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Comprehensive Criminal Background Check

Ten years ago, it was hard to find reputable background screening companies that enthusiastically endorsed the use of commercial criminal databases with “millions and millions of records” as an effective screening tool. Quality was poor, holes were huge, information was incomplete, and prices were sky high.

Five years ago, background screening companies became, more or less, ambivalent. Results weren’t as bad and the cost dropped, but it still didn’t give enough bang for the buck. Technically called a multi-jurisdictional database search, the lingo used by the industry and employers, National Database, suggested a level of completeness and accuracy that wasn’t there in reality.

Fast forward to today. EmployeeScreenIQ, along with other background screening companies, proudly turn that paradigm on its head. In our experience, we believe that a multi-jurisdictional database search should be part of every comprehensive criminal background check. Not because of what it finds. But because of what it doesn’t.

Now why on earth would a background screening company accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) endorse a product because of what it doesn’t find? This is my explanation: At its core, the National Database is just a compilation of data assembled from jurisdictions nationwide.

There is no uniformity regarding the completeness, accuracy, or timeliness of the information. Some counties, towns, and states participate, while others do not. Some provide all of their records. Some don’t. Some provide data quickly…you get the point. In sum, it’s a data dump. It hits our system looking nothing like what our clients see on a final report.

What it’s not: An easy-to-read report, with 8-10 lines, clearly indicating felony or misdemeanor, guilty or not guilty, the date of the offense.

What it is: Pages of criminal cases and hundreds of lines of raw, often contradictory data. At that point, we have three tasks as the background screening provider:

  1. We filter through to determine whether the information is or isn’t your candidate.
  2. If it is, we fill in the missing details. Knowing whether it’s your candidate means little if you don’t know what the conviction is. But it’s still a database search with many holes.
  3. Our third job is to verify and corroborate in conjunction with a traditional county court search, which meets the accuracy, thoroughness and up to date standard set forth by the FCRA…and lets our clients sleep well at night.

The problem was, this process cost more, took longer, and at the end of the day, almost always wasn’t the client’s candidate. When a candidate had records, we previously found on average, 13 of them, 89% of which were false positives (not your candidate after all). We didn’t report this information on the final report, but boy did it take a lot of time to filter it out. Using new methods, the false positive rate has dropped by 71%, and the number of records our team filters through has dropped 63%. These internal enhancements mean our clients can realize faster turnaround time, without compromising accuracy or quality.

It is crucial to point out that conducting this search does not guarantee every record that could be found will be found. Significant holes still exist. Any client that uses this tool as their primary background check strategy and in lieu of county court searches will miss many, many records. This product remains simply a tool to cast a wider net.

However, since the quality of the data has improved, and the percentage of false positives has dropped, and it has now become cost efficient, this database is sufficient for use in a criminal background check, at least in part. We consider it a strong complementary tool and look forward to working with our clients who want to expand the quality of their programs.









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I’m always looking for ways to incorporate math into the rationale for a strong background screening program. This quote from a recent article about employee theft caught my eye, as it’s a sentiment we’ve echoed for years.

“A $100,000 loss to a $3 million company is more damaging than a $100,000 loss to a billion-dollar organization,” Mr. Karpp said.

Sounds like an endorsement of background checks, right?

Nope.

It’s from an article discussing companies that buy “crime insurance.” A product I’m not familiar with but one I’m sure has fat profit margins which we could calculate with a spreadsheet and a few free hours. But not everyone is sold on it…

Lee McGriff, principal of McGriff-Williams Insurance, an independent insurance agency in Gainesville, Fla., said he has found that many small and midsize business owners are reluctant to buy crime coverage “because they trust their employees explicitly. But my experience has been that when this comes to roost, it’s usually the most trusted employee who is the culprit.”

Click here to read the full story.

http://www.crainscleveland.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20111020/FREE/111019838

We too run into same resistance mentioned in the article when companies think “that couldn’t happen here.” Oddly, the article didn’t even mention background checks which I like to think lower the probability of getting ripped off, incurring the emotional and financial costs, the marketplace embarrassment, the press coverage, and the real expense of the $10,000 deductible cited.

But it’s the price, and not really the product, that strikes me the most. A $100 million dollar company is cited as an example, so let’s look at the numbers.

A $10,000 deductible and a $3,000-$4,000 annual premium get $1,000,000 worth of coverage. If there’s a claim in year 5, that company has already spent nearly $20,000-$30,000. Even if there isn’t a claim, they’ve already paid several thousand dollars for that premium year after year after year.

But a technology company for instance, might spend $15,000 (cost estimated through conventional industry sales per employee ratios) screening their ENTIRE workforce.

