The Spooky Truth About Job Candidates









When it comes to Halloween, there is endless fun in choosing who to dress up as and portraying someone who is the complete opposite of yourself. Halloween is the opportunity for not only children, but also adults (if you’re lucky like EmployeeScreenIQ and were able to dress up today) to go all out to shock, and perhaps appall others with your costume of choice.

When it comes to employment background screening, unfortunately, your candidate may not be as obvious with who they are. They may not be wearing a Michael Myers mask and carrying a butcher knife to their interview, but applicants might have something to hide. Whether it’s a past criminal record, or a “white lie” on their resume, an employer would never know what kind of skeletons could be hiding in the closet without verifying the truth behind their façade.

You should also keep in mind that an applicant may be intentionally covering up a record and flaunting the appearance of the “perfect candidate.” However, with so many resumes, candidates, and interviews, it is impossible to perceive every fallacy. Of course, you can’t be suspicious of everyone, but the only way to find out—uncover the truth and continue screening your candidates.

Happy Halloween everyone, enjoy your day!

Employment Background Check Wasn’t Required for Teacher’s Aid

Yesterday, we wrote a blog post about a woman who was fired from her job as a teacher’s aid at a school in Iowa after it was discovered that she was convicted of manslaughter in conjunction with the murder of 16 year old in 1965.  Mainly, we focused on whether this woman, who seems to have lived a crime-free life since and held this job since 1998 should be able to keep her job.

We did however, speculate on how the school missed this conviction when they conducted an employment background check.  And now we think we know why; they didn’t conduct a background check because they were not required to do so for a teacher’s aide by the state of Iowa.  I’ll spare the outrage over why someone entrusted to the well-being of children wouldn’t be screened (it seems the politicians are already starting to do that) and focus on these comments from the state’s executive director of Board of Education Examiners.

“The system is built to have multiple checks,” said Duane Magee, executive director of the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners, which issues licenses to teachers, coaches, administrators and others.

“We do a fingerprint check through the FBI, we use Social Security numbers, we use names. If there’s false information, that’s going to get caught. If there are things in other states, that’s going to get caught,” he said.

With all due respect, I think the Mr. Magee is misinformed.  As has been well documented on this blog and confirmed through the FBI, an FBI fingerprint check is not guaranteed to identify if someone has been convicted of a crime.  Research shows that maybe 55% of all convictions get into their database.  Same goes for a statewide search.  It’s not a guarantee.

Now, to be fair to Mr. Magee, the only criminal background check that would be 100% guaranteed would be one where every single court in the entire country is searched under all names used by the subject of the report.  That, however would costs thousands and thousands of dollars and could take weeks or months to complete.  But, it boggles my mind that the schools who protect our children don’t adopt the strict screening measures utilized by a majority of private sector employers.

They should be conducting an Address History Search (aka Social Security Number Trace) to identify areas where they have lived and names they have used.  The primary criminal search should then be conducted in each of those locations under each of the names identified.  In most cases, that’s where the records would have originated.  Generally, people don’t travel or go on vacation and commit the types of crimes employers would be concerned about.  And in most instances if they did, they probably would have committed similar offenses where they live.  But that’s where you can then apply a database search and an FBI check and a statewide search.

We can debate whether this woman should have been fired until the cows come home but this school was negligent in not upholding their promise to parents to take reasonable measures to protect their children.  The Iowa school board ought to take a look at this and at the same time, understand what they’re guaranteed employee background checks will and will not find.

Read the full story

Wondering how a comprehensive criminal background check is done?

Download our article, Time for a Wake Up Call: Are Your Criminal Background Checks Giving You a False Sense of Security? to find out!

Frankenstorm Wreaking Havoc on Criminal Background Checks

By now, you’d have to be living under a rock not know about the devastation Hurricane/Tropical Storm Sandy has caused over the entire Eastern seaboard.  Towns are flooded and damaged, people have been evacuated (including my sister who lives in Brooklyn) and millions are without power.  The New York stock exchange has been shut down for the last couple of days for the first time since 9/11.  Okay, you get the picture.

And while we can certainly consider this a minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things, this disaster has also shut down courthouses throughout the Northeast which will cause delays to those conducting employee background checks in the following states:

  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • Virginia
  • Washington D.C.
  • West Virginia

We’re not sure when these courts will be reopening, but imagine there will be delays for at least the remainder of the week.  And while these delays may cause delays in your hiring process, it’s important to remember not to deviate from your company employment screening policies.  We’ll keep you posted as we learn more.

Teacher’s Aide Fired for 1965 Manslaughter Conviction

Warning.  This is not a riddle and I don’t have the answer.

Do you think that a woman who was convicted of manslaughter in 1965 when she was 17 year old for her role in the murder of child?  What if I told you that this woman had served her time and has not run afoul of the law since? What if I told you that she had been working in an Iowa school as a teacher’s aide for special needs children without incident since 1998?

