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Personal Background Checks


Another summer work week is in the books, so that only means one thing: It’s time for TWIB Notes (This Week in Background Checks).  Okay fine, it’s also a sign that if you haven’t noticed the summer is quickly creeping away that you better get out and enjoy it while there’s still time. With that in mind, I’m going short and sweet with this installment.

From our Blog:

Trooper Investigated For Running Unauthorized Background Checks – Can you believe someone would abuse their privleges with a state criminal records database?  Okay, don’t answer that.

Ten Tall Tales Told on a Resume (from CareerBuilder)- Seems lying on your resume is all the rage these days!

Background Checks at the Olympics – A young and good looking man’s (me) recollections of the Centennial Olympic Park Bombing.

From employeescreen University:

Article by employeescreenIQ’s Rob Thomson on how employers should handle adverse information found on background checks

Next week.  My now-annual lamenting of my oldest daughter starting school (1st grade now.  I’m sure I have another rant in me on the background checks performed in our schools).  We also will be releasing our latest version of The Verifier, our Quarterly Newsletter (click here for a sneak peek).

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This article does not focus on background checks.  It does however give great tips to hiring professionals on how to deter the applicant from lying to you.


Dr. Michael Mercer

You can use pre-employment tests, interview tricks and more to uncover if a job applicant is lying to you or embellishing the truth.

Question: Did you ever have a job applicant lie to you or, to be charitable, embellish the truth?

Answer: You probably answered, “Yes.”

This is important. In my third book, “Hire the Best and Avoid the Rest,” I often have been quoted as writing, “Whatever behavior you see from an applicant in the screening process is likely the best behavior you will see from that person.” So, if an applicant lies on your tests, interviews and forms, that person also may be dishonest in work he or she does, if you hire the person.

But, don´t worry. Reason: I will reveal to you methods you can use to

a. discover if an applicant lied to you

b. make an applicant hesitant to lie to you


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employeescreenIQ’s Rob Thomson just wrote a great article which we published on employeescreen University entitled, “Consumer Reports: How Should Potential Adverse Information Factor in My Hiring Decision”.  This information can be helpful for organizations who are uncertain how to use adverse information found on a background check.  See excerpt from the article below:

Adverse information in a consumer report could be considered anything that contradicts information the applicant has provided during the application/interview process, or anything negative that turns up in the course of looking into the applicant’s background. It may be as simple and innocuous as misstating dates of employment in a previous job, or as serious as a history of violent felony convictions. There is a broad spectrum of potentially adverse information, so it is important to give some thought as to how much weight should be assigned to different types of adverse information in your hiring decision. Adverse information can be considered using the following questions:

  • How serious is the discrepancy?
  • Is it related to the duties/responsibilities the applicant will be performing?
  • How long ago did it happen?
  • Is there a pattern of discrepancies?
  • If you choose to ask the applicant directly about adverse information, do they offer a reasonable and verifiable explanation for the discrepancy?

There can and will be borderline scenarios where you want to hire someone who really stands out as the best candidate, but they have a discrepancy in their past for which you have previously denied employment to another candidate. In these cases it is important to document why you may have chosen to hire one applicant with a specific type of adverse history and not another with the same. Let’s use an example: last year you hired a file clerk and the background check revealed a DUI conviction from 9 years ago. A check of the file today reveals that the applicant otherwise had a clean record and in all other respects was the most qualified for the job. While most would consider a DUI a serious driving offense, the job involves no driving, it happened long enough ago that the applicant has established and maintained a responsible history since, and there are no other discrepancies to suggest a pattern. Given these factors, you chose to ask the applicant for details about the incident, and the file is documented that you were impressed with the community service and self-improvement activities the applicant initiated as a direct result of the incident. Another candidate, when asked, may have provided no evidence of having taken responsibility for their action and was not hired (obviously, this should be documented as well).

Click here to view the full article . . .

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Talk about a big no-no!

It’s common knowledge in the screening industry that there must be a permissible purpose to run a background check on someone and that someone must sign a release form allowing the check to take place.  One can’t just check out someone else’s background because they are curious or want to try to use the information they find for personal reasons.  Obviously this law enforcement official missed that day in training class and has landed himself in all kinds of trouble.

