Who Gets Fired when the Employee Background Check was Deficient?


DATE: September 16, 2019
CONTACT:  Paul Dank  (888) 817-8282


So before we get the answer to the big question, lets preface it with some realities about how most employers treat the employee background check process. This should help to get the stage set properly for you to answer from an informed standpoint.

Fact #1. Unfortunately, many employers and HR professional really don’t really know what makes for a good employee background check or a bad one.

Usually they know that you need a signed release from the employee to run a credit check on them and usually know that you can only look back so many years on criminal convictions. After that, things tend to get fuzzy quickly. The really disappointing part of that knowledge gap is that the employee background check providers are excellent at making up unique names for their special variation of each search. They create “national” or “nationwide” searches (note many ** appear next to these) or they create “levels” and packages that provide generalized descriptions of what they include, but what is essential to remember is that all you are really getting from them is their disclaimer. It will say very clearly that they are not guaranteeing that they will find all records for your applicant and that the results are based on those places they choose to look. Meaning, if they don’t look in all the places where a certain type of record can be found, they can report that the applicant is all clear, and you go and hire them! Talk about having the fox guard the henhouse. Quite naturally, what they then do is go with the least expensive possible automated search that they can find and provide that to you, while trying to keep a straight face. All they must do is keep you in the dark as to the limitations of their search and if something goes wrong, it’s not their problem, see their disclaimer!

Fact #2. Despite the fact that there are many automated, web-based employee background check sites available to choose from, an instant, automated employee background check is not the same as a real employee background check.

The truth is, although many more of the records that go into an employee background check are being automated, the majority of those records are still not available for instant search. Further, and maybe more importantly, is that many, many records don’t automatically connect to the applicant. Not every record contains a full name, address, date of birth and the like. A real researcher might be needed to check and verify things, so instant and automated isn’t an option when accuracy and a search of the right record sets matters. This is particularly true for people with common names living in densely populated areas. (Imagine searching for Mike Jones in Cook County Illinois.) So, as much as we want to say that software, or AI-enabled searches alone will give you a true and complete employee background check, it won’t. Check back in 20 years.

Fact #3. If you’re a small or mid-sized business who doesn’t hire that often, the vast majority of employee screening vendors truly don’t care about you. They care about the big employers.

In the employee background check industry, size matters most to the employee screeners. As much as they might say that the want your business, they really want bulk orders and the searches to be simple (and preferably free!). The name of the game is bulk for them. They usually want as much business as possible and to be able to create ways to come up with cheap pricing to attract more clients who don’t really understand what should go into an employee background check. Growth is what matters, not protecting you. They don’t want to pay staff for you to call, and when you get someone on the phone about an issue or question, that person has never seen the background check your calling about. In the end, they would truly prefer that you don’t call unless you’re spending tens of thousands of dollars each month.

Now comes the big question lead up. The employee background check was deficient and the person who looked like a good apple turned out to be a bad apple. Not only was time and money wasted with on-boarding them, but after completing training, this employee failed to do important things, did other important things wrong, stirred up a number of co-workers and hurt morale, finally costing the company a big client. All while simultaneously drawing in a liability law suit against the company. The really bad news is that a real employee background check, not the one used during hiring, turned up a number of red flags that would not have allowed that person to be hired in the first place, and those red flags were very predictive of the behavior you just encountered first hand.

So does the HR professional get fired because they are supposed to know what a real employee background check should be comprised of? Is it the controller or CFO who decided that an employee background check shouldn’t cost more than $30.00 and capped what could be spent on the service? Is it the owner who, knowing very little about HR or the employee background check process, who said that the labor market is tight, so as long as they aren’t a felon, hire them if they interview ok?

Paul Dank, PCI, CFE

Paul is the President of Background Check Central, a specialized employee screening and corporate investigation agency with global reach, based in Metro-Detroit. For information about Paul’s services, please visit http://www.BackgroundCheckCentral.com or call him directly at 888-817-8282