I can’t believe it took me more than 10 years of owning a business to finally appreciate the value of a background check!
Over the years I’ve been involved in the hiring of more than 250 people. During that time, I’ve learned to expect just about anything. The one thing that has remained constant throughout these interviews and reviews is that most people do not tell the whole truth about who they are and what they’ve done.
I guess it is just human nature and so I try not to judge. I have certainly made my share of mistakes over the years, and I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. People can change, and life is about second chances. Still, after 10 years of making mistakes, I decided it was time to change my policy. I simply decided I had to run a check on everyone I was involved in.
Here is the service I personally use to screen every business partner and employee. I was able to get a $20 discount for anyone else who want’s to use this service.
The issue for me is this: As a business owner, I have a responsibility to verify what people tell me for myself. Hiring the wrong person is the most common, and costly mistake a business can make. Here are a few of the mistakes that COULD have been avoided over the years if I had just conducted a background check on a prospective employee:
1999 - Brought on a business partner who claimed he had made millions, only to find out that his previous company was all but bankrupt. This could have been easily verifiable.
2000 – Hired a sales person who appeared to be a hard working single mom, only to discover that she was addicted to crack cocaine and had a warrant for her arrest. Incidentially, when we fired her for non-performance, she went to the state employment board and triggered a 6 month human resources investigation that cost me 10x the revenue she had produced.
2002 - Hired a VP of Sales that was hiding past sexual harassment charges. He subsequently harassed one of his team members and nearly cost us our business. He had raving reviews and an MBA.
2004 – Hired a handyman who turned out to have 34 arrest records and ended up robbing my home while I was away on business.
2006 – Hired another VP of Sales that again harassed one of my teenage employees. (You would think I would have learned my lesson!)
2009 – Hired an Account Manager who, within the period of 3 months had both the DEA and Sheriffs office visit our company, with the last visit resulting in her leaving in handcuffs!
2010 – I finally learned my lesson. I no longer hire anyone, partner with anyone or do business with anyone without first running a background check!
So, what is the best way to run a background check?
Criminal history is for the most part public information. Depending on the crime, most arrests and convictions remain on someone’s background for a while. While you can pay a lawyer to get your information “Expunged” from state and federal records, most of the information is kept on file.
There are a number of companies that specialize in aggregating this information by state and county. Because people can easily move from state to state, it can be difficult to find out a person’s entire ‘rap sheet’. These private organizations build software that keeps information updated and then makes it easily available. Like anything, it may not always be entirely accurate, but I’ve found that in most cases if there is a problem, or something someone is hiding, it will show up in these databases.
NetDetective normally costs $29, but blog readers get a $9.95 version.
About 5 years ago, I got involved with a company called HD Publishing. They were a small, innovative company that made their profit by purchasing large chunks of public data, organizing it, and then making it available to the average person in an easy-to-search format. You would be surprised at how difficult this actually is to do. With more than 3.1 Billion records, many of which update and change all the time, maintaining and delivering this kind of a database is very costly. They now offer a service called NetDetective, that allows you to log in at any time and search quickly on just about anyone in real time. This is the service I use and have grown to trust. The main thing I like about it is that I know the people behind the scenes, I see how much work goes into it, and I know that if any of their customers EVER have an issue, that they are just a phone call or email away.
In an effort to keep the criminal histories mentioned in this article, the author needs to remain anonymous. The author is an entrepreneur and currently helps maintain this site. While he does receive compensation for the sale of NetDetective, the story above is 100% based on real events that happened while running and growing 3 internet startups.