Trooper Investigated For Running Unauthorized Checks

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A state trooper is being investigated for allegedly running unauthorized criminal background checks.

Lieutenant Ronnie Shirley is accused of running the checks on private citizens and state employees.

Investigators are trying to determine if Shirley sought private information for political reasons.

Shirley remains at work during the investigation, but he has been stripped of his computer access to the law enforcement database known as the Criminal justice Portal.

“This particular portal has criminal background checks,” said former prosecutor David Raybin. “It has confidential information about criminal investigations.”

Raybin helped create the site.

“I worked on setting up this portal and I am outraged that it’s being used inappropriately,” he said.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol is investigating if Shirley accessed the site to dig up dirt on folks in the political arena.

“People can use it to blackmail each other with, investigate each other, find out things in investigations that can embarrass people. And in a political campaign it can be used in an inappropriate way,” Raybin said.

Shirley has made headlines in 2004. An investigation found he helped get a speeding ticket dismissed for Dave Cooley, then a top aide to Governor Phil Bredesen.

Some now wonder if the THP should be investigating one of their own.

“If members of the THP are accessing this inappropriately, I would suggest the attorney general get involved in this, the district attorney, and the TBI,” Raybin said.

The THP has refused to identify the subjects of Shirley’s background checks.

However, NewsChannel 5 has learned that prominent Republican Bob Eckerman could possibly be one of the targets. In an email Wednesday, the THP said that it would neither confirm nor deny if that was true.

It could take up to three more weeks for the THP to wrap complete its investigation. The findings will then be turned over to a district attorney to review.

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The moral of this story; Hiring managers will do background checks and uncover resume lies!

Résumés are a critical part of any job search. They are the most effective marketing tool any of us have about who we are and what we can do. And all of us want our résumé to be the best possible representation of our work.

But some workers turn their résumés into a work of fiction instead of a representation of fact. A survey of hiring managers and workers looked at the tall tales and bold lies used on résumés.

Story Highlights:

  • Many job applicants get too creative on resumes, making false claims
  • Highest rate of resume dishonesty reported in hospitality industry
  • College attendance, graduation is easy to verify; don’t claim degree not earned
  • Most companies disqualified candidates after discovering their dishonest

Here are the 10 most outrageous whoppers, as reported by hiring managers:

1. Candidate claimed to be a member of the Kennedy family

2. Applicant invented a school that did not exist

3. Job seeker submitted a résumé with someone else’s photo inserted into the document

4. Candidate claimed to be a member of Mensa
Don’t Miss

5. Applicant claimed to have worked for the hiring manager before, but never had

6. Job seeker claimed to be the CEO of a company when he was an hourly employee

7. Candidate listed military experience dating back to before he was born

8. Job seeker included samples of work, which were actually those of the interviewer

9. Applicant claimed to be Hispanic when he was 100 percent Caucasian

10. Candidate claimed to have been a professional baseball player

Modifying your résumé is a lot like airbrushing a photo, and many of us may have made minor tweaks to our résumés. You may have revised a job title that sounded uninspiring or omitted a hellish work experience from your list.


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On a hot Atlanta summer night on July 27, 1996 at approximately 1 am, I was walking out of Centennial Olympic Park having enjoyed a unique Olympic experience.  I was a young kid making my way in the sports marketing industry and my company put me on loan to McDonald’s Corporation to aid them in their marketing efforts at the Olympics.  It was one of the coolest experiences of my life.  Starting in January of that year, I was sent down to Atlanta once a month to learn about the venues where McDonald’s would be offering food service.  Everything from the Olympic Village to various Olympic venues.  All I had to do was check a couple venues each day to make sure that everything looked good (signage, marketing assets, etc.).  In return, I had free reign of the place and was given tickets to some great events including the Closing Ceremonies, the gold medal basketball game between Team USA and Lithuania, Michael Johnson’s gold medal 200 meter run and Carl Lewis’ gold medal long jump to name a few.

In May or June of that year, my trip to Atlanta had me visiting ACOG (Atlanta Committee of the Olympic Games) headquarters so that I could be properly credentialed in order to gain access to these venues.  I filled out a questionnaire, provided some information about myself and was fingerprinted.  I was told a background check would be performed before a credential could be issued.  Sounded cool.  I wondered what exactly they were checking, but didn’t give it a second thought.  Someone mentioned that it went through the FBI and the Secret Service.  Who knows?  Little did I know that this concept of a background check would play a large role in my professional life just a few years later.

