HR CAN BE “PENNY-WISE AND POUND-FOOLISH”
As background and reference checking becomes increasingly important to employers, there seems to be two rather diametrically opposed ways HR people are going about it. The first, and most preferable, is to collect as much background and job performance information about a candidate for employment as possible in order to make the best possible hiring decision. The second, which is sometimes attributable to the demand for speed put on the Human Resource Department, is to buy the cheapest background package possible.
Some HR people, for example, will look for a supplier of background checks that offers a quick, inexpensive national criminal court check for under $20. While doing this type of check is better than not checking at all, it is, at best, a supplemental check that should be combined with a county-specific court check to provide any thoroughness at all. But, even at that, merely establishing that the candidate probably was never convicted of a felony doesn’t provide much of a picture of how well the candidate will do carrying out the actual duties of the job to be filled.
As a matter of fact, most background checks are only designed to determine if the candidate has provided honest answers on his job application or resume – that he is who he claims to be, and not much else. That’s why checking references is an important way to determine if the candidate can actually do the job the employer needs done. Therefore, for an employer to make the best hiring decision possible, references also need to be checked. It’s obviously a more expensive exercise; but, compared to the cost of hiring someone who doesn’t have the experience, skill, or training to do the job, the cost of a more thorough background and reference check is insignificant when compared to the costs associated with making a bad hiring decision based on little or no background or reference information.
As recently as a few days ago, an individual was arrested in a nearby city for carrying out an alleged fraud and a kickback scheme involving thousands of dollars. If a thorough court check had been conducted, it would have been discovered that the individual arrested had a criminal history stretching back to the age of 19. The incident made it to the front page of the city’s daily paper.
What makes this situation worse is public funds were being misappropriated! In one of the more ridiculous statements heard, a city official said that background checks aren’t conducted on anyone to avoid discriminating against those previously convicted of crimes who have “served their time,” because checking would tend to encourage them to go back into crime rather than giving them another chance at honest employment. While that may be true in some instances, if that’s going to be an employer’s policy, doesn’t it make more sense to be aware of the potential risk being taken than to bury one’s head in the sand? Even buying the cheapest package – in this instance – would have helped avoid making a terrible hiring decision.