Even if you still bought coverage, you save money because there’s a lower chance you pay that $10,000 deductible. You’ve done a better job managing risk. Then add the benefits of doing things better, lower turnover, making more money, etc. because you have a stronger team competing in the marketplace.

Our clients? They already know EmployeeScreenIQ provides them with “crime insurance.”

They’re called background checks.

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Imagine this background check!

Published on 05 August 2009 by in News/Media

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I first heard about this guy a few weeks ago and thought his idea was absolutely brilliant.

Job Market Tough? Man Finds 50 Jobs In 50 States

Daniel Seddiqui Works As Brockton Rox First-Base Coach

BROCKTON, Mass. — For a California man, the nation’s sour economy was making it tough to find work, but instead of giving up, he decided to take his resume on the road.

His mission: to work 50 different jobs in all 50 states.

Daniel Seddiqui, 27, said the resume wasn’t happening. The recent college grad had flunked no less than 40 job interviews for work in his field of economics.

Read the full story.

Think of the life experiences this man has acquired in just under a year.  He’s 44 weeks into his 50 state journey. Follow along through his home page.

Of course, as a background check guy, I immediately thought of what his employment verifications would look like.  A bar in New Orleans, a maple syrup(er?) in Vermont. A rodeo announcer in South Dakota and a coal miner in West Virginia. EmployeeScreenIQ is in Ohio. His tour with us? Meteorologist for a Cleveland TV station.

A tip of the hat to Daniel. We usually complete verifications in 2-3 days. Something tells me our clients would understand this one taking a bit longer!

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 Workers need to check out online schools before enrolling: Help Wanted

by Edith Starzyk/Plain Dealer Reporter

Sunday July 05, 2009, 2:36 AM

 

For Willette Crawford, online seems to be the best route to the bachelor’s degree she has been working on for the past 10 years.

The 46-year-old Cleveland resident — one of the laid-off workers in The Plain Dealer’s “Help Wanted” series — has aced the first three online courses she has taken through Ashford University in Iowa.

“It’s very intense, a lot of work, a lot of reading,” she said. “But it gives you a real sense of accomplishment.”

Crawford, who lost her job as a secretary last summer, decided to go to class via computer because she thought the logistics would be easier to manage as she continues to look for work and raise the two sons who are still at home.

The boys, age 8 and 13, know not to bother her when they see the Ashford colors on the computer screen. And she has felt connected to professors, helpful writing assistants and fellow students through postings and e-mails.

Crawford is satisfied with her choice so far, but others have found out too late that their online school wasn’t as advertised.

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization recently issued a statement on the need to discourage what are known as degree mills or diploma mills. Now an international phenomenon, these bogus schools issue diplomas that will not be recognized by legitimate schools or savvy employers.

So, how do you tell if a school is the genuine article? Vicky Phillips created a Web site called GetEducated.com to help prospective students inform themselves before investing time and money — basically their first homework assignment.

When she started the site 20 years ago, only five degrees were available online. Now, 12,000 degrees and certificates are offered by various online schools, said Phillips, who is based in Vermont.

Click here to read the full story.

I have to be honest. When I read this yesterday, my first instinct was “diploma mill.” At EmployeeScreenIQ, we cross check education verifications against a list of hundreds of known, bogus “degree for a fee” clearinghouses. And that’s unfortunate, because a lot of smart people see a lot of value in an online, distance learning curriculum.

But my instinct is also shaped by the 15 spam e-mails I get every day, offering me everything from a high school diploma to a Ph.D in exchange for little effort beyond reaching for my wallet. It’s a shame those who are truly trying to provide a better life for themselves and their family may have their accomplishments viewed with raised eyebrows. Even more so when it’s a prospective employer doing it.

So I think geteducated.com is a nice, necessary resource. It can help well intentioned students avoid getting scammed and find a learning program that is right for them. And it can help lower my already healthy dose of daily skepticism!

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That Was Fast

Published on 22 June 2009 by in Consumer Privacy, Social Media

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City apologizes, stops asking for Internet passwords

The city of Bozeman has stopped asking job applicants for their log-in information to online groups and social-networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.


However, the city has only suspended, pending “a more comprehensive evaluation,” its practice of reviewing information found on password-protected sites, City Manager Chris Kukulski said, leaving open the possibility that it might find other ways to look at the sites.

The city ended the policy as of noon Friday because the city “appears to have exceeded that which is acceptable to our community,” Kukulski said. “We appreciate the concern many citizens have expressed regarding this practice and apologize for the negative impact this issue is having on the city of Bozeman.”

Acting Mayor Jeff Krauss said he expects the Bozeman City Commission will be reviewing the city’s hiring manual line by line.

“We might want to see what other interesting things are in there that we might have to address,” he said.

