services can’t supply a list of their own references or if the comments by the references aren’t all that positive, the prospective customer might think twice, or even three times, about utilizing their services – regardless of how much of a bargain their prices are.  Checking out who’s doing the checking is often a smart move for employers.