Pre-Employment Screening

by todaystrainingblog

September 7, 2012

There is a lot of controversy and confusion over conducting background checks on potential employees. ‘What do I check on this one and not on that one?’ To a lot of non-human resources people, it can get a tad confusing. Well I’m hoping this will help you out, at least a bit.

                I can’t tell you exactly what to check, unless I know your specific industry and what position you’re hiring for. What I can do is give you some broad parameters of what to check and why. So, with that away we go!

                Criminal Checks – This is probably the most important of all of the checks you’ll do. Does that potential employee have a violence problem? Possibly a drug issue? How about a DWI? In some cases these can stop you from hiring someone. In others maybe not. Huh? (I leave you saying that a lot, don’t I)?

                If you are hiring someone to work with customers, then you may want to re-think someone who has a violent history. Likewise, if they are being hired for a close confines job (call center), then you may want to re-think it. On the other hand, if you discover they have a DWI and they’re not going to be driving for you on the job, then it probably doesn’t matter.

                Credit Checks – With new laws concerning the use of credit checks in hiring employees, you have to be careful with them. You can no longer deny someone a job with a bad credit history, unless they are applying for specific jobs. You can use it, however, as an additional tool in making your decision.

                If you are hiring for a job that is in security, and the post that you’re assigning them to is a high value facility, then you’d probably not hire them for that post. And if you do hire them for an assignment and then items become missing, including high value materials, then you may want to check again.

                Educational – If the job you’re hiring for requires a Master’s degree and you’re paying (just an amount) $50,000 for it and someone with only a Bachelor’s lies and gets the job what does that cost you? Probably at least $10,000 plus benefits, and then there is the recruiting costs which can be in excess of $20,000.

                In this case you need to start checking the status of anyone that says they have a degree and you are hiring for a job with only those qualifications. In addition, the embarrassment of having someone else find out this info rather than you/company is not good.

                If all you require is a high school diploma then you should be okay in accepting their word in that. However, if you are looking for specific certifications and/or training, then it is advisable to ask for their certificates or check for yourself thru the institution. And that brings up the next point.

                Professional Certifications – Whether you require it or not, you may want to check on the applicants professional certifications, if they have used it for the application or in the interview.

                Many times, you may not even need these certifications for the job you’re hiring for. However, if they claim to have a nursing, real estate, teaching, or other certification it goes to their credibility if they actually have it. If they tout it and it has been suspended or revoked, you may want to think twice about hiring them.

                There are many different certifications around in the world. Some of them hold real meaning, and some don’t. It is up to your HR department to determine whether or not you need a certain/specific certification. And I can’t emphasize this enough – check with the certifying authority to see if they have issued one to that person.


                Motor Vehicle – This is an area that should also be checked, but only for a few employees. And then only if necessary. If you have an employee who will be utilizing a company vehicle, or even their own, on the job, then it does need to be checked.

                The reasoning for this should be apparent, however if you don’t understand let me explain it this way; If you hire a security patrol officer and they’ll be driving your patrol truck, what would happen if they get into an accident? Then what happens if it comes to light they didn’t have a license (legitimately) or had had several accidents in the past because of recklessness, speeding, DWI, or whatever? Who may lose their business over this? Certainly not the ‘guard’.

                Social Security Number – In this day and age it is imperative that you verify that the person is using their social security number and not a stolen one. And there are several ways to do this as well, which it makes it all the better.

                #1 is to use a private service like you would for criminal checks. They can verify who holds the card and if the number is valid. #2 is the social security office themselves thru the ‘e-verify’ system. Ostensibly this will also help you ferret out miscreants.

                Before the day of e-verify, the social security office was horrible in actually answering those requests for this information. And despite the amount of ID theft that was occurring before 9-11, they were still weeks or months behind. They’ve gotten marginally better from what I’m told.

                Workers Compensation – Depending on your state, you may want to check this as well. While it doesn’t happen as often as it used to there is still the potential for fraud within the system.

                In many cases, an individual could get onto workers compensation in Kansas and then cross the border into Missouri or Nebraska and start working, at duties that were against their claim. In other words, they could claim a back injury and then be working at a construction site lifting heavy items. This could also leave you in for a lawsuit by the other state, the worker, or someone else.

                Other Checks to Make – These type of checks should be mainly for verification purposes. Thru an agency or your checking you can verify their phone, address, name, and so on.

                With the huge impact that social media has on us today, it may be an idea to check on their Facebook, Linked-In, My Space, Pintrest, and other places they may have a profile. I’m not saying to be a spy and covertly find out information. But you may want to check and see what they’ve said about past employers, co-workers, duties, & etc.

                A great friend of mine wrote a blog post on cell phones a few weeks ago and would be a great place to go to find any open source intelligence on an applicant. Michelle Stewart of JAG Investigations in Gilbert, AZ would be great. Her number, if you missed the blog, is480-988-2580.

          Lastly you’ll want to check on their psychological and drug profiles. I would always use a test to check their psychological profile and then obviously test them for illicit drugs as well.

          These tests will never be 100% effective, but you can help to weed out some undesirables in your applicant process. The drug tests can indicate health issues that they didn’t know they had.

          I had an applicant way back in the Stone Age (1996) who drug tested for the national security company I worked. We conducted our own initial testing and then if necessary sent them out for additional testing. This poor kid had a bad Urinary Tract Infection and didn’t know it. We saved him a trip to the ER by telling him something was wrong. He also tested positive for mary jane so we didn’t hire him.

          As for the psychological testing you can do it in several ways. You can have an actual psychologist talk to them for a while or you can do it the cheap way. Have them take a pen and paper test. Something along the lines of the MMPI. These are not fail safe, but will provide you with good info. But a word of caution. Years ago, I was going to work for Pinkerton. I had to take one of these tests. I scored so high on the test they wouldn’t hire me because they thought somehow I had cheated on it. After you’ve taken so many of these things, you learn how to manipulate the results and score high. The HR person said no one had ever scored higher than 97%. I scored 98%.

          No matter what job you’re hiring for, no matter the industry, no matter the skill level required you have to conduct background checks on the people you want to hire. Of this there can be NO debate! With the problems in our society of illegal immigration/ID theft, terrorism, fraud, violence, and other myriad of ills we have to know, as best as we can, who we hire and work with.

          Questions, comments, suggestions, consulting?