Friday, March 20, 2009

Give Your Candidates a Copy of the Background Report

Background screening has become mainstream. That means that if you are looking for a new job, a new apartment or home to rent, or perhaps even just getting an insurance quote, the person on the other side of the desk will be running a background check first.

Occasionally, the candidate seeking a new job or new apartment will be unsuccessful. There might be many different reasons for failing to secure the new job or aparment. It might be that there insufficient income to afford the monthly rent for the apartment seeker. The job seeker might not have sufficient experience in the field. Often when unsuccessful, the applicant doesn't understand why.

Applicants who are left to speculate as to the reasons why they were unsuccessful in securing their desired apartment or job often wonder if it has something to do with their credit score, credit history, or reported criminal history. In the current economic recession, there are a lot of people out of work who need jobs. When these out of work job seekers suspect that their credit report or criminal history is preventing them from obtaining employment, many have chosen to address the issue through complaint to their state and federal representatives and senators. The representatives have been quite reponsive to these complaints and now several states have bills pending that would ban the use of credit reports as a component of the hiring decision.

Employers well understand the consequences of the loss of these valuable tools in the hiring process. In order to preserve these insight providing tools, employers need to be more proactive about sharing with the candidates (successful and unsuccessful) the contents of the credit, criminal, and related background checks.

Sharing with the candidates the background check is a simply a good idea. If there were a problem with a claim they make on their resume that is not supported by the facts, they could learn not to make unsupported claims (e.g. having a Harvard MBA when applying for forklift operator positions). If there were a problem with paying bills in full and on-time, the apartment seeker could begin to understand the consequence of those decisions and begin to act more responsibly in financial matters. If there were an unusual amount of traffic violations (speeding, reckless, running red lights, etc.) the job seeker applying for a delivery driver position should have the opportunity to understand the consequences of driving habits and make some changes there.

Moreover, if there were not a problem with the behavior or capability of the applicant but rather an error anywhere on the background check and the employer or community manager were to have relied on the erroneous information, the job or apartment seeker would have been effectively denied the opportunity to discover the reason, discover the error, and challenge the error (there are provisions for correcting errors on credit and criminal histories).

Federal law requires that prospective employers or prospective landlords disclose that the applicant may obtain a copy of the credit/criminal history report used in the decision for this very reason. I recommend that employers and community managers go further than the requirement (to inform the applicant they have a right to receive a copy) and actually provide the copies as a matter of course.

For those who have made mistakes in their lives and are feeling the consequences, it provides to them the sure evidence of the results of their choices and the incentive to choose more wisely. That is a very good thing for all involved. For those who might innocently be impacted by an error, there is an even more compelling argument to be made, as they would not only be denied what they sought, but importantly, would be wrongfully denied.

So do the right thing and make sure that your applicants receive a copy of their histories. You'll be doing them a favor and be helping to reduce the chance that some lawmakers will act upon these complaints by enacting law that would deny to you, the employer or property manager, effective background screening.


Kevin Dawson said...

I agree. Sometimes the results are not always pretty, but it is better to know than be left to wonder why you didn't get that job.

Erin Zepeda said...

Give me a break! My bad credit has nothing to do with my ability to perform my job.

LDiamant said...

Sounds like Erin has felt the pinch of her own bad credit!

Focus your efforts on fixing your problems rather than trying to hide them. That is a much better strategy for success.

ConCheung said...

A Resume is a representation of a person's as they would like it to be seen. In other words it is an advertisement or marketing piece that a person creates about themself.

It comes as no great surprise to those of us who work in this field, that a majority spin/color/shade/amplify/diminish events in their past. That's why we use a background check. It is a much more objective look at a person's past which is helpful for understanding their present and guageing their future.

Anyone who relies completely on a resume and doesn't fact check every item (and discover the items not reported) is asking for trouble, and that trouble won't take long to find them.

Be smart. Be wise. Always check first.