As for finding other ways to look at social-networking sites as part of evaluating a job candidate’s suitability for a city job, Kukulski defended that approach.

“We will continue to do our full due diligence to review any public information that we can get our hands on to research potential employees,” he said.

Read more here.

For the last few days, any internet surfer would be hard pressed to find a media outlet that DID NOT pick up this story. A few days after the story breaks and the town walks it back. But it sounds like they’re trying to have their cake and eat it to. In the face of intensely negative public opinion, they backed down, but only by “suspending” the practice, maintaining it was designed to elicit valuable information that is useful when making a hiring decision. They continue to state other practices that are useful toward achieving those ends will be considered.

But will this process reappear once TV reporters stop calling?

Look, I admire the intent to find information that allows them to hire qualified candidates who will keep the community safe and serve the people with honor and integrity. Too many companies are looking to cut corners these days. Hoping their candidate doesn’t have a criminal record rather than checking it.  Wishing a degree comes from an accredited University and not a Diploma Mill. But there’s a line here. I wonder if the town feels they might just have crossed it.

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One of my favorite weekly pieces in The Wall Street Journal is the “Cranky Consumer” feature. It’s mystery shop kind of article; picking a product or service, 4 or 5 competitors, and evaluating each on the basis of quality, service and price. Recently, they hit close to home.

Investigating Online Private Eyes

CRANKY CONSUMER MAY 21, 2009

A Google search takes you only so far. If you really want the dirt on potential suitors, business partners and tenants, you have to dig deeper. Services that conduct background checks say they can find everything from a subject’s prior addresses to credit-card use and even criminal records.

We tested four Web-based background-check services, Intelius, InfoRegistry, US Search, and NetDetective, to see what they could tell us about our chosen subject, a 50-year-old medical technician in Washington state who agreed to review results with us. Some facets of her life we thought would be easy to research, like the fact that she has lived at the same address for more than two decades. More complicated, a woman in our subject’s hometown shares the same name — it’s a pretty common one — albeit with a modified middle-name spelling.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124286773775841705.html

To a qualified employment screening company, there’s actually nothing complicated about that. It’s a very good piece though. Look at the variances in the type and quality of information provided by these databases. We know where much of this information comes from so the lack of quality wasn’t a shock. But I have to be honest. employeescreenIQ sells these services for far less money that these four companies charged!

It was also interesting to see some of these firms charge a flat fee for unlimited usage for a set period of time. And maybe it’s a good deal if you’re using it 100 times, but it’s a bad one if you’re only using it a few. And more so, it is surprising to see fees range from $30 to $50 without a promise that information requested will actually be provided. You’re basically paying for the attempt, not success, of the effort.

But surprising and interesting becoming worrisome at the user’s intent.

Looking to find someone you’ve lost touch with? Perhaps. Using this to hire your next latex salesman? Bad, bad, bad idea. The article includes several examples of false positives, which are positively common for companies that do not use a reputable employment screening company. Ironic when no info is better than wrong info!

Have a great weekend everyone!

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Maintained in the USA? Aviation’s scary little secret

June 1, 2009

I suspect that most people are surprised to learn that not all maintenance performed on U.S. airliners is done by mechanics subject to drug and alcohol testing and 10-year background checks. How can that be? If mechanic is considered to be a safety-sensitive position, how can maintenance performed on U.S. airliners not be done by employees subject to drug and alcohol testing and background checks?
Where’s the loophole big enough to taxi an A380 through?

Click here for the full story.

The words above are not mine but I don’t disagree. Basically, the author states employee regulations which must be followed by domestic air carriers if an airplane is maintained inside the United States don’t always have to be followed if that airplane were maintained outside the United States. I too think many would be shocked if this were widely known. Conceivably, maintenance could be off shored and carriers could lower their costs accordingly. And this isn’t a good time to discuss cutting back on safety…

I will say this. Employment screening is a regulated industry. We do a lot of work for clients that work in regulated industries themselves, including aviation. So we are a company in a regulated industry serving clients in other regulated industries.

Aviation is a HEAVILY regulated industry. Creating and conducting a screening program for these clients is a completely different animal. And these clients, for the services they ask us to provide, are very diligent in their efforts. Dedicated to their profession and committed to safety.

But it is interesting to hear what regulations apply inside and which apparently do not transfer outside the United States. It’s an issue worth exploring, considering we find criminal records on approximately 20% of all applicants. It’s certainly a hole worth closing.

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Another company is in the news because a former employee allegedly found it easier to take clients’ money instead of investing it as promised.

Firm pays $2M for bad hire

Man accused of rape, embezzlement

http://www.bostonherald.com/business/general/view.bg?articleid=1174955

This employee allegedly had over $400,000 in debts before he was hired, a fact easily identified within seconds after running a credit report, which costs about the same as lunch at Applebee’s.

