Performing proper background checks on all new hires Featured

7:00pm EDT February 28, 2011
Performing proper background checks on all new hires

With businesses getting back on track and reinvesting in themselves, many companies are expanding their capabilities and bolstering their staffs.

But don’t rush into making a new hire — regardless of how extensive his or her credentials and references seem to be — just because you can (and need to). Before you do anything, make sure you perform a proper background check on all new hires.

“Over the past 10 years, background inquires have quadrupled,” says Melissa Hulsey, the president and CEO of Ashton. “It is standard protocol to perform background checks on all job levels.”

Smart Business spoke with Hulsey about background checks, how to perform them and why doing so protects an organization’s employees — and the organization itself.

What specific criteria are included in a candidate’s background check?

There are many types of background checks — reference, criminal background, driving record, education, credit report, credential verification, workers compensation claim records and legal working status checks, to name a few. When evaluating a new candidate it is important to establish what type of background check is required for the job.

A custom screening process can be designed for each job within an organization. It is very important to be consistent. Background checks can be different for each job; however, candidates applying for the same position need to be evaluated equally.

At what point in the process should an employer ask for references?

References should be provided early in the selection process. Any blemishes on reports can then be discussed in the interview process, or it may eliminate the candidate immediately. It is always better to know up front if a potential problem exists than to wait until time and resources have been invested. Most background reports are not expensive to run and it is money well spent to find out the truth early.

How much faith should companies put into references in the background check process?

Let’s face it: the personal and professional references provided by a candidate will almost always be good. Why? They would not list them if they were not confident a glowing report would be given. Therefore, take most of these with a grain of salt. It is more important to verify accurate dates of employment and rehire status, if at all possible. Many times, candidates exaggerate this information. Stick with the facts and try not to make your evaluation on emotion.

Should companies take search firms’ background information at face value?

Clients should always request a copy of background reports to verify that hiring criteria have been met. The candidate will have to authorize the release of this information, so make sure to ask for this verification as well. Search firms want their candidate to be hired, especially if they are in competition with other services. By requesting copies of all reports and reference checks, it keeps everyone honest.

What information detected in the due diligence process will most likely lead to being a deal-breaker for the candidate?

Any type of felony conviction that was not clearly explained up front will most likely be the end of the road for that candidate. Bankruptcy, DUI and lying on the application can all be deal-breakers when discovered. The important part is to have a system in place to make sure these things can be discovered.

How have background checks changed over the years?

Technology has made obtaining personal information much easier and more cost-effective. Gone are the days of calling someone and waiting for them to return your calls in a timely fashion.

There are databases, such as E-verify (, the Georgia Department of Corrections free inmate search ( and fingerprinting service Cogent Systems (, that can provide almost instant access to any requested information. A word of caution, though, databases are only as good as the information put into them. Some are not frequently updated and many rural counties do not report to a central system at all. So, if an individual was convicted of a crime in a rural county and that county does not upload its information, the only way to obtain it would be to personally go to that county’s courthouse. Background information is not foolproof.

Does it hurt morale to request internal candidates to undergo a new background check?

No, just like random drug tests, it’s becoming standard procedure to periodically update personnel files. The key, again, is to be consistent and have a documented policy for what is required to maintain a good employment status. Morale is hurt when change is not effectively communicated and understood. Explain why it is important to do these checks for the safety of the employees and the company.

Melissa Hulsey is the president and CEO of Ashton. Reach her at (770) 419-1776 or