Guess what?  It happened and the school district recently fired her when they discovered her criminal past.

Teacher’s Aide Fired for Revelation of Role in Grisly 1965 Killing

An Iowa teacher’s aide has been fired from her job following the revelation that she was a member of an Indiana family notorious for torturing and killing a girl in their basement in 1965.

“A week ago today we got an anonymous report that the now Paula Pace was the previous Paula Baniszewski involved in this 1965 murder case in Indiana and it was a real attention-seeker out there, a heinous crime,” Grundy County Sheriff Rick Penning told today.

Paula Baniszewski was 17 years old in the summer of 1965 when a 16-year-old girl names Sylvia Likens and her sister came to stay with Baniszewski’s family. In the months that followed, Likens was beaten, burned, malnourished and branded with a hot needle. Her body was found in the basement of the home in October of that year.

The case became one of the most infamous crimes in Indiana and has been the subject of several books and movies.

Baniszewski’s mother Gertrude Baniszewski was convicted of first degree murder and Paula Baniszewski was found guilty of second degree murder for her participation in the torture. Several other family members were also convicted.

Paula Baniszewski appealed her conviction and ultimately pleaded guilty to manslaughter. She served time and was released from prison in 1972. She completed her parole and moved to Iowa.

Baniszewski, now 64, has been going by the name Paula Pace and has worked for the BCLUW school district in Conrad, Iowa, since 1998. She had done some custodial work and was most recently working as a teacher’s aide for special needs students.

Recently, information about Pace’s true identity began circulating around Facebook and an anonymous tipster called police to tell them they should look into her background. Police immediately notified the school and both began doing background checks.


Let’s leave how they are just finding out for now and ask the question, what would you think?  Has the woman paid her debt to society?   Would you want your children in this classroom?  I’d be interested to hear what the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would say.  Really.  This is a tough call.  On one hand the conviction occurred 47 years ago.  On the other, it was a heinous crime involving a child.

As to how the schools’ employment background check didn’t reveal the conviction, I can only speculate that they did what most school districts do; they either conducted a statewide background check in Iowa (the conviction occurred in Indiana) and, or they failed to conduct a Social Security Number Trace which most likely would have revealed her given name (the one the conviction was filed under).


10/30/2012 Update on Hurricane Sandy Closures and Delays

As you know by now, many courts throughout the Northeast section of the United States are closed or experiencing delays caused by Hurricane Sandy.  We’ve received the following update about affected areas which might be helpful to you as you submit employment background check requests or are awaiting results over the next several days.

States Experiencing Closures or Delays:

  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • Virginia
  • Washington D.C.
  • West Virginia

We do not have any information on when affected courts will be reopening but will update you as soon as we hear anything of importance.


10/29/2012 Hurricane Sandy Forces Court Closures Throughout the Northeast

We have learned that the so-called Frankenstorm, Hurricane Sandy has caused courts throughout the Northeast section of the United States to close today, October 29, 2012.  Known closures include the greater Philadelphia area, the state of New Jersey and Washington D.C.. Stay tuned for further updates as they become available.

Updated 10/29/2012 11:20am EST

We were just advised that all courts in the state of Massachusetts will be closed until Noon on Tuesday, October 30th.

“Get Your HR Nerd On: Background Checks Through Integration” Recording Available

Screenshot of webinar - Job Applicants Do the Darndest Things: How HR Can Spot Candidates Who Game the System

Earlier this week, we had the great pleasure of hosting a webinar on the benefits of integrating your employment background screening program with your talent management or applicant tracking system.  The webinar, “Get Your HR Nerd On: Background Checks Through Platform Integration” was hosted by myself, James Thomas from Talent Technology and the clear star of the show, Susan Strayer LaMotte from Exaqueo.   Susan’s worked inside and consulted for some of the most renowned global brands including The Ritz-Carlton, The Home Depot, Marriott International and Arthur Andersen. More importantly, she’s recognized for the results of her work.  In 2011 she was named a top 100 influencer in HR and a top 100 HR/Recruiting Industry pro.

Susan shared her experiences and espoused the benefits of taking a manual process and streamlining it through automation: primarily how it saves time and money, improves the candidate experience and allows HR to be more strategic.  I offered suggestions on how to take an automated process and make it more friendly for the candidate.  And James, discussed the power of integration through one hub and shared a demo on how the process looks for the recruiter and for the candidate.

We recorded the session and I invite you to download it here.  And don’t worry, I promise there was no techno speak or explanation for how to actually connect the system.  Just some real world advice HR professionals can use in making a case for system automation.  Enjoy.

EmployeeScreenIQ Weekly Wrap Up-October 26, 2012

EmployeeScreenIQ has had an exciting week with several updates to our IQ Blog as well as a successful webinar, “Get Your HR Nerd On: Background Checks Through Platform Integration” on Wednesday, October 24th. Special thanks to our guest panelists, Susan Strayer LaMotte, Founder of Exaqueo and James Thomas, VP at TalentTech. Below you’ll find a highlight of our blog posts this week. We would love to hear from our readers, so please don’t be shy to engage with us on the blog itself or on any of our social media sites (please find the links below.) Take a look and see what you may have missed from EmployeeScreenIQ this week!

