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  • Employment Background Checks

    I work in VA, where the Security Business falls under the VA Dept of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS). Each security officer has to go thru some training both for armed & unarmed registrations, submit an application along with the course completion form and of course the payment; plus fingerprints for a background check (done by the State Police, I'd guess). For unarmed, it's the same process every other year and every year for armed plus range qualifications.

    My question is, as an employer would I need to do another criminal background check as part of the hiring process? If so, how do other companies handle this, who do you use for background checks? How thorough is it (State or Countrywide check)? Approx cost?

  • #2
    I suggest you find out exactly what the state background check entails (not "guess" about it). Ask the agency that is requesting the fingerprint cards. They might not be doing anything more than running an AFIS (or IAFIS) check on the prints.

    Beyond that, no one can tell you how much more (or what else) you "should" do, who to use (or whether to do it yourself), or how much it will cost. I can tell you, however, not to rely exclusively on Internet-based services that only perform checks based on public records databases.

    Note that you do not perform a "full" background check (however you define that) on all applicants. In fact, you don't perform any check on "applicants" until they move into the category of "job candidates" based on your assessment of the pool of applications you've received and after weeding out all of those that either do not meet your basic requirements, that haven't followed clear instructions in filling out the application, that indicate they have disqualifying criminal convictions on their records (yes, many will be quite honest about this in that portion of the application), that have other obvious problems like job-hopping without an explanation that is reasonable to you, etc.

    After throwing out the obvious immediate rejects, rank the remaining applicants according to experience and other qualifications. Conduct phone interviews with the top tier until you have developed a "candidate" list of 3 to 5 individuals. Your phone interview explains details about the job and its requirements (even if all of this has been stated in your help-wanted ad (which it shouldn't be) or at the time the application was filled out, and obtains a continued expression of interest from the candidate, as well as his verbal statement that he is able to fulfill the job requirements, get to work reliably, work the hours required, etc. You may record these interviews with the candidate's knowledge and permission given at the beginning of the recording. If you record, be sure you have a protocol for preserving the recording.

    During this interview, you also explain that if he is offered the position, it will be a conditional offer based on a further "extensive" background check and passing a drug test. Does the applicant know of any reason that these would reveal any disqualifying or derogatory information?

    The whole thing shouldn't take more than 10 minutes! If the candidate indicates reservations about what you'll find on the background/drug check, and assuming that your application asks the right questions, you're almost certainly dealing with a material omission or misstatement on the application which should disqualify this applicant from further consideration anyway (or why is he in your top tier list in the first place if he already gave this information on the application?) - so thank him and move on.

    After this process, which shouldn't take all that much time, you have a list of a handful of "candidates" - not applicants. You do the preliminary background check on ONLY these individuals, which might include:

    a. SS# verification and E-Verify eligibility check.
    b. Nationwide criminal record check by one of the "aggregator" services like Intelius - fast, cheap and of only modest reliability.
    c. Last employer reference check. More than "dates of employment and rehirability"!
    d. State licensing agency - if this individual has been working in security. Check for disciplinary actions, etc.

    Eliminate any rejects based on this information - making certain that anything you receive from the "aggregator" is confirmed independently. Lots of people have the same name! Then, take the remaining applications, with the candidates' signed permission statements, down to the county courthouse and check all of their criminal records personally.

    At this point, you have a sound basis for ranking the candidates based on a number of factors, which can legally include your personal impressions obtained during interviews, from looking at their applications, etc. - if they're job-related. Do they communicate well? Do they follow instructions? Is their handwriting legible? Did you sense a lack of enthusiasm after you described the job in detail? Were they overly interested in how soon they would get a raise, or "will I get to carry a gun" or talk about "arresting people"? Did they answer your questions directly and seem to be forthright? These are all legitimate considerations.

    Make the conditional offer, starting at the top. The first one to accept the offer comes in, provides the drug sample and completes the necessary employment paperwork, I-9 etc. Under no circumstances are they assigned to any site until the drug test is cleared, but they may do training and orientation in the office. Then, once assigned to the site, they are to be continually supervised and given no sensitive duties until the full background check has been completed. This may be nothing more than checking the remaining employers and personal references (oh, yes - do check the personal references!), or it might involve other things depending on the job - i.e., driving history, credit history, educational history, and even (for security employers) a polygraph. You're well-advised to obtain the advice of your company counsel as to what checks you can legitimately defend as being relevant to the job, but you should have an established, written background-checking protocol, together with a written policy about how certain kinds of derogatory history will be treated. Then, whether you perform this protocol yourself or have it done by a third party, you must make sure it is followed AND YOU MUST MAKE SURE THAT YOU COMPLY WITH THE FCRA PROVISIONS WITH RESPECT TO ADVERSE DECISIONS BASED ON INFORMATION RECEIVED FROM ANY "REPORTING" AGENCY. You can easily look these up online.

