Your success relies on your people, and you’ll always want to take steps to hire the best employees you can. Contacting former supervisors is a common way of learning about an applicant’s skills and demeanour. But sometimes you need to be extra careful about whom you trust, and you should go beyond a traditional reference check.
Some aspects of your business can make you vulnerable, and when hiring for these positions, you should consider using background checks as an important pre-hiring tool.
YES, YOU REALLY NEED TO DO THIS
For some companies, the need for background checks is obvious: tour operators need to verify that hires have clean driving records, and anyone having access to cash in the course of a job must be known to be trustworthy, which could require a criminal record check. But it doesn’t stop there. All employers are susceptible to making the occasional error in character judgment, and the fact is, background checks are a smart way to protect yourself.
You’ve heard the term: “It was an inside job.” Too often, businesses suffer from employees stealing cash or merchandise, or of breaches in security that permit their acquaintances to do so. Workplace violence (assault or sexual assault) and substance abuse are other ways in which bad hires can hurt you. More sophisticated employee crimes include identity theft and fraud. Each of these can cost businesses enormously, whether in terms of direct loss, damage to reputation or litigation. Don’t forget the added cost of re-hiring and re-training an offending employee’s replacement.
In order to properly protect customers and your other staff from theft, fraud or violence, you must conduct reasonable checks of an applicant’s background. If one of your employees commits a criminal act, you may be held liable, if it is determined that you ought to have learned more about them before hiring. Any negligence will cost your business in both dollars and reputation.
THE COMPONENTS OF A BACKGROUND CHECK
- Identity verification: confirm an applicant’s identity by asking for at least two forms of photo identification
- Driver’s abstract: outlines accidents, speeding tickets, or other infractions in a person’s driving history. Useful when hiring delivery personnel, taxi or tour vehicle drivers, etc.
- Credit check: helps you determine a person’s fiscal responsibility and current debt load. Important when hiring people who will have access to your company’s money and products. Credit reports also provide an address history, which can be useful in determining applicant stability
- Criminal record check: shows if a person has any outstanding charges before a court (including drug offenses, violent acts or theft), as well as any prison time served or probation arrangement. Important for bonding of site security guards, or where safety of clients and staff is additionally important. You may be most inclined to run a check for accounting and bookkeeping staff, cashiers or managers with privileged access. If your facilities collect large sums of money, or house expensive merchandise or equipment, you may be particularly interested in doing criminal checks
- Employment and education references: Don’t forget to investigate these. You may find your top prospect doesn’t have the qualifications or work experiences they say they do. Whether or not the truth makes them unqualified for the job, revealing dishonesty is a step you won’t want to miss
HOW TO CONDUCT A CHECK
Explain to candidates that conducting background checks is a standard part of your hiring process. Then get each candidate’s signed consent to investigation of their background. You’ll need this waiver to conduct the check and investigate key areas of reference:
- Driver’s abstracts will be mailed or faxed from ICBC to the license holder upon request. Require the applicant to provide you with a copy. Have them contact ICBC’s Driver Licensing Information line at 1-800-950-1498
- Criminal checks are conducted by your local police agency. You may also wish to contact the agency in the applicant’s former area if they have moved recently. For contacts in British Columbia, view the directory of Police and RCMP Detachments
- Credit checks are done by the following companies:
- There are also companies like BackCheck that perform many background and reference check services including criminal background, driving history and employment/education verfications
It’s important to note that background checks must comply with human rights, privacy and employment legislation. If you deem that certain background checks are necessary for a given position, be sure that you have a policy stating this and that all applicants are informed. It’s best to consult your lawyer or dedicated third party to ensure that checks are done effectively and lawfully.
Third-party firms that specialize in background checks will deliver what you need in a matter of days. There is a cost for their assistance, but consider what you’ll save in peace of mind, legal risks, and avoidance of a poor hire.
Investigating all applicants also eliminates any personal bias you might have that could cloud your judgment. Managers in a position to hire staff often rely on their instincts, and will take candidates at their word when asking for information. While this usually doesn’t present a problem, it is unquestionably a risk. Background checks are an investment in the protection of your customers, your staff, your profits, and your reputation. Considering what’s at stake, it’s important to know all you can about candidates before hiring them.