By Michael Cormier
In the world of HR, nothing’s as easy as it seems. Especially nowadays, where government regulations dictate much of what can and cannot be done.
And it’s getting harder, particularly when it comes to hiring decisions. Without the services of an expert in the field of background checks, like The Hire Authority (508-230-5901; www.hireauth.com), you run the risk of stepping on any number of booby traps set by state and federal law.
But let’s say you’re one of the smart ones. You hired an investigation firm that knows what it’s doing, and you got back a report that’s accurate, thorough, and most of all, legally obtained. What now?
What you do with that information is just as important as how you got it in the first place. State and federal statutes now mandate much of what you can and can’t do—and even when you can do it—based on that information. So, for example, if it turns out your candidate for an administrative assistant opening was arrested for drug possession ten years ago, can you hang your decision on that hook? Maybe.
Ah, the big Maybe. That’s what these modern laws have done—caused us to pause and think about what this information really means. And that’s exactly what they were intended to do: force decision makers to examine their intel in the context of the candidate’s true character vis-à-vis the specific job requirements and corporate risks.
That’s why you must start with a report from a company that not only knows how to find the most accurate and complete information, but presents it with great care. The best background investigation services like The Hire Authority (508-230-5901; www.hireauth.com) will turn up the clues you need when completing your own assessment of the candidate.
Which brings me to my next point. In the modern world you’re running a gauntlet if you just glance at that report, see something you don’t like and send the job candidate a form rejection letter. Depending on the circumstances, and especially the information you based that rejection on, you could open your company up to a lawsuit, or a EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) or FTC (federal trade commission) investigation.
Let’s go back to our hypothetical job applicant. Jane is a twenty eight-year-old Hispanic with a college degree and a solid employment history. But you saw in the investigation report that Jane was arrested ten years ago for drug possession. Not good. Your company has a strict policy against any kind of drug abuse. Do you pass her by based on this information?
That’s where the big Maybe comes in. Do the math and you’ll see Jane was only eighteen when she was arrested. Closer and you find the drug she was arrested for was hallucinogenic mushrooms. So maybe Jane was just a young kid experimenting with drugs with her friends. Maybe it was a one-time experiment, too. So you look closer, and you see there are no other arrests. She has a clean record ever since then. Maybe Jane looks a little better now.
But wait! One of the job requirements is a degree in business administration from an accredited college. The tiny college Jane attended out on the west coast went belly up right after she graduated. Did your background investigation service dig up her transcript?
The point is that what you find in an investigation may only beg more questions. Here are some of the red flags you should have picked up on with Jane:
- She was only arrested, not convicted, so she could have been wrongly accused.
- She’s Hispanic. Statistically, Hispanics are far more likely to be arrested than Caucasians.
Use caution. If you reject Jane for the wrong reasons you may put your company at risk for a lawsuit. First of all, your company may exist in a state that does not allow mere arrests to be factored into employment decisions. And keeping in mind her stellar work record, along with the lack of any evidence of drug issues in the past ten years, Jane may argue that the drug arrest was only a pretext for rejecting her based on her race.
That said, most HR personnel have the good sense to evaluate a job candidate based on the whole picture. In this circumstance, probably a follow-up interview is in order not only to discuss your findings, but to flesh out Jane in three dimensions.
But there are many more considerations. How you investigate, what you investigate, when to do certain things—all of these are dictated these days by law, at least in part. Common sense only goes so far. These days, you need to know how to go about things as much as anything else.
We’ll discuss these issues in more depth in the future. For now, keep in mind that the first step is to hire a solid, reputable background investigation firm like The Hire Authority (508-230-5901; www.hireauth.com). With a report from The Hire Authority you’ll be starting out with the most comprehensive and accurate background picture that you can get on paper.
The foregoing should not be construed as legal advice. Employers should always consult their own legal counsel for advice on labor and employment matters.