Friday, October 24, 2014

Discover How Many States are Taking "Ban the Box" Too Far!

The Original premise of “Ban the Box” is being lost amidst a cloud of confusion.  

The movement set out to give applicants that had a prior criminal record a fair chance of gaining employment.

By simply removing the “box” asking whether the applicant had a criminal record from the application, it afforded them a chance during the interview of proving they could do the job.

While we were on board with what “ban the box” was initially trying to accomplish, and you can see this in our post on the subject, “What New Ban the Box Legislation Means to You”, it has morphed into something completely different.

We still believe in:
  •  the need to obtain a signed release from the applicant
  • the need to inform them of their right to know if any adverse action will be taken based on their background check
  • the need to give them the opportunity to explain or mitigate any of the findings.
And a good company should be willing to determine whether any criminal offenses really keep the applicant from performing the job safely.

This seems fair to all parties. 

Now many states and cities have muddied the waters. They have expanded the original intention and made it much harder for employers to comply or to have any control over who and how they hire.  

Even states like Illinois, that already had such legislation in place, have opted to increase its reach.

One example of the expanded scope of new “ban the box” legislation is in San Francisco.  In August, 2014, the “Fair Chance” ordinance was passed. The San Francisco law includes private companies of 20 or more employees, while many other states have limited their legislation to only include government employers.   “Fair Chance” even covers temp, seasonal, and part-time workers.

As in most cases, no screening for a criminal record can be made until a conditional offer of employment has been made. In San Francisco, however, employers are also never permitted to consider the following:
  • any arrests not leading to conviction (except for active or pending cases), any case where the subject entered into a deferral of judgment program
  • any conviction that has been expunged
  • any juvenile convictions or other adjudications in the juvenile court
  • any convictions older than 7 years from the date of sentencing
  • any offense other than felonies or misdemeanors
Under these limitations, even if a background check company discovers any of the types of cases listed, they cannot report them to the employer without opening up their client to possible litigation.

In addition, any employer within the San Francisco limits must alter all their job postings. These now must include a statement that they will consider all qualified applicants, despite a prior criminal history.  They also must place notices in any of their locations advising applicants of the “Fair Chance” Ordinance (in English, Spanish, Chinese, and any other language spoken by at least 5% of the area’s population).
Washington, D.C. can also be added to the growing list of  expanded “ban the box” proponents. Once again, obtaining a background check is not outright prohibited, but there are multiple restrictions in play.

As in San Francisco, there are limitations to what records an employer can consider in making their hiring decisions. Those include convictions only, although an employer can ask about a pending charge discovered during their investigation.  

It is also necessary that any withdrawal of a job offer must be based solely on records directly relating to the job duties of the position in question and take into consideration the time since the offense, the age of the subject when the crime occurred, the frequency and seriousness of the offense, and any mitigating circumstances supplied by the applicant.

Many of these requirements are above and beyond those in other “ban the box” legislation. It is more about telling companies "How to Hire" than ever.

And the “Ban the Box” movement continues to grow and expand its reach.

For now, the majority of ban-the-box laws apply only to public employers, but, as can be seen in San Francisco, it is beginning to impact private companies as well, with Illinois and New Jersey soon to join the pack.  

Hawaii, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts already have such laws in place. Advocates of “ban the box” see this as a logical step forward.

In fact, larger private companies such as Target and Walmart have taken a proactive approach. They have already set policies into place that comply with some of the more stringent “ban the box” inclusions.  

And while many “ban the box” policies exclude small companies with 10 or fewer employees, some states are even eliminating that.  

Critics of “ban the box” see the current trend as excessive intrusion on a company’s hiring decisions. Giving extra protection to those with criminal records subjects employers to complicated hiring procedures and to possible litigation for making unsafe hires.

Making any decisions, even the decision to interview, will now be made without having all the facts. And limiting what kinds of criminal offenses can be considered creates risk.

Opponents to the current and, most likely, future reach of “ban the box” believe having that information early in the process allows employers to make a much more informed decision.

They also believe these laws are a burden, especially to Small Business. The additional time and money it takes interviewing those who an employer later learns has a criminal record can be damaging.

This debate will not end any time soon. As more and more states are enacting or expanding their own “ban the box” laws, both sides will continue to disagree.  

A happy medium that is fair to both employers and applicants seems a long time away.