Anyway, fast forward to the day of the 27th, my first of 10 days in Atlanta.  I went straight from the airport to the Olympic Village.  All I had to do, was flash my newly issued credential to get in. I was on “Cloud 9″ and realized that this experience was one the few people would ever have.  Some other day, I’ll bore you with all the details of my Olympic experience.

At approximately 1:20 am as I was walking into my hotel, I thought I heard thunder.  We all know what happened next. I was awakened by my boss at around 2:30 am wondering if I was okay.  Of course, I was okay.  He told me to look out my window.  What a war zone!  Over the next several days, we experienced bomb threats and hotel evacuations.  Today, in this post 9-11 era the whole ordeal seems benign.

To the point.  The U.S. government performed what I hope was a thorough background check on me and all others needing access before providing credentials to the various restricted areas.  I have no idea how thorough the checks were, but they got lucky in that the incident that occurred took place outside of a restricted area.  As the summer games go on in Beijing, I wonder what type of background checks they have performed to ensure that everyone remains safe.  With people from all over the world, I am hopeful that they performed proper due diligence.

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These types of incidents always infuriate me; “we did a background check!”  What type of background check did you do? I can call one reference, tell you I checked their background and call it a day.  Well it appears that in this story they did a bit more than that but still failed to do it properly.

State law gives private schools the authority to require a prospective employee to undergo a background check. However, private schools aren’t required to conduct that sort of screening, unlike a public school.

Brown’s troubles in Concrete wouldn’t have shown up on a state criminal background check because he was never charged with a crime.

A statewide background check was done and nothing was found.  Even a thorough County search would not have shown the incident because nothing was filed.  However, did they call enough references? Did they verify work history with supervisors? Simply saying they did a background check falls short of a reliable explanation.  I know there are limits to what you can provide and obtain. When it comes to protecting students and children I argue the limits only hurt the kids!

Highland Christian Schools’ attorney reverses remarks

By Kaitlin Manry and Diana Hefley

ARLINGTON — It’s now unclear how much members of the Highland Christian Schools board knew about Mark Brown’s past when they hired him as principal in 2006.

Brown is awaiting trial for allegedly raping a student inside Highland Christian Schools in Arlington.

Brett Nagle, the school board’s attorney, on Monday reversed statements he made last week that the board knew Brown had been investigated for sexual misconduct at Concrete High School before hiring him.

“They did a background check prior to hiring Mr. Brown,” Nagle said Monday. “They spoke to references of his previous employers. They had no information that he had ever been accused of any sexual misconduct when they hired him.”

Brown is accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old Highland student at school after he allegedly encouraged her to run away from home. Investigators found nearly 700 text messages between the two from May 21 to June 13, court documents said.

The girl and her family obtained a no-contact order against the former principal on June 24. Brown was arrested July 9 for investigation of harboring the girl at school.

The school board found out about the allegation against Highland’s top administrator on July 14, Nagle said.

It wasn’t until he was charged with third-degree child rape in late July that Brown was placed on administrative leave at Highland. Nagle said the board didn’t take action sooner because it didn’t have enough information about the harboring allegation.

Brown came to the private Christian school after he lost his previous job as a wrestling coach at Concrete High School in Skagit County. He was investigated there after reports of an inappropriate sexual relationship with a female student.


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First, we have the Justice Department.  Now, the Department of Homeland Security.  Who will be next?  Place your bets!

By the way Department of Homeland Security personnel – forget Google in your background screening process.  A simple employment verification would have provided you with all of the information you needed know in order to avoid this obvious blunder.

Homeland Security’s Hiring Procedure Comes Under Fire

MINNEAPOLIS – One week after ousting disgraced Minnesota transportation official Sonia Pitt from the job she found at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the massive federal agency has taken a new step to beef up its vetting of potential hires.

From now on, more job candidates will have their backgrounds searched on Google.

