Sunday, March 29, 2015

5 Smart Reasons to Outsource Your Background Checks

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No matter what size your business, 
it is likely you are using background checks on your applicants before you hire.  


While most companies are outsourcing their background checks to a professional screening service, there are still some that continue to do them on their own.

Reasons for this vary. They may believe they have the know-how to do it themselves. Or maybe they think it will save them money. They may even think they can find what they need through free or low-cost online background checks.

Even more dangerously, some companies are willing to roll the dice and not do a background check at all.


As a business owner, You have this right. There is no law that states you must outsource those checks or that requires you to do one before you hire at all (unless one is required in your particular industry).

However, it would be wise to ask yourself these questions before you decide to go it alone.  
  • Are you knowledgable of which sources are best to get the information you need?  
  • Are you completely up to date with all Fair Credit Reporting Act legislation in your area?  
  • Do you understand the limitations on how you can use background check information and on your employees’ rights?  
If you are unsure about any of the above, do you have the time to dedicate to learning what you need to know?

The reality is that the time commitment it would take to bring you and your staff up to speed is impractical for any Small Business.

Hiring a Background Check Company makes sense to a Small Business’s Bottom Line.  tweet this

Outsourcing your background check needs to a professional is your best bet. Their experience and knowledge will actually save you time and money, letting you focus on other important aspects of your business. 



Top 5 Smart Reasons to Outsource Your Background Checks to a Professional Screening Service:




  • Knowledge & Experience
An experienced background company has done the research.  They already know the best sources for obtaining the information you need. They know how the courts work to ensure they uncover an accurate past criminal history. They recognize the need to check both upper and lower court records to find the complete criminal history picture.

They also understand the best methods for verifying employments and education. Their focus is on going to the source, and they know how best to do this.

Background checks are their specialty, and taking advantage of their expertise makes sense. Bottom line, they have the expertise and resources necessary for quality results.


  • Updated on Latest Compliance Issues
The rules and regulations of employment background checks is constantly changing. What is sound legal practice one day can become a red flag the next.  

Background check companies understand and deal with this daily.  
They stay abreast of Fair Credit Reporting (FCRA) guidelines and how they may pertain to your company. They will also keep current with any new or developing state and city laws in your area. That is why before releasing any criminal record reports, they will make sure that it is legally reportable pursuant to state compliance laws.

  • Confidentiality and Protection of Employee Information
When companies conduct background checks internally, applicants and existing employees may question their confidentiality. They may wonder who actually has access to their records. This can create mistrust.

By outsourcing your background checks, your employee records are kept more confidential. Access is limited to the screening company you hire and the results are given directly to you. Only those within your company that you choose will ever have access to that information.  

  •  As a Barrier against Discrimination Claims 
There are times when a background check will uncover things about an applicant that are considered “protected” ~ sex, age, race, religion, etc. Companies need to make sure that this information in no way influences their decision to hire. This is where using a separate background check company is key. 

When background checks are done using an outside screening company, there is a barrier between you and the protected information. In order to be compliant, “a company needs to refrain from basing any hiring decision on information that is discriminatory or a violation of privacy”.  (Find out more here).

This can also pertain to arrest records (read "Why Checking an Applicant's Criminal Past Should be About Convictions not Arrests").
  
The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) differentiates between arrests and convictions.  An arrest alone simply does not prove criminal conduct. It is important to keep in mind that excluding someone based on an arrest record that is not job related or necessary based on your business can be seen as a Civil Rights violation.”

Your background check company can act as a buffer against you seeing things you shouldn’t. By only giving you the information to which you are legally permitted, you will protect yourself from future discrimination litigation and the possibility of bias in hiring.

  •  Save Time, Money, & Resources
Saving time and money is on the mind of any Small Business owner. And doing your own background checks is a waste of those resources. 

As an entrepreneur, your funds are often pulled in all different kinds of directions. You may have payroll obligations, basic business costs (utilities, supplies, etc.) ~ the list can seem endless.” (from my article; “Think a Good Background Check costs too Much ~Why You Need to Think Again!”)


Many small business owners may believe that doing their own background checks saves them money. These companies could not be more wrong.


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Outsourcing Background Checks Saves a Small Business Time & Money! tweet this 


By hiring an outside background check company, you will keep your costs lower and your quality higher. You will not have to take the time away from your existing employees to screen your applicants or learn the complex employment background check laws. Instead, they can focus on the work essential to the day to day running of your company.