The key for all employers is to know the laws concerning hiring and background checks for any area in which you do business as they may vary. Your background check company will keep you informed of any changes and help you stay compliant.

Then Document, Document, Document. Make sure that all your compliance efforts are recorded and saved. This includes a subject’s application/resume, interview notes, notice of conditional offer of employment, background check reports, adverse action notices, etc.

It is still important, and highly recommended, to use Background Checks as part of your hiring practices.  The alternative can be costly to both you and your company.  Just be sure to Follow the Rules!

Authored by   

Need to Hire? API can help you hire the best candidate while making sure you are compliant. Contact Us to find out more! 
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Monday, October 20, 2014

The Top 10 Obstacles that can Delay Your Background Check

Do You know what kinds of Obstacles can Delay your Employment Background Checks?

In most cases, when You order a Background Check either on yourself or on a potential employee, they are completed within 2-3 days. And, depending on what you need verified, it can even take as little as 24 hours.

However, there are times when circumstances beyond a Background Check company’s control can delay the process.  
These issues can range from incomplete court records to not getting the responses needed in a timely manner. 

No matter what the case, it can be frustrating for both you and your background check company.  

You are concerned with getting the background check information quickly in order to make the hire you need. Your background check company understands this. After all, their focus is on providing you with the best and most timely response. 

And since outside factors can delay the process, it is best that you are aware of what they are and what can be done, if anything, to get your check back on track.
10 Obstacles that can Delay Your Background Check!  "Tweet This"
The 10 Obstacles that can Delay Your Background Checks: 

1. Resume/Application Mistakes, Errors, & Fabrications
When a screening company is given error filled applications or resumes, weeding through them can be time consuming. In addition, hand written forms are often hard to read or do not come in clear when emailed or faxed.

Solution: If the background check is on yourself, make sure your resume is “background check ready” (You will find tips to accomplish this here).  

If it is on a potential employee, stress to the applicant beforehand that any errors on their application can cause a delay in completing their background check ~ resulting in stalling any hiring decisions. This might prompt them to make any necessary changes or write more clearly before submitting.

2. Timing of Your Request
Sending your work request to a background check company late in the day, or right before a weekend or holiday, can most certainly add to the turnaround time. Sources will often be hard to reach when things are winding down for the day or before a holiday.

Solution: Requests sent earlier in the day or mid-week (Tuesdays through Thursday) are best. If that is not possible, you should expect a slightly longer timeframe for responses, especially where verifications from employers or references are concerned.

3. Manual Court Checks
Any time you need to verify court records in person, this takes additional time, and a lengthy list of cases can add to the process. However, it is sometimes a step that is necessary in order to get the most accurate results

Solution: There really is no substitute for manual checks in courts that have no databases (or those whose databases are not up to date). Your background check company will most assuredly advise you of the delay, but this is one time that you simply have to wait it out.  

4. Individual Court Dynamics 
Some courts are understaffed. Some have less than stringent records keeping and processing. Others have no online database. Either way, any of these issues can cause delays

Solution: Once again, this is out of anyone’s, even your background check company's, control. Despite the push for courts to be more diligent about updating records and databases, the reality is that a lack of funds for new hires make this a difficult task.

5. Employment and Reference Checks 
Verifications of past employments and references can be problematic. While many companies use online databases to verify dates and title of employment, speaking directly to a past supervisor is preferred. In addition, there is no substitute for getting the information you need from references. Therefore, you or a screening company is at their mercy.

Solution: Make it as easy as possible for any employer or reference to provide the information you need. When contacting them, whether by phone or email, leave a detailed message as to the subject’s name, what information you are seeking, a timeframe when you will need their response, and a good contact name and number. In this way the source can prepare and will recognize the necessity of a timely response. We have had much success with this method.

Tips to Help You solve Your biggest Background Check Delays! "Tweet This"

6. Incomplete Case Information 
There are times when final dispositions are not listed. Perhaps the information has not been logged into the record, the case is active, or it is on hold. Any of these problems can result in extra time for a verifier.

Solution: Additional research is necessary. Since your goal is to have the most accurate information, there is no way around this. Your researcher will need to make inquiries to see if there has been any recent activity on the case. Checking lower courts, probation records, etc. may be required.  

7. Power Outages or System Maintenance 
There are times when online records are unavailable. There may be a power outage or system maintenance. Both can effect the timeliness of your background check.

