Background Checks for Employers Must Reach Every Level

How comprehensive should background checks for employers be? The answer can change considerably based on the type of business in question. For example, someone hired to work in the kitchen at a fast-food restaurant represents low risk to the entire organization. However, someone joining the C-suite of a growing software company to be the CFO could potentially do much more damage to a business through wrongdoing. Can your vetting process identify and stop those risks?

The right approach can certainly help. The consequences of failing to consider all aspects of vetting—not just criminal records, but character and habits—can prove very expensive.

Consider a recent example that came from New Hampshire. A charity called Listen Community Services was recently forced to fire its Executive Director after it became clear he had stolen more than $200,000 to fund a gambling addiction. The man obtained this position despite a prior minor arrest for embezzling funds and a history of serious debt. The charity's employment background checks seemingly did not capture these factors.

Because the man had access to the charity's financial documents, he could "cook the books" to cover up his theft of donations for several years. Only once someone else in finance noticed an irregularity in bookkeeping did the company bring in auditors and discover the extent of the losses, ultimately leading to the man's resignation.

What Led to Such Expensive Oversights?

It can be hard to imagine how a small nonprofit could lose so much money through misplaced trust. However, there were numerous red flags that a more thorough vetting procedure might have uncovered. For example, though credit checks are uncommon in hiring, they should be an element of screening individuals with extensive autonomy in financial processes.

Checking the database of federal cases known as Pacer would also have revealed troublesome stories about the man. Now combine these oversights with fewer internal controls over high-level staff actions and a lack of ongoing monitoring practices. With these ingredients, you have a recipe for potential wrongdoing.

Good Screening Goes Beyond Basic Background Checking

Comprehensive background checks include more than screening for basic criminal history. It is necessary to check every resource possible when hiring for any position, especially for positions of authority. A more thorough approach could include elements such as:

  • Criminal background checks at the county, state, and federal levels.
  • Credit report checks when applicable.
  • Speaking with personal references.
  • Verifying professional history and education.
  • Using ongoing monitoring tools to stay alert to any new red flags.
  • Detailed job interviews and more.

Don't leave any stone unturned. Instead, background checks for employers should use a multi-pronged approach that aims to understand as much as possible about applicant suitability. Doing so can mean distinguishing between a trusted hire and losing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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