Mergers and Acquisitions Happen: A Guide to Proper Background Screening

Nick Fishman

I had a great meeting with a  potential new client yesterday and one of the topics that came up was what they should do as far as background checks were concerned with the employees of an organization they just acquired.  I thought this was a great topic to drill down on because let’s face it, there is always a great deal of mergers and acquisitions activity in today’s economy.  And furthermore, there is no road map for human resource professionals in this regard.

That said, I came up with the following checklist of employment screening questions that should be asked:

  • Did the company conduct background checks on their employees? If no, you’ll probably want to screen these folks immediately using the same criteria you currently use on your job applicants.  Don’t forget to obtain signed releases.
  • Did the company have signed authorization to conduct the checks and were the forms legally compliant? If no, you might want to schedule some time with your friendly employment attorney.
  • Were checks run on all employees or just those in specific positions? If all employees, move to the next question.  If not, you might consider screening those that would have otherwise been screened if you would have hired them.
  • What type of checks were conducted? Remember, not all background checks are created equal.  The term “background check” can mean different things to different people.
  • What were their hiring parameters for determining who could be hired and who could not? This is a biggie.  Let’s say that the acquired company had looser standards then you have.  It doesn’t mean that you should immediately terminate those that wouldn’t have qualified if you were hiring them.  After all, if these people have a known track record, perhaps that is more important than past transgressions.

Okay, so we’ve asked some of the important questions and many organizations will have different answers.

Here’s some advice.

In my opinion, if similar background checks were conducted on these employees and you have access to the results, you will definitely want to examine them to make sure these folks meet your employment standards.  But again, remember that not meeting your standards should not translate to immediate termination.  Now that these folks have a track record, perhaps past missteps should not be used against them.

If background checks were not conducted or if your screening criteria is more encompassing, you should consider re-screening these employees.  Which leads to another piece of advice.  Should you choose to screen these folks again, you need to determine if you need to obtain new consent or if consent forms were previously signed, are they acceptable.

Lastly, it if you do plan to re-screen, make sure to adhere to the same candidate experience you would for new employees.  Background checks are scary; even when the person has nothing to hide.  Make sure they have a firm understand for what you are looking for and why.  Remember, these are people that you probably want to retain.  Don’t give them a reason to seek employment elsewhere.

Nick Fishman
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Nick Fishman

Nick Fishman is the co-founder of EmployeeScreenIQ, a leading, global employment background screening provider, and serves as the company’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. He pioneered the creation of EmployeeScreen University, the #1 educational resource on employment background checks for human resources, security and risk management professionals. A recognized industry expert, Nick is a frequent author, presenter and contributor to the news media. Nick is also a licensed private investigator in the states of Ohio and Texas.
Nick Fishman
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