    Notice, however, that despite the seemingly detailed process described above, you've got a very reasonable stepwise process of investment. For entry-level positions you probably won't use an outside party unless there are unusual circumstances (e.g., they haven't been living in the area, the job calls for a "deep" background check, etc.). If you do use an outside party, you can probably count on spending at least $300 and all the way up to $3000 or more for really extensive background checks, but how many of those would you be doing? Otherwise, you've got the fees submitted to the state (fingerprint check), the "aggregator" fee, a nominal fee paid to the county (sometimes), the cost of the drug test, and a very reasonable amount of your own time invested.

    And one other thing: You will not be offering employment to all of the candidates. Be sure you communicate with them as well, explaining that another candidate was chosen, thanking them for their interest and advising them that you will keep them in mind for future openings. And then - DO that! Before you throw an ad in the paper for the next opening, review these previous candidates. After all, you have some time invested in these people already, and some or all of them were very decent candidates - they just didn't happen to be the best one on that previous occasion. Of course, some will no longer be available, but if just one is...you'd be stupid to start the process all over again when all you have to do is update the candidate's information since you looked at him last.
    Last edited by SecTrainer; 02-17-2011, 09:52 AM.
    "Every betrayal begins with trust." - Brian Jacques

    "I can't predict the future, but I know that it'll be very weird." - Anonymous

    "There is nothing new under the sun." - Ecclesiastes 1:9

    "History, with all its volumes vast, hath but one page." - Lord Byron

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    • #3
      Thank You very much for your thorough explanation!

      I always enjoy reading your threads due to your vast experience and willingness to assist the less knowledgeable.

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      • #4
        Glad to help. It's also worth mentioning that some employers insert a step before making the conditional offer, and that is a second interview with, say, the top 3 candidates. This is conducted in person, and is very often a "behavioral" interview, asking candidates to describe challenging situations they've had to deal with, or posing a hypothetical situation and asking them what they would do, etc. Sometimes other managers or supervisors are invited to participate in this interview.

        Also, some employers will administer "personality" tests, "integrity" tests, etc. to the top few candidates (again, after the preliminary background check and before deciding who will be given the conditional offer of employment). Personality/integrity tests can be given prior to the conditional job offer, whereas psychological tests - like the infamous MMPI - are different. If a psychological test is administered, it should be done after the job offer has been accepted (like a physical exam would be), and the offer is then conditioned (in part) on "satisfactory" or "acceptable" results of the psychological exam (if one is administered), the physical exam (if one is performed), and the full background investigation. Personally, I'm not big on psychological tests, but personality types of tests can be useful if for no other purpose than another ranking metric - especially if you have a profile derived from test results from successful employees to compare them to. Of course, both personality and psychological testing costs money, although it can be less than $100 for a personality type of test - and are available to be administered online, usually taking less than 30 minutes. Psychological tests can be much more because most of them require expert interpretation and some require an expert to administer the test as well.

        "Conditional" means that - in the body of the offer - you reserve the right to withdraw the offer and terminate employment if something is found after the individual is hired that indicates material dishonesty or omissions on the part of the candidate, that in some other way would have disqualified this individual from consideration, or that creates a reasonable and substantial doubt regarding his suitability for the job. Basically, this means something that is of such importance that, had it been known, would have resulted in this individual not being offered the position in the first place. (There are often certain discoveries that do not rise to this level of materiality, and it is unwise to withdraw the offer of employment based on trivial discoveries. If you find yourself in this situation, consult with counsel.) Also, it is incumbent on you (and wise) to complete the rest of the testing, background check, etc. as soon as reasonably possible, and hopefully within a few days or a week of the individual being hired if it can be done. As such, you need to make it a priority to get this done.

        Incidentally, your application itself should state that any material misrepresentation or omission of facts will disqualify the individual from consideration OR may result in his termination if the information is learned after he has been hired. The applicant is required to sign a statement on the application indicating that he understands this.
        Last edited by SecTrainer; 02-17-2011, 07:46 PM.
        "Every betrayal begins with trust." - Brian Jacques

        "I can't predict the future, but I know that it'll be very weird." - Anonymous

        "There is nothing new under the sun." - Ecclesiastes 1:9

        "History, with all its volumes vast, hath but one page." - Lord Byron

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