The bottom line is that outsourcing your background check needs makes sense!

When you are ready, these 5 tips will help You choose the best screening company for you.


Remember, a good background check provider will be a key partner 
in providing you with the information necessary to make your 
important hiring decisions.  


Let their experience work for you!


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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Be Smart ~ Why You Need to Do More than Just a State Criminal Check

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Employers are doing Background Checks.  


Despite guidelines and state laws placing some limitations on How and When background checks can be used in hiring, employers still recognize and understand the value of screening their applicants. These checks play an important role in creating a qualified and safe workforce.


However, and as I have said in the past, Not all Background Checks are Created Equal.  And that is especially true when it comes to checking an applicant’s criminal records.


Many employers believe that by either doing an online “national” criminal check or a state criminal check, they are covering their bases.  They think that this type of check will reveal any and all offenses committed by their subject. 


They could not be more wrong!


When it comes to “National” criminal checks, the truth is that no true nationwide repository exists.  If you are relying on this as the basis for your hiring decision, then you are doing so without all the facts.


You can find more about online “National” criminal checks in my article, “Background Checks and Online Databases ~ What You Need to Know”.

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The limitations of State criminal checks are just as dangerous. 



3 Reasons Relying Solely on State Criminal Checks is Unwise:




  • State Records Often Do Not Include all Counties

Many employers think that by doing a state criminal check, they will have access to any criminal activity committed by their applicant across the state.  This is not the case.

State records are often incomplete.  Many times their records do not cover all the counties within that state.  And the county records that are included are often limited in how far back they go.



  • State Records Rely on Reports from Lower Level Courts

In an ideal world, all local and county criminal records would be bumped up to a state repository for a comprehensive record on every subject.  But that is not the reality.

In fact, not all states mandate their counties to forward their cases. Instead, sending local records is voluntary.    

Therefore, the value of state repositories varies and is dependent on what lower level courts actually report.     

  

  • State Records Contain Outdated Information

Even when lower level cases are reported at the state level, they are often incomplete.  Cases are not always updated to include final dispositions; including dismissals, sentencing, and even expungements.  And often times lack of man power and budget creates a backlog of cases.  

This results in the information obtained during a background check from these repositories to be incomplete.  Using of this information, therefore, is risky.


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So, if You want a quality Background Check, what should You Do?


The single best practice is to combine both a state and county check.




County Criminal Court Checks are the backbone of a strong employment screening.  "Tweet This"


This is where you will find the most accurate and up to date information on your subject.  County courts oversee all criminal cases prosecuted within their county, and will store all records pertaining to those cases.  Most importantly, these records will include all final dispositions.  
  


However, counties do not share this information with each other. Only cases prosecuted within that county are included.  Therefore, each county must be searched individually.


This is the one weakness of county criminal checks.


It is cost prohibitive to check each county within a state individually.  That is why making smart choices is key, and this is where a good background check company can help. 



For 5 Tips to Help You Choose the Best Background Check Company for You, click here.


The right screening company will steer you towards the optimum counties to search based on their knowledge and on an applicant’s resume information.  In most cases, good screening practices dictate that any county where your applicant has lived and/or worked in at least the past 7 years should be checked.  


So, What is Your Best Solution when it comes to criminal background checks?



Searching a combination of State and County courts is best!



A state criminal check can guide You and your screening company towards counties where your applicant may have a criminal record. Then verifying that record through a direct county court search is key.  


Taking that extra step will provide you with proof that the record does indeed belong to your subject.  Most importantly, it will give you the case details you need to determine suitability for employment with your company.  And isn’t that what You want from a good background check? 


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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Why We Need Uniformity in School Background Checks

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Protecting our children should be a universal goal.  


As parents, and as a community, we strive to keep them safe.  We make sure they are supervised while they play, we use car seats and seat belts to prevent them from getting hurt in cars, along with many other things we do to protect them.


Our schools shouldn’t be any different.


In most cases, from the age of 5 until they are 18, children spend the majority of their day in the care of our local schools.  We should have the expectation that everything that can be done is being done to ensure that the people they come in contact with are qualified and safe.


That is why I am calling for uniformity when it comes to school background checks.


You may think that background checks for school employees, and in many cases volunteers, are already being done, so why worry?


The truth is that individual states develop their own laws governing these checks, and not all of these laws are created equal.  