Solution: You have no choice but to wait it out. Weather related outages cannot be predicted and their return cannot be hurried. Luckily most system maintenance is done during off times and causes minimal delays.

8. International Requests
Needing information from another country can pose its own unique set of delays and concerns. Language barriers, lack of computer records, and differing legal systems, all can cause delays. Even inequities in job titles and degree certification can be problematic.

The availability of Criminal and civil court information is also subject to a country’s laws and regulations. Some countries only maintain paper records at the local jurisdictions or police departments. Others may have databases, but their standards of accuracy can vary. And still other countries may not allow access to criminal records at all.

Solution: Contacting your country's embassy in the nation in question is a good first step. It will help you find out if the government has public criminal records or even permits them to be searched, solving part of your problem.  

For employment records, dealing with an international company helps. It is then possible to contact the branch in your country to verify, or at least obtain a good contact number, for the information you need.  

However, there are instances when it is either not possible or too expensive to verify everything on an applicant’s resume. Having the subject provide their own proof may be necessary in these circumstances, but even those records can be suspect.

9. Government Shutdowns 
A government shutdown at any level can effect your background check. This shutdown is most often a result of court holidays (short term), but can also stem from the inability to agree on a budget (which can be for a longer amount of time). At a federal level, this can cause problems when needing to verify citizenship and social security checks.

Solution: Government holidays really are short term and should be no cause for concern. However, longer term shutdowns are definitely problematic. No one can predict when these records will once again become available if the lack of manpower funds stops work. The only thing you can do is verify the information you can, and wait on the rest. There will be court records available at various levels and verifications of employment and references will most likely not be effected.  

10. Changing Legislation 
Ongoing changes to EEOC guidance and state & local laws has definitely changed the timeframe of background checks. Many states require a conditional offer of employment first. There is also the need for a stand alone release, notices of adverse action, etc. that need to be followed. Compliance with these regulations is necessary to avoid litigation and must be part of all hiring practices.

Solution: Address compliance concerns early and stay updated on any passed and pending legislation. By doing this it is possible to put practices into place in advance and not cause you any additional screening delays. The key is for your background check company to keep you in the loop on what you need to do. 

You can find out more about Tips to Help Your Business Fly Under the EEOC Radar here.

While any of these factors can cause delays in completing your background check, a good screening company understands this and will keep you informed every step of the way.
Just Remember, when it comes to Background Checks, accurate and verified information is more important than speed in the long run.

Authored by   
We will Help You Hire Safely and Effectively for Your Business!
API can also Answer Your Questions about Business Hiring and Blogging. Visit our Hiring, Business Mentoring, Security Consulting, and Resources & FAQ page to find out more! 

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Top Lessons You can Learn from Difficult Clients and Why Sometimes You Need to Let Go ~ Part 2

We have all encountered “difficult” clients.  
These clients are sometimes demanding, unreasonable, or even slow in paying.

In some cases we can take what we learn from the situation and use it to forge a better working relationship, possibly keeping our client in the process. Part 1 of this series focused on those lessons and how they can help you move forward. If you missed it you can read it here.

But in other cases, continuing to work with that client is simply not possible and even unwise.
How can you tell the difference?  

When is it time to break up with your 
difficult client and 
what can you do to make that break clean?

To make that decision, it helps to first ask yourself these 3 questions:
  • How Does Your Client Treat You?
If each time you communicate with your client they belittle you, your employees, or your work ~ then run. At no point do you or those around you deserve to be abused. Even if they are paying you, that is no excuse for unreasonable demands or a lack of respect.
  • Is Your Client Taking up All of Your Time and Energy at the Expense of Other Clients?
Any time one client is so demanding that you have nothing left to give, you are cheating your other clients. When you spend all your time answering their excessive phone calls or making countless changes, then you cannot give your other clients the time they deserve.
  • How Does the Client Make You Feel? 
This is the most important question of allIf you find yourself stressed at the the thought of working with them, then it is time to move on. If each time you even pick up the phone or sit down to send them an email, it makes your stomach churn, then let go.

If even after giving them your best work, you are left questioning your abilities, then moving on is simply self-preservation.  

So the question then do you make the break?
It is best to keep it simple and direct. There is no need to rehash problems or even to burn bridges.

Instead, first thank your client for the opportunity to work with them. Then simply say “however, at this time I am no longer able to provide you with our services”.  

