Before you hire someone, do an instant background check. From their resume, they may appear completely qualified. Their references may be solid. They may even interview well. However, their resume and interview do not disclose past criminal behavior. Any references they provide are likely biased.

Let me share a sad story regarding a mistake I made hiring a young woman right out of college. She was an honor student. She interviewed well. She appeared qualified for the entry-level position in my company. I mistakenly thought she was too young and clean cut to have a criminal record. I went forward and made the employment offer without doing an instant background check. I can honestly say it was one of the biggest mistakes in my business career. I learned the hard way that she was an alcoholic. By the hard way, I mean her attendance was spotty, which forced me to put her on probation. Then, she suddenly did not show up for work. That is when I found out she was in jail, arrested for a DUI (i.e., driving under the influence). Finally, the alarm bells went off, and I did a background check. I found that she had a prior DUI conviction, one in which people were seriously hurt. Although I dealt with the situation in a professional manner, it still ended up costing me over $50,000+ in lost revenue. Had I done an instant background check before extending an employment offer, her DUI record would have set off alarm bells. I likely would have offered the position to another candidate. After she left my company, she quickly found work at another company, which was a former client. That job lasted about six months before they let her go. She was able to find work with another company, this time one of our competitors. That job lasted less than six months. As far as I know today, she is out of work and lives on the street. This sad but true story illustrates that background checks are critical.

Today, I even do background checks on clients, especially those out of state and unknown to me. That may sound odd, but it is a solid business strategy. It prevents getting involved with individuals with criminal backgrounds and shady business practices. The reputation of clients reflects on your business. In addition, shady clients may not pay their bills. Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way also.

Therefore, before hiring or contracting to do business, doing a background check is critical. However, only do background checks using reputable services. It is important to have confidence that the information is valid and complete. If you do receive adverse information, use it carefully. Consider it an important data point, but be mindful that:

  1. There may be mitigating circumstances
  2. The data may be incomplete or  erroneous

From my viewpoint, though, the pros of doing a background check outweigh the cons. Here are some services for your consideration:

Before applying for a new job, I also think it is a good practice to run a background check on yourself. Doing so enables you to see exactly what employers see. You can add context to past records, fix mistakes, and be in control of your background information. It is similar to checking your own credit score to assure it is error free. In addition, if the background check returns valid adverse information, you can position it in the best light possible during the interview. Employers know no one is perfect. They will appreciate your honesty. In this way, you can turn a negative into a positive. For checking your own background, I recommend Intelius Background Report. This service is comprehensive and includes, when available, a criminal background check, marriage/divorce records, lawsuits, liens, bankruptcies, property records, an address search, phone numbers, relatives and neighbors, all matching people search results. Click here to explore Intelius Background Report.

Obviously, a background check is a report on an individual that can include criminal history, financial history, education history, public records, or a combination of these things. With a thorough background check, you can get a better picture of an individual’s past and patterns. A background check should play a critical role during the employment process and potentially when acquiring new clients. I learned this the hard way. I sincerely hope you can benefit from my experience. 

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