In this world of major economic downturn, businesses may go through tens of hundreds of applications or resumes in order to find the most experienced and educated candidate for the job. As such, it is important for businesses to really understand what they are getting as they consider hiring a new employee. Many private investigators offer pre-employment background checks for businesses in an effort to help them better understand a candidate’s past or help predict possible future behaviors of a candidate. Aside from businesses, many not-for-profit organizations, including churches and youth associations routinely request background checks on persons who volunteer to provide their services that involve financial transactions or children. Whether it is a business or a not-for-profit organization, it is in the client’s best interest to keep their assets, employees and volunteers’ safe, as well as any other outside individual they may come in contact with while performing the duties of the job.
It is important for investigators to realize that not all businesses or organizations have legal departments who can help guide them in what they need to learn about a prospective employee or volunteer, or even in understanding the findings on a background check. Many businesses or organizations are uncertain as to what they really need verified; they simply just want a “background check”. If the scope of the background check is too small there is a risk that the client will fail to get critical information; however, if the scope is large and costly producing little to no results, this could ruin the relationship with the client. This is where your coaching and client education become very valuable.
Most businesses are cutting back on expenses and therefore clients tend to go the “cheap” route; however, cheap is not always best. In order for investigators to keep themselves and their clients out of harm’s way, it is important that they establish a rapport with the clients, understand the clients’ needs based on the level of employee or volunteer being considered, and help them understand and decide which background checks would be conducive to the position for which they are hiring.
What does the client really need? To help the client, an ideal quick reference tool to have is a list of all background and verification services that are available to the client, as well as an explanation of what each service means so there is an understanding of how the services would be beneficial for them. A few examples include:
- Criminal Records Check – Verification of lawsuits brought against an individual for violation(s) of state or federal penal codes, including disposition.
- Civil Records Check – Verification of any civil lawsuits brought against an individual by another individual or company in which the individual is negligent, including disposition.
- Previous Employment Verification – Contact with previous/current employers listed on the employment application or resume to confirm the dates of employment and if the individual is eligible for rehire.
Of course there is a laundry list of other services investigators can provide, but the point is to ensure the clients understand what is available so they can determine the most beneficial searches or verifications for their business or organization. It is ideal to have the clients initial the services or verifications to which they agree in order to avoid any misunderstandings.
What should be obtained from the client to initiate the background check? Performing background checks can be time consuming and costly to the investigator. First and foremost, it is important for the client to understand an approximate cost of the service and to also understand that a search may not produce negative results for the individual, which is good for the client. Unfortunately, some clients, especially those new to seeking assistance from a private investigator, may have preconceived notions that an investigator is always going to find dirt on someone; when no results turn up, the clients may feel they are not getting their money’s worth or that the investigator is not doing their job and refuse to pay for the service. The best insurance an investigator can get when accepting a background check assignment, or any assignment for that matter, can be summed up in three words: retainer, retainer, RETAINER! A retainer is basically an insurance policy for the investigator so they can at least pay what it cost them to perform the services in the event a client decides to not pay their total bill. You can always refund any unused portion of the retainer to the client.
The investigator should understand the level of position the client is hiring. Is this an entry-level employee who is responsible for answering the phone? Is it a top-level corporate executive who will be responsible for approving large transactions? Or is it an employee in between? Obtain a copy of the prospective employee’s application and/or resume from the client. The application contains a wealth of information the individual provides about the applicant and this information can eventually be used to compare against the background check.
This article was reprinted with permission from the Texas Association of Licensed Investigators – TALI.org and by permission of the author Kristi Colbert.