A number of years ago a situation developed which left me embarrassed and questioning my capabilities. The story is simple. I was consulted on the hiring of a sales rep for a client. I interviewed the candidate using a structured hiring process and gave him an enthusiastic thumbs up. Within six months the candidate was arrested for engaging in sex with a juvenile male in the parking lot of a regional sales office. He had been in jail for the same offense prior to applying for a job with my client.
From that day forward, I insist on background checks for sales (and any other) candidates. I don’t care how much they’ve sold, whom they worked for, who recommends them, and how well they do during the recruitment and selection process.
I’ve used research data from HireRight in some of my presentations over the years. I thought interviewing an executive from that firm would provide a new perspective and perhaps impetus to begin background checks if you aren’t already doing them.
Rachel Trindade, vice president of marketing at HireRight, was kind enough to spend some time for this interview.
Dave Stein: I know HireRight has done research in the past about the dramatic number of candidates that misrepresent themselves and their experience on resumes. Would you provide us with the latest data in that area?
Rachel Trindade: The rate of candidates who misrepresent themselves is considerable. Over the last six months, HireRight has found the discrepancy rates are:
- Education verifications: 30.4%
- Employment verifications: 27.1%
- Professional license verifications: 22.8%
DS: Do you have any specific information about people seeking positions in sales?
RT: We don’t have specific information in terms of discrepancy rates for sales, but we do recommend several specific best practices for screening people in sales.
- Conduct a county criminal records search and a social security number validation to validate identity
- Verify education history
- Verify employment history
- Motor Vehicle Record check: Many sales people travel and drive a car rented by the company and drive on behalf of the company to meet customers and prospects. For this reason, conducting a motor vehicle records check is a recommended best practice to reduce risk for the company by ensuring there is nothing in the applicants’ driving record that would prohibit them from driving on behalf of the company or would lead to an increase in the organization’s insurance rates. Driving records could indicate that a person’s license was revoked, and in some states, DUI records are only maintained and accessed through the DMV.
- National criminal database check: Many salespeople travel to different states and for any job where extensive travel is required, it’s best practice to conduct a national criminal database check. Although the national databases are not perfect or fully comprehensive, they allow employers to cast a broader net and can provide potential visibility into any criminal activity in other states. If any hits result from the national criminal database check, it’s critical that the organization verifies that data directly with the local county court records to help ensure accuracy.
- Federal criminal records check: identifies federal crimes that wouldn’t be included in county court records.
- Professional reference checks: include at least one reference from an applicant’s manager.
- Perform drug testing when an applicant is initially hired and on a periodic basis during employment.
It is a best practice to NOT check credit history unless the sales position also involves financial management as many state laws prohibit credit checks for non-financial positions.
DS: What impact does a public LinkedIn profile have on the “accuracy” of a candidate’s resume? Do you believe candidates are less likely to lie?
RT: Fundamentally, especially for a sales person, LinkedIn is a sales tool – they are trying to sell to prospects and potential employers. It’s not that people would lie, per se, but they frequently embellish. People tend to use elevated words or phrases on LinkedIn that they wouldn’t use on a resume. These embellishments on LinkedIn could be misconstrued and could be challenged by a check. I think people tend to look at LinkedIn and a resume as two completely separate things, but some people continue to fabricate on both. For example, Columbia State University is a known diploma mill, where a person pays for a fake degree, but you will see people listing MBAs from this institution on their LinkedIn pages.
DS: Why should a company implement an ongoing program for background checks?
RT: It’s critical to implement an effective background screening program to protect the workplace, reduce risk and liability, and improve the quality of hire. Background screening protects against workplace violence and improves safety, protects against negligent hiring liability, and improves hiring to help ensure you hire the best, most well qualified candidate. Not only does employment screening validate the information that applicants provide to ensure they meet the employer’s requirements, but often when applicants who wouldn’t meet these standards learn a company is conducting a background check, they’ll simply opt out of the process. Also, screening your employees protects your customers, prospects and any sensitive populations your employees may come into contact with. For example, in the medical sales field, a salesperson may be going into medical offices and hospitals, so it’s critical to ensure that you’re not putting any sensitive population, such as patients, children or the elderly, in any kind of risk.
