|« To credit check or not to credit check?||Faked references for a fee »|
John Phillips is one of the country’s leading experts on employment law. The good news for us is that he writes an excellent blog, The Word on Employment Law. There, he puts what he knows into terms that non-lawyer HR people and real-life managers can understand and use.
His February 16, 2010 post, “Alabama Shooting and Background Checks,” is a good example of his work. Biology professor, Amy Bishop, of the University of Alabama at Huntsville, is facing murder charges after killing three staff members and injuring three others on February 12, 2010. Here are two key paragraphs from Phillips’ post.
My guess is that Dr. Bishop wasn’t subjected to any background check. She was, after all, a college professor. Maybe, the two shady events in her past wouldn’t have shown up in a background check, depending on its thoroughness. But they may have.
Some employers that use drug tests and background checks do so selectively. Front-line employees are always tested. At various levels up the chain, other employees are tested. But a line is usually drawn somewhere. Are employers really going to ask an executive to submit to a drug test or background check? Often, they do not.
Phillips’ observation and my experience match up. Companies will do a background check on people who work the loading dock or the reception desk. But, they’re less likely to do a check on applicants for key executive positions. That’s just dumb.
Executives can be criminals, too. Executives can fudge the information on their resumes. Executives can get into financial trouble that makes them more likely to be tempted to steal or to rig the numbers that determine their compensation. And if a bad-apple executive slips through the net, you’re putting him or her in a position where they can do lots of damage.
The reason we do criminal background checks and pre-employment credit checks isn’t because we think any one person may cause problems. It’s because we know human nature. Some people will lie and cheat and steal. Others won’t. But you can’t tell by looking which is which.
That’s why it’s a good idea to use background checks as part of your hiring process. And that’s why it’s a good idea to do it for everyone, even the people who may sit in the executive suite.