Some states require no background checks whatsoever.  Other states screen only full-time teachers, not aides, substitute teachers, coaches, or volunteers.


There are a handful of states that check all of the above.  But even those states vary on what is researched and what sources are used to check them.


In an article from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette;

“12 states don’t require background checks for contractors who have unsupervised contact with children.  Thirty-three don’t require them of school volunteers. And five states have policies that don’t apply to some categories of employees such as bus drivers and coaches.”

  

School district size seems to play a role in determining the scope of school employee background checks.  According to a study by Richard M. Titus and Carol J. DeFrances; Criminal Record Checks of Public School Employment Applicants, smaller districts tend to use more “informal sources” to screen their applicants.  Things like personal references are used more in determining suitability for employment than criminal record checks.


These smaller school systems may not even screen some applicants at all.


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What is even more frightening is a practice called “passing the trash”.  This is when unsuitable or unsafe educators, coaches, etc. are allowed to resign instead of facing possible criminal charges.


They then move on to another unsuspecting school, posing a possible danger to a new group of students.


While some legislators are attempting to strengthen the checks done in our schools via the “Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act” (representative Toomey in PA is one), a more uniform check among all our schools makes sense.


Each school should be required to check state and local criminal records, a child abuse history clearance, and a finger-print based federal FBI background check on all possible teachers, staff, and volunteers.


And a one time check is not enough.  Periodic subsequent checks also need to be done to confirm continuing clean records.



While there are those that believe this is excessive or an invasion of privacy, I disagree.


We should all want the same thing.  Getting hung up on questions like “are these background checks too far reaching?” or “shouldn’t people get a second chance?” need to be shelved when it comes to the safety of our children.


I have written before of my belief that having a criminal record should not always keep a person from landing a job (“Background Checks - What’s Going, On, What it Means to You, and My ‘Common Sense’ Take on it All” and “Background Checks & Ban the Box: The Pendulum Swings”).  



However, those that prey on or put children in any kind of danger are the exception.


Schools, and our legislators, need to feel a responsibility to all - to other schools, all students, all parents and even to other teachers - to share information on dangerous educators, volunteers, coaches, etc.


Allowing cloaks of silence to follow fired employees, only to thrust them upon a possibly unwitting new victim, is unconscionable.  


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Developing uniform screening methods and enacting laws requiring schools to share information on unsafe employees will help keep all our children safe.

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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Surprise! Doing a Background Check Means They WANT to Hire You!

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This might surprise you, 
but when employers 
run a background check on you 
it is because they WANT to hire you!

Yes, you read it right.  By running a background check, Employers are simply looking for confirmation that they have made the right choice

By this point in the hiring process, they have already read your resume, interviewed you, and, out of all the other candidates, picked you as a good hire.  

They have invested a great amount of time and money.  And they will have to spend even more screening you.

But while popular belief is that the intent of a background check is to find a way to keep you from getting the job, this is simply not true.


What is true is that employers are now looking for confirmation 
that they have not been mislead and 
you are who you say you are.


This is where the background check comes in!

When an employer starts the background check process, it is because they are interested.  You have already met many of the criteria necessary to fit in and do the job.  

However, they would be negligent if they did not make sure.  Background checks are designed to do just that.  

Trust but Verify!!!   (my company motto)


Employers do not just assume that you have a dangerous criminal record or that you have lied on your resume.  In fact, it is just the opposite.  A background check is simply the final step to ensure they are making the right decision


The reality is that most companies use background checks as part of the hiring process.  This reflects their security concerns and increase in litigation surrounding unsafe hires.

In “6 Tips on Using Background Checks” for Small Business, I explain that “being forewarned is forearmed”; 

Having information on the people you employ and the companies you do business with may make the difference between a safe and profitable work environment and one that is rife with uncertainty.”

Using background checks is also is a direct result of the well publicized cases of uncovered resume lies ~ even among the highest ranking company employees.  Read 8 Famous resume lies here!

But what is important to remember is that Background checks also benefit job seekers.

When you apply to a company that screens potential hires, you know you will all be on a more even playing field with the others who have applied.  You will not be competing with those that inflated their skills or education.

While an embellished resume may get them noticed initially, they will not survive the additional scrutiny.  And, in most cases, they will be excluded from consideration.  

A company that uses Background checks 
can also be a better place to work.  