DS: During what phase of the hiring process should the background check be performed.
RT: It varies by company, but typically it’s when the employer has narrowed it down to the final applicants. Often companies make an offer that’s contingent on the results of a background check. In addition, ongoing screening should be performed on a periodic basis on current employees to check criminal records and perform drug testing. It’s also important to screen the extended workforce – temps, contractors, and vendor/partner employees who have access to a company’s facilities, employees, data, or customers. Individuals in the extended workforce should be screened when they begin working. For example, if a company brings in a temp-to-hire position, it’s important to screen the person at the outset, so you don’t have the person start and work for three months, then discover after you’re ready to hire that the individual failed your background check.
DS: Have there been any new developments in the area of background checks recently? What’s in store for the future?
RT: The major developments in the industry driving change are mobile technology, globalization, integration of screening solutions with hiring technologies and human resources management platforms, and changing government regulations.
New mobile apps now allow applicants, recruiters and hiring managers to access and manage their employment screens directly from their device, allowing employers to improve their efficiency, and providing candidates visibility and the ability to manage the screening process. Hiring moves very quickly today, especially for top talent and in markets with a shortage of candidates, and hiring experienced salespeople is highly competitive, so speeding up the time-to-hire with mobile technology can make all the difference in a successful recruitment of a top candidate. Also, making the process more transparent and easier for the candidate to manage improves the candidate experience through the screening process.
Globalization of the workforce is becoming more critical as more companies of all sizes are hiring people who have education and experience outside of the U.S. Whether hiring for a domestic position where candidates have international backgrounds, or hiring a global sales team based in other countries, the screening process must meet the requirements of the company’s hiring policies. An effective global screening solution must allow conducting checks in multiple countries and be modified to local language and cultural expectations, so the screening process is effective, while the applicant experience is positive both here and abroad.
The continued move toward integrating screening solutions with hiring and human resources management platforms is a growing trend for employers of all sizes. These new technology integrations substantially improve process efficiency and ultimately speed time-to-hire to help employers ensure they get the best talent more quickly.
Shifts in governmental regulations are emerging and continue on the horizon. Background screening companies are considered credit reporting agencies and are governed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which dictates what data can be checked, how it can be checked, and how that information can be used in the hiring process. There are also several state and local laws that govern aspects of the background screen. For example, several states – and that number is growing – are prohibiting the use of credit report checks, unless the position has financial management or cash-handling responsibilities, and legislation is being discussed that could limit the use of checks of an applicant’s social media accounts. Additionally, we continue to see more guidance issued by the EEOC on screening processes to help ensure that background checks are being applied fairly in businesses. In the midst of this complex legal landscape, it’s critical that employers work with their legal counsel to ensure their screening programs are compliant with all federal, state and local requirements.
About Rachel Trindade
As vice president of marketing, Rachel Trindade is responsible for leading HireRight’s marketing, field operations, and business development functions, focusing on branding strategy and demand generation for new customer acquisition. Prior to her role as vice president, Ms. Trindade built HireRight’s field operations and sales engineering organizations, and led global market development to better support the requirements of major multinational organizations. She also pioneered and launched the HireRight Benchmarking Survey, the first ever survey and report of its kind in the background screening industry.
HireRight is a leading provider of on-demand employment background checks, drug and health screening, and electronic Form I-9 and E-Verify solutions that help employers, including more than one-third of the Fortune 500, automate, manage and control background screening and related programs. HireRight also provides pre-integrated background screening solutions through applicant tracking systems from top providers such as Oracle, Taleo, Kenexa, SAP, PeopleAdmin, HealthcareSource, Jobvite, and SilkRoad. For more information, visit the company’s web site at www.hireright.com.