AAU Data Offers Greatest Case Study on Importance of Background Checks

“This past summer, the Amateur Athletic Union announced mandatory background screening for all adult coaches, volunteers and staff as well as stricter guidelines for how to interact with children. And earlier this week it was reported that of the 27,000 people they screened, 150 had issues that according to the AAU “could prove to be problematic for AAU membership.”  (See More)



EEOC Issues Concerning Direction on Employee Background Checks

“Since the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission introduced their guidelines on employers’ use of criminal background checks back in April, I’ve taken a wait and see approach. Sure, I’ve been concerned about the fact that the guidance wasn’t really clear in certain areas: Should employers remove the question that asks an applicant to provide information on past convictions?” (See More)



Ohio Background Screening Law Not Perfect, But Deserves Applause

“I’m giving Ohio State Senator Shirley Smith (D- 21st District) an A- on her effort to get those with criminal records back to work. When she first floated the idea of making certain felony convictions eligible for expungement, I bristled and told myself that it didn’t stand a chance of passing.” (See More)





Have a fantastic weekend!

AAU Data Offers Greatest Case Study on Importance of Background Checks

This past summer, the Amateur Athletic Union announced mandatory background screening for all adult coaches, volunteers and staff as well as stricter guidelines for how to interact with children.  And earlier this week it was reported that of the 27,000 people they screened, 150 had issues that according to the AAU “could prove to be problematic for AAU membership.”

Now, opponents of employment background checks would argue that a 0.5% “hit rate” represents a needle in the haystack and proves that employers really don’t need to engage in this practice.  They would tell you that employers and their background screening companies trot out the worst examples of violent activity and crimes of abuse that could occur in the workplace and over-exaggerate their prevalence.

I would counter by saying that .05% does seem like a small amount.  I’d say that means that the AAU was smart to recognize that there was a problem.  I’d also say that it took courage to publicly commit to these checks and report their findings.  Prevent Child Abuse America’s CEO, Jim Hmrovich suggests that children who are abused are left with scars for the rest of their lives.  In many cases, they become non-productive members of society whether due to dropping out of school, drug abuse and, or criminal activity.  Even worse, many who are abused actually become abusers. Because of AAU’s efforts, 150 people that could ruin children’s lives will no longer be able to do so by preying on this organization and the children it has an obligation to protect.

So, getting to the crux of the issue, .05% is a small number.  But does that small number mean anything to a child or their family when they become a victim of that .05%?  Take a look at former National Hockey League players Theo Fluerry and Sheldon Kennedy and tell me that it would have mattered to them.  Both were abused by coaches at a young age and suffered for years as a result (note that neither were abused in an AAU program).

Check out Sheldon Kennedy’s story below.

EEOC Issues Concerning Direction on Employee Background Checks

Since the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission introduced their guidelines on employers’ use of criminal background checks back in April, I’ve taken a wait and see approach.  Sure, I’ve been concerned about the fact that the guidance wasn’t really clear in certain areas: Should employers remove the question that asks an applicant to provide information on past convictions? How exactly is a company supposed to conduct and individualized assessment? What does the EEOC mean when they say that there will be certain jobs that clearly won’t be able to hire those with particular offenses?

I wanted to believe them when they said that these guidelines are simply a continuation of the policies that were already in place.  Well, after seeing the following quote in the Human Resources Journal, I’m getting a little concerned that might not be the case.  See below.

“If companies ask job applicants about their criminal histories they could face discrimination lawsuits. John Hendrickson, the regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago district said, ‘I would suggest to (businesses) that they think long and hard about why they think they need to do a criminal background check,’ insinuating that if they felt it was not required, they’d be safer not doing it.”

So, here are a few questions I’d like to know the answer to.

  • Does the EEOC has a list of positions they believe should be exempt from employee background checks?
    • If so, how is the EEOC an authority on determining a company’s vulnerabilities?
    • If they don’t have this list, aren’t they just setting up employers for failure?
  • Will the EEOC testify in court on behalf of an employer that decided not to conduct an employment background check when they get sued for hiring someone whose past criminal record could have suggested they might be a danger to persons or property?
    • Will they assume any liability caused to these businesses?
  • Will the EEOC make restitution to those harmed by these people?

I think the EEOC ought to look at the legislation Ohio State Senator Shirley Smith just passed last month.  Instead of punishing employers for conducting background checks, she’s initiated a program which allows those with convictions to apply for a certificate of employability.  And in the event a person with such a certificate engages in criminal activity in the workplace, it offers the employer insulation from law suits.  This approach comes much closer to aligning interests of employers and people with criminal records.