Another option is, if your work with them is not on an ongoing basis, you can just wait until they contact you again and not opt to bid on the job. If asked why, just say that your workload does not allow you to take on another job.

In either case, no long, drawn out explanation is needed.   

Once you make the break, it is time for a change.  Now you can put new practices into place that will both lessen the chance of this happening again and help you move forward.

5 Tips to Help You with Problem Clients  "Tweet This"

You Should:
  • Put Your Efforts into treating your Good Customers Right
Send them thank you notes to let them know you appreciate their business. Offer them special deals for their loyalty. Anything you can think of to show you value them.

For more tips on what you can do to make your clients feel appreciated, check out "What it Really Means to Have Good Customer Service"!
  • Keep Your Chin Up
It is important that you don’t let the bad customers ruin your morale. Nothing is worse than a depressed workplace, and you owe your customers and employees more than that.
  • Look for New Customers 
Join a local networking group or ramp up your social media, whatever helps you put your company in the spotlight and in front of potential customers. You will find that talking about your business and keeping your eye on the good you provide gives you a better mindset.
  • Invoice Quickly 
Practice “recency” in your invoicing. Studies show that by sending your bill quickly, your invoice is thought to be more relevant. Another plus is that your client still has the great job you did, and your stellar service, fresh in their minds.

Waiting days, or even weeks, to invoice is often increases the time it takes to get paid.  
  • Vet Potential Clients and Partners
By using a background check to vet those you are thinking of doing business with, you can make a more informed decision. You may uncover a tendency for slow pay, a propensity to sue former business partners, or a host of other things that could give you pause.

The idea here is to make sure there are no signs that should keep you from getting into a difficult business relationship in the first place!

Discover more about how vetting potential clients, and employees, is good for your business in "Why You Need to 'Trust but Verify'!". 

We all enter business with the thought that we have something great to offer. We also believe that our clients are a large part of what it takes to make our business successful and our goal then becomes to do what it takes to make them happy.
However, that does not mean that we need to stick with them no matter what. When that relationship becomes toxic, it is time to move on.

And, in every business, we need to do what it takes to build a business we can be proud of without hurting ourselves along the way ~ and sometimes that means Letting Go!

Authored by  

For more tips to help you with your small business, be sure to visit our site at  

And Contact Us! We can help you hire more safely and effectively!

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Top 4 Lessons You can Learn from Difficult Clients & Why Sometimes You Need to Let Them Go ~ Part 1

We have all been there 
We get a new client and set out to provide them with everything that we promised ~ and more. We get their work done on time, respond to all of their questions or concerns along the way, and provide the best service we possibly can.

However, despite our best efforts, we soon find out they are the “client from hell”.  
Either their demands are through the roof or we find that they are extremely slow pay ~ or worse, no pay.

No matter the circumstance, this is when you need to decide if it is worth keeping them as a client.

While no business relishes the idea of losing a client or customer...Sometimes it is simply best to let them go!
Letting Difficult Clients Go will Save Your Sanity!  "Tweet This"

Letting Difficult Clients go is hard for many of us to concede.  

As business owners, we believe that our clients are the foundation of our businesses, and letting any of them go seems counterproductive. We pride ourselves on establishing good customer relationships and feel like a failure when they don't work out.
There are times when we have to move away from that way of thinking. 

Instead, we need to recognize that moving on is really in our best interest ~ and the money we may be making just isn’t worth it. Sometimes it is possible to work with these clients and make things better, but other times it is not. 

The key is to know the difference.
In the first installment of this two part series, 
You will discover the Top 4 lessons you can actually learn from dealing with difficult clients!

Lesson 1 ~ You Have the Right to Pick and Choose Who You Want as a Client
Once in a while we have run into a potential client who, from the outset, gave us pause.

Sometimes we simply have a “gut instinct” that something isn’t quite right or from things they have said we can see we are not on the same page. During those times we have often found it is best to not commit to them at all.

About a year ago we were approached by an online contact. They were interested in using one of our newest services and we were excited by the prospect of getting that part of our business going.

Our initial conversation went well. We explained exactly what API could do for them and at what cost.

She explained she was eager to hire us immediately since they already had an applicant they wanted to screen. 

We sent her the release we use and asked her to let us know if she had any further questions before we began.

