Security primer: Outsourcing employee background checks

What companies need to know when hiring a screening solutions firm


For security directors and company executives, protecting a company’s people and assets encompasses the implementation of a wide variety of different solutions. For some this might be the addition of video surveillance or an employee card-based ID system. Still for others it might involve the use of information security policies to protect company data. -

Perhaps overlooked by some security directors, however, is the need to make sure the people working for the organization are honest, safe and legally qualified to work. One of the best ways that companies can make sure that its employees are on the “up and up” is to conduct background screenings on new employees in sensitive positions. More and more often, corporations turn to companies that specialize in such background screenings. However, before selecting a screening firm, companies must make sure the screening firm has the necessary tools at its disposal to ensure that the information about the potential hire is both timely and accurate.

According to Jim Collins, president of HR Plus, a division of AlliedBarton which conducts background screenings, one of the first recommendations he makes to clients is to consult with an expert in their industry to examine what their risks are. Knowing the company’s overall risk exposure tells both the security director and the screening firm what they need to look for when screening new hires.

“They really have to understand what their risk is first. Once they understand that piece of it, they can come to a background screening company or if the background screening company has an industry expert… we can tell them what to use, what package and searches to use to make it a better option for them to hire the correct person,” Collins said.

Collins added that just as important as an initial screening is to consider doing a follow-up check on employees. He said that some companies should even consider an annual check.

“All too often, companies are very careful about who they hire, but once they hire somebody, they never recheck that individual for years, if at all,” Collins said.

Bill Whitford, senior vice president and general manager of workplace solutions for LexisNexis owned ChoicePoint, a background screening firm based in Alpharetta, Ga., suggests that businesses do some checking themselves before hiring a screening firm. Whitford says that a company needs to make sure that the screening firm is reputable and has good references. He added that it’s also important to understand what its security and privacy policies are (i.e. how is their data warehoused and maintained), and whether the screening firm is financially stable.

What to check when checking a background

In addition to determining if an employee is ethically qualified to fill a vacant position, companies must also take steps to determine if a person is even legally able to work.

Former Immigration and Naturalization Service Special Agent Neville Cramer says that many organizations either fail to adequately check or outright ignore the immigration status of an employee. Not checking, said Cramer, exposes a company to substantial risks and possibly compliance and liability issues.

Unlike many positions held by illegal immigrants in industries such as farming and landscaping that are considered to have a low security risk, Cramer said that illegal immigrants are often hired to fill such positions as security guards and cleaning crews, which can give them “unfettered access” to sensitive information. To avoid such a liability, Cramer, who now runs a security consulting firm in his home state of Arizona, advises companies to use the Department of Homeland Security’s E-Verify system.

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