If you’re hiring new staff without scoping out their backgrounds, you could be putting your organization at risk of fraud, theft or other, more serious crimes.
Many businesses don’t even ask new hires for a police background check, instead relying – at most – on a Google
search to turn up any red flags.
That failure to carry out due diligence can have dire consequences.
“You risk hiring someone who could cause harm to your organization’s reputation, or physical harm to your employees that you could be liable for,” says Rhonda Fairweather, general manager of background screening provider First Advantage Canada.
She says background checks should be considered safeguards for companies and their staff.
“[A check] raises awareness of an applicant’s past so that, whether or not you choose to hire this applicant, you are aware of the possible implications their history could have on the company and its employees, and can take the necessary precautions.”
While criminal checks are the favoured option of employers, Fairweather cautions that these will only turn up past convictions and not any pending cases, “unless it’s an enhanced check”.
“In short, background screenings can only catch information that is not hidden and is subject to open records laws, such as education, employment, criminal background, driving history, credit scores, international watches and sanctions and bankruptcy.”
The scope of background checks will vary, depending on the industry, the employer, and the position they’re hiring for: an entry-level role that doesn’t require specialized skills or security clearance may only need a basic check, while a professional or executive’s screening may be more complex and in-depth, checking aspects of their history that might give indications of their job performance.
Fairweather says it’s important that companies ensure the type of checks match the position, or they could face legal implications if job applicants feel their screening is inappropriate or discriminatory.
She suggests companies not already carrying out checks speak to their legal counsel about processes, potential costs, and what the impact on hiring could be.
“It’s important to have a background check differentiation strategy and protocol in place. Without one, you expose yourself to discrimination claims, and could be stuck asking yourself what the results of the screen are actually telling you.”
Common pitfalls of criminal record checks
Employers may be losing good workers by screening out ex-felons
Want the latest HR news direct to your inbox? Sign up for HRD Canada's daily newsletter.