Screening shows that the employer is willing to invest the money and time to hire the best possible employee. And because of the additional effort it takes, employees are usually more valued and better managed.  

It is also important to remember that if all employees have been properly screened, the likelihood of hiring someone with a violent criminal past is lessened.  This results in a safer workplace for all. 

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The bottom line is that 
Background Checks are not the enemy.

Companies are not using them to find something that will keep you from getting hired.  The are really hoping they find the final reason to give you the job.  

So the next time you are asked to sign a release for an employment background check, remember..... 
this company wants you for the job.  Not to find a way to keep you from getting it!

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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Discrimination ~ Gender Bias Keeps Us from Earning What We are Worth

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Equal Pay for Equal Work.  
It makes sense.  


In fact, it is astounding this is even up for debate.  In what circumstance could it ever be okay to pay certain people less for doing the same work as someone else?

However, this happens every day.  Despite earlier progress, women continue to make less than their male counterparts.  

While many reasons for this disparity are given (women work in stereotypically “female” jobs, women are less capable of excelling in a corporate environment, men have more burdens to support the family), the bottom line is that it is discrimination - pure and simple.

The AAUW (American Association of University Women) has studied these excuses and found them largely baseless.  In a recent study, they compared the salaries of men and women who held the same position.  They found that these women earned approximately 7% less.   

In “The Truth about the Gender Pay Gap”, another AAUW article, I found these 3 statistics most interesting:

  • Women Earned Less than Men Across the Board
This was true across multiple occupations, those considered “male” and even those considered traditionally “female”.

  • The Gender Pay Gap Increases with Age
Up until the age of 35, women earn close to 90% of what men earn. However, as women get older (and are presumably moving up in their careers), that gap grows to 75-80%.

  • The Gender Pay Gap also Effects Women without Children
An AAUW study found that one year after college graduation, when the majority of women do not have children, women were paid 18% less than recent male grads.

In all cases, no matter what kind of job women held, their age, or whether they had children, women were not being paid what men with the same jobs were being paid.

You can read more of the AAUW’s findings here.


Wage bias is found in every state in the U.S.  This map from Expert Market shows the difference between the average male salary and average female salary by state.


Courtesy of http://www.expertmarket.us
Louisiana tops the list with a wage difference of $16,453 and Washington DC has the least disparity at $5,850.  As a national average, Women earn approximately 77% of what men earn, with average yearly salaries being $49,398 for men and $37,391 for women (these figures are from a 2014 study by the AAUW).  

While these yearly figures may not get your attention, the fact is they definitely add up over time.   

According to this article by Karin Kamp, “Facts & Figures: Women and Pay Inequality”, “That pay difference of $10,784 adds up to $431,360 over 40 years!


Wage disparity effects our families, 
especially those where a woman 
is the primary or sole wage earner.  

Making less than what we are worth, limits the money available to many of us for even the basics - home, food, and education.   

And this difference also impacts retirement.  Women, who on average live longer than men, have less money to fund their later years.   Less base salary means less going towards 401k contributions.  It also means less available for long-term savings.



The Wage Disparity problem will not be solved solely on the backs of women.  


It will take a combined effort.  Government, Companies, Men and Women must all want the same thing.  We must all pay more than lip service to the  belief in “Equal pay for equal work”.

The real question then is; What Can We Do about It?

Women can learn better negotiation skills to close the gap.  We can also help each other by not settling for sub-par pay.  

Men can help by actively encouraging the talented women in their workplace.  They can act as mentors and supervisors whose goal is to see women promoted and paid the same as male employees.

Companies can put practices into place to support this.  They can set up quality mentoring programs within their organization. They can also monitor their pay scales to find and eradicate any gender pay bias.

The Government must also take steps to not only enact but enforce laws to eliminate gender pay bias.  The enforcement is key.  

One step our government can take is to stop salary secrecy.  Many women do not even know if they are being paid less than their male counterparts because of the penchant for keeping salaries in the dark.  Forcing this into the open will make it perfectly clear if companies are low-balling women’s salaries.

Our government also needs to pass better family leave policies. The United States is behind many other countries in creating laws that provide for paid time off for men and women to care for children. This can extend into increased childcare support.  Help in these sectors allows women to get and keep quality jobs.


Photo via Huffpost Women


Equal Pay cannot just be a Women’s Issue.  

Everyone must band together 
to bring equality to all.  
Doing this now will create 
a better and equal world for all our children.


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