The policy change, put forth by Kip Hawley, the top administrator of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration, is one among several signs that TSA’s admitted blunder in hiring Pitt on the heels of her scandalous firing from the Minnesota Department of Transportation has become a serious issue in Washington.

The incident is raising fresh questions about the effectiveness of Homeland Security, which has been dogged by recurring questions of competency since it was created in the spring of 2003 to protect the country from a repeat of sophisticated terrorist attacks.

Members of Congress and a watchdog group say they are alarmed by the hiring of Pitt, who had been fired in November from her executive-level emergency response job at MnDOT.

The 44-year-old Red Wing, Minn., resident failed to return for 10 days from an unauthorized state-paid trip to Washington during the aftermath of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse.

MnDOT said she misspent $26,400 in state funds and made 94 hours of personal calls from her state-paid cell phone to a Federal Highway Administration official with whom she had a relationship.

Homeland Security officials are now investigating why Pitt continued to hold a federal security clearance after her MnDOT dismissal, whether her TSA application was complete and truthful, and whether cronyism or corruption was involved in her hiring.

Click here to read the rest of the article

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California has always been years ahead of other states when it comes to protecting employee rights.  Some of their mandates are outright scary for employers….but in the end everyone complies.  The concepts are usually very simple, their execution is sometimes rather difficult.  This one is easy; employers must provide a safe working environment for their employees.  Step number one, do a background check.  Not knowing who your employees are is a recipe for disaster.  These workplace mandates are the closest thing to a law requiring background checks and employment screening we have ever seen! (Shameless plug – See our recent white paper on workplace violence)

Violence prevention is the law

California employers are legally required to provide a safe and healthful work environment for their employees.

As part of their efforts to maintain such an environment, employers should establish a workplace violence prevention policy that educates employees on the illegality of acts of violence or threats of violence against employees in the workplace. The policy should also explain what constitutes unacceptable behavior and consequences for such behavior. One of the most important elements in any prevention plan is a zero-tolerance policy for threats, harassment, intimidation, violent acts and weapons possession.

If, in spite of all efforts to provide a safe and healthful workplace, an employee becomes a victim of unlawful violence or credible threats of violence while at work, the employee can request the employer to obtain a temporary restraining order on his or her behalf to protect the employee from the violent person.

The California Code of Civil Procedure offers the following definitions in this situation:

“Unlawful violence” is any assault, battery or stalking, as defined in the California Penal Code.

“Credible threat of violence” is a knowing and willful statement or course of conduct that would place a reasonable person in fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family, and which serves no legitimate purpose.

“Course of conduct” is a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however short, that show consistent purpose, including following or stalking an employee to or from work; entering the workplace; following an employee during hours of employment; making telephone calls to an employee; or sending correspondence to an employee by any means, including, but not limited to, the use of the public or private mails, interoffice mail, fax, or computer e-mail.

In order to obtain a restraining order, the acts or threats of violence must be reasonably likely to be carried out, or have been carried out, in the workplace; however, they need not be committed by a co-worker. Anyone who acts against or threatens an employee in the workplace is in violation of the law and can be subject to a restraining order.


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This is very exciting news for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).  At this year’s SHRM conference we had the pleasure of doing a podcast with interim CEO China Miner Gorman.  Next year we hope to interview Mr. O’Neil.

SHRM Names Laurence O’Neil New President and CEO

In a major advance of its strategic initiatives, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) on Aug. 11 announced the selection of Laurence (Lon) G. O’Neil as president and chief executive officer.

O’Neil, who had been senior vice president and chief human resources officer at Kaiser Permanente, will take the helm on Oct. 1, 2008, of the world’s largest human resource management association representing more than 245,000 professionals in 130 countries.

SHRM’s Board of Directors unanimously chose O’Neil after a rigorous, six-month national search that included a pool of more than 400 potential candidates. He has held executive-level human resources and corporate positions at profit and not-for-profit organizations, both in the United States and overseas.

“Lon brings extensive HR, corporate and international experience to our organization,” said Janet N. Parker, SPHR, chair of the SHRM Board of Directors and executive vice president for human resources at Regions Financial Corp in Birmingham, Ala. “His impressive record of achievement and innovation will be an asset to SHRM’s strategic growth and ongoing service to our members. We welcome his leadership as the Society and the profession continue to expand their influence.”


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