And a more comprehensive background check, one that includes education and employment verifications, a criminal records search, a motor vehicle report plus a credit check? Roughly a single day’s pay. If the new hire is a financial advisor handling millions of dollars of client assets, a background check probably costs the same as one hour of their salary.

We have seen more stories about embezzlement these days. My colleague blogged on another example just last week. It’s saddening but not surprising to see companies get burned because they do not background checks. And while there is FAR more awareness of the need to conduct employment screening compared to 10 years ago, many organizations still have a ways to go in terms of reducing their risk and evaluating potential damage.

Consider this company. It’s not only the out of pocket cost to investors this financial services firm has to contend with. There’s the hidden expense as well. Current and potential investors who may leave track marks sprinting in the other direction. When all is said and done, this will cost far more than $2 million dollars. It’s too bad so much money could have been saved by spending so little in advance.

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Et tu Dave Bing?

Published on 13 May 2009 by in Resume Verifications

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This is a sad post. My beloved Syracuse Orangemen were in the news recently, and not in a good way. It didn’t involve a horrific, last second loss, the kind that stays with you for 22 years. But it also didn’t involve the type of win you spend the next 22 remembering.

It’s about the best player ever to don the Orange uniform. One that went on to achieve hardwood honors at Syracuse, then the Detroit Pistons. He was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame, and turned that fame into fortune in the boardroom, starting a steel supply company that eventually became a manufacturing mecca of sorts in a downtrodden section of Detroit.

Recently, he ran for and was elected mayor of that city. And if there is such a thing as a living legend up on the Hill in Syracuse, it is none other than Dave Bing.

And now we find out that he too said he had a degree and didn’t?

Bing made false college degree claims

School records dispute graduation year, MBA for Detroit mayoral candidate

http://www.freep.com/article/20090311/NEWS01/903110308/

It’s important to note Bing DID quickly complete his remaining coursework and received his B.A. in 1995 once he was notified it wasn’t conferred back in 1966. So this isn’t a case where he’s been misstating his credentials for 40 plus years. While my love of all things Orange may blind me, I can understand the logic behind the B.A. “confusion.”  But claiming on a video to have an M.B.A. too?

This story originally broke in March. This article has a few comments from Bing.

I admit I was shocked to hear this. He is a community icon and revered in both cities. I still think of him as a legend for his contributions to both, on and off the court. Our research shows about 7% of all applicants claim a degree or diploma but don’t have one. I just never thought I’d hear Dave Bing’s name in that context!

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A caller to a recent NPR radio show suggested resumes go on the endangered species list. Several guests supported the caller, claiming Google and social media outlets like YouTube and Facebook were better ways to judge qualifications.

According to one guest, the staff of a U.S. Congressman appears to agree.

 

A 21st century guy

Blog entry: April 22, 2009, 10:12 am     |     Author: SCOTT SUTTELL

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, an up-and-coming Democrat from Niles, is a pretty modern guy. An anecdote about him on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” show Tuesday reinforces the point.

The show built off a Washington Post feature about spring cleaning that asked 10 writers to name institutions or people we’d be better off without.

A “Talk of the Nation” caller suggested the country would be a better place without resumes, which are so polished and formulaic that they tell employers nothing of value about an applicant.

One of the show’s guests, Ana Marie Cox, national correspondent for Air America, agreed and noted that at a recent event Rep. Ryan mentioned that he no longer accepts resumes from people who want to work in his office. Instead, according to Ms. Cox, the congressman requires job applicants to take a writing test and to submit a YouTube video about themselves.

Pretty great idea. For the record, Rep. Ryan on his web site posts some biographical information but no formal resume, and the home page features 35 YouTube videos on various topics.

 

Click the link below for the audio piece. The comments are around the 24 minute mark.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103327792

 

Now, it is important to note that our staff has not corroborated the hiring practices claimed in the article or the NPR piece. So this isn’t a commentary about a Congressional office’s hiring practice. But it’s an interesting concept.

Are resumes “”positioned” to make a candidate look good? Of course. And while I appreciate the novelty of the idea and embrace using technology to complement a hiring strategy, I obviously disagree. After all, how do you know if what the applicant says on YouTube or their Facebook and LinkedIn profile is accurate?

We find discrepancies on resumes about 55% of the time. Not all result in a client pulling a job offer. But many of them do. How many discrepancies would be found by watching a video online? Depending on where he or she worked, how many of you would be comfortable with that person in that position?

Next week in Las Vegas, employeescreenIQ will be at the SHRM Staffing Management Conference speaking about the dangers of using social networking sites as a pre-employment screening tool. If you will be there, we’d love you to stop by and add your .02.

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