That is when things went south. Shortly after sending the release, we received an email. In it she questioned having to provide a signed release at all. She also wanted what she called “immediate” results, the kind you can get from an “online court search”.

We explained why it was not in her best interest to do business that way. Her reaction prompted us to politely suggest she try another background check company.

Your Takeaway ~ It is best to stop what is sure to be a bad business relationship in its tracks. Choosing not take on a client that shows no interest in following your advice or who wants to do business in a way that is not in line with your core values will save you a lot of headaches.

Lesson 2 ~ The Importance of Being Specific on Your Terms 
Take a look at this situationAt the beginning of her business, Sandy Collier, owner of a wedding planning service, ran into a difficult client.  

Collier was hired to plan her client’s wedding. From the outset, Collier found herself having to chase down her client again and again, whether it was to sign off on a design or simply to get paid for work completed.

Then, according to Collier, the client lost her job. Now things went from bad to worse. All of a sudden phone calls were no longer being answered and payments were no longer made.

Despite ultimately losing on this deal, Collier learned from it. She now uses contracts that spell out all her terms from the beginning. She also makes sure she gets the final payment 2 weeks before the event. This has been key in assuring the check clears before she has no recourse.  

In reality, Collier’s bad experience helped her to never get caught like that again.

Your Takeaway ~ Working with a contract, or at the very least making clear what services you will provide and your payment terms, is really in the best interest of both parties.

For tips on what You should include in your contract, check out this article by Lee Crawford Law on “Why Should You Have a Written Contract?”.

Lesson 3 ~ The Importance of Being “Pleasant But Persistent”
Marian Hayes Gravel, now an Industrial Designer/Usability Specialist, entered the world of small business making hairbands and scrunchies. Gravel made a deal to sell them on consignment to a local store.

The problem was, even though inventory was being sold, the shop owner was not paying Gravel her cut and requests for payment were not yielding results. 

Unsure of what to do, Gravel contacted SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives). Her question to the advisor was "how do I take someone to small claims court so I can get paid?".  

Gravel says that this is when she got invaluable advice. Her advisor said that while he certainly could help her with that, he believed her best course of action was to maintain the relationship.

He suggested that Gravel be pleasant but persistent in requesting her money from the store owner. And, according to Gravel, “it worked. I called her again and asked her (politely) for my money.  She apologized and said she had a temporary cash-flow issue. And I got paid”.

Gravel said “it was simple advice, but I remember it to this day”.

Your Takeaway ~ It is possible to get the desired result by being Polite but Persistent. Many times just meeting with someone & being willing to work with them is the best course.

Lesson 4 ~ The Importance of Dealing with Clients on a Case-by-Case Basis
Gravel’s experience mirrors one of our own.

When Access Profiles first started, money was tight (as it is for many new small businesses). We felt fortunate to find one large client, and a few smaller ones, to work with.

While thrilled to have this large client, the volume of work was at times overwhelming. However, we stuck it out and made sure that all jobs were done on time and completely accurately.

Our process was to only bill upon completion of the work (which we still do to this day), with a 30 day payment period. In the span of 2 months, this larger company amassed quite a bill.

The problem ~ they didn’t pay. We waited until a week after the 30 day grace period and called our contact. We were polite and explained that we had not received any payment and wondered if they needed us to resend their invoice.

My contact promised to look into it and get back to me. We never heard from her, and our calls were no longer being answered. After many attempts to get paid, we even sent a registered letter formally requesting payment.  

In the end, the company filed for bankruptcy (in reality they simply merged with another company) and we never ended up getting paid for our work.

Despite this bad experience, when we encountered a similar situation with one of our smaller clients, we once again attempted to proceed politely.

However, this time the outcome was quite different. We were able to talk to them and discovered that they were not being paid by one of their clients. Because of this, money was tight.

API worked with them and over time got paid in full. Our willingness to treat them with fairness has kept them as our client to this day!

Your Takeaway ~ You need to look at what may seem like a difficult client on a case by case basis. There are times you can get past a rough spot and work things out, all while earning a loyal client in the process.  

Difficult clients happen.
The bottom line is that no matter what problems you may encounter in your business, 
the key is to learn from them.  
It is important that you then use those lessons to make the changes you need 
to keep it from happening again.

In the end, that is what makes a good entrepreneur!
Be sure to check out Part 2 in this series on why, despite your best efforts, it is sometimes best to Let Difficult Clients Go!

Authored by  

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