Do CEOs Undergo Thorough Enough Background Checks?

By Michael Klazema on 10/28/2014

When you look at society as a whole, the people that you would expect to be subject to the most rigid background checks generally are: from doctors to teachers to the President of the United States, these individuals usually face incredibly in-depth criminal background checks before being allowed to go to work.

When you look at a standalone business or corporation, then, you would expect background check policies to be similarly predictable: the employees who are at the highest levels or who have the most substantial responsibilities would be the ones facing the most thorough background screenings. The lower-on-the-totem-pole employees, meanwhile, wouldn't have to go through background checks that were not quite so rigorous.

According to a recent Forbes article, though, that might not be the way things actually work. Using evidence from a UK survey they made a shocking discovery: many CEOs go through fewer interviews and background checks that college graduates applying for their first job.

That's a double-take kind of statement, and to be fair, the survey that the article is looking at was done overseas. Who knows if the findings would hold true in the United States? Still, the findings are fascinating and are worth looking at for anyone involved in the background check industry on either side of the pond.

Those findings indicate that almost half of the HR managers interviewed know of CEOs who had to go through fewer background checks than recent graduates applying at the same company. The survey highlighted a troubling assumption HR experts have about how people applying for leadership positions probably don't lie on their resumes. It's eye-opening stuff, and it turns what we think we know about due diligence on its head a bit.

Of course, it's easy to see why some CEOs might be given free passes in terms of interviews and background checks. After all, most corporate leaders come highly recommended, or have incredibly impressive resumes full of leadership experience and monumental business accomplishments. With that much clout, is a background check really necessary to verify the CEO's credentials?

The issue, though, is that high-ranking business leaders can lie on a resume just as easily as someone else. And if those individuals have serious criminal history, then it could be a huge liability for the company doing the hiring. A CEO of a large organization is, of course, under the microscope, and the slightest black mark on their record can impact the reputation, stock value, and earnings of that company, among other things.

The lesson? CEOs, board members, and other applicants to high-ranking positions need to be subject to comprehensive executive background checks and interviews that are more meticulous than they are for anyone else. It's not a bad thing to screen recent college graduates with complete thoroughness: companies should continue doing that to protect themselves from unsavory people. But it makes no sense that the leaders of a company would ever be held to lower standards than the people joining the lowest ranks.


Tag Cloud
Recent Posts

Latest News

  • December 04 Chicago Public Schools has dismissed hundreds of employees, coaches, vendors, and volunteers based on background check findings. The district recently vowed to re-check the majority of its 68,000 employees after a Chicago Tribune investigation revealed holes in its background check policies.
  • November 29 Striving to create a safer environment more conducive to productive training and leadership development, the Army has recently moved to adopt a uniform policy of background checks for certain roles. 
  • November 27 California’s biggest public school district is waiving the cost of volunteer background checks. The move is meant to encourage more family - and community members to get involved with the school district.
  • November 22 Contractors play an important role in the workforce, delivering services to both individuals and organizations. Vetting contractors for suitability continues to be a challenge, as two recent articles prove.
  • November 21 When it comes to background and pre-employment checks, it can be instructive to look at the characteristics of the ten most massive U.S. employers.
  • November 20 The #MeToo movement is bringing about legislative changes employers need to know about. We review some of the laws recently passed in California.
  • November 19

    Will a criminal conviction show up on your background check forever? In most states, there is a year limit for how long background check companies can report older criminal information.

  • November 15

    Replacing an inconsistent array of procedures, Ontario's government has passed into law a reform act intended to clarify how police departments should handle requests for information to be used in background checks. 

  • November 14 The federal government has vowed to cut its backlog of security clearance background checks in half by spring. Currently, the backlog is approximately 600,000 names strong.
  • November 12 To ensure the best hires, DFWSPF has implemented a stringent employee screening process—one that includes background searches through