With statistics (link to previous blog post) suggesting anywhere from 25% to as high as 68% of the information provided to you by a candidate is a flat out lie or at a minimum a misrepresentation of the truth, background screening has become a must-do for employers, multi-family housing providers, landlords, volunteer and safety coordinators and generally most companies today.

While your background screening program must be designed to be relevant to the specific demands of the position in question, as laid out by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (link to EEOC regulation), you should evaluate your program and process to ensure that a variety of practices are in place as a part of your screening program. Save yourself and your company both time and money by adding these steps into your application and screening process on the front-end in a way that is tied to the demands of the particular position for which you are screening:

Tip # 1: Require specific information.  Your application should require complete, accurate and specific information about a candidate’s background.  Ask specific questions about overly broad statements made on the resume.  Ask questions such as: How did you achieve the stated results? How did you measure or quantify those results? What specific role did you play in securing those results? Watch for broad, vague answers to specific questions, refusal to say to whom they reported, or who reported to them, or inability to provide details or specifics.

Tip # 2: Get a Valid Consent and Authorization from your Applicant. The Fair Credit Reporting Act and its various amendments specifically talks about the requirements for obtaining an applicant’s consent in advance of you ordering any form of background report on them.  The Act applies to employment applications, housing applications, credit applications and more.  Even in situations where the Act may not apply, following the practice of obtaining consumer consent and respecting consumer rights is a best practice to minimize your risk of unwanted or unnecessary litigation.   Be certain to have an authorization and consent form that satisfies not only federal but state-specific requirements.

Tip # 3: Verify Information Provided to You.  The biggest mistake companies make is to believe everything they are told.  Statistics show that applicants lie as much as 69% of the time during an application and interview process.  This is why background screening has become a critical and essential element of every application process. Check every fact provided to you including:  previous addresses, alias names, degrees obtained, dates of degrees obtained, majors studied, employment history, exact dates of employment, direct supervisors’ names, previous job titles, previous job functions, salary history, and why the candidate left each job. If anything seems suspicious, ask the candidate for details and verify the stories the candidate tells you. Verify any and all information provided to you on resumes, cover letters, and applications is a necessity.  Diploma mills, resume fraud and missing information are commonplace occurrences when it comes to resumes and applications.   Using a background screening company to verify this information reduces your costs and the time it takes to make decisions.

Tip # 4: Consider online public information searches for discrepancies.  Check a candidate’s publically available online information using Internet search engines such as Google to see if the applicant’s history online differs, in any way, from the “facts” the applicant provided in their application materials. If you find differences, dig deeper, or ask the applicant for an explanation.

Tip # 5: Assess the risk of financial improprieties where appropriate.  Evaluating credit history on all candidates is inappropriate according to best practices.  However, where credit is to be extended or where access to cash, funds, accounts, credit, compensation, or any type of financial authority is involved, evaluating credit history is appropriate.

Tip # 6: Take time to check references. Call recent direct supervisors and even co-workers and ask detailed questions about the candidate’s responsibilities. Cast a wide net to people you know who may know the candidate in his/her industry and among your contacts. In addition to using email lists to contact colleagues for recruiting purposes, use them to check your candidate’s background.

Tip # 7: Background Checking is Not Just for Employees and Tenants.  Contingent workers, vendors, volunteers, consultants, co-applicants for tenancy, and more are appropriate candidates for background checks. Do perform the same checks on any candidate who has been provided to you by a third party such as a temporary staff provider firm or a recruiter. Even if you have an agreement with the firm about what they will check, recognize that no one will ever care as much as you do about bringing qualified, superior staff people into your firm. I have found cases of fraudulent education, work experience, and several serious criminal histories that included violence, arson and armed robbery, when I have supposedly “double-checked” candidate credentials.

Tip # 8: Establish a no tolerance policy and practice.  If you find a candidate has lied or exaggerated credentials in any way, establish a policy and an actual practice of immediately eliminating them as a candidate. If you discover an individual has committed any type of fraud or misrepresentation during the application process, investigate to verify your information is correct (giving them a chance to respond to your concerns), and then terminate them if you discover they were untruthful in any way. Establish a no tolerance policy as a company to deter fraudulent behavior from applicants in the future.

Tip # 9: Respect the rights of the consumer/applicant.  When questions arise, take the time to validate the information.  When a concern arises about someone’s background, you have an obligation under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and a variety of state consumer protection laws to tell the applicant what you have learned and give them an opportunity to provide you correct information. You also have an obligation to provide them with a Summary of Rights as a consumer under the FCRA.   Be willing to take the extra time to respect the rights of the applicant and your final decision will protect you even further.