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Oct 12
2015

Background Checks

Posted by: Steve Marr

Tagged in: Untagged 

Someone asked if they should require background checks on prospective employees. My short answer was that background checks are important if you value honesty and reliability. When you can validate a person’s past because you know them well, a background check may not serve a good purpose. Other times, you need the services of an outside vender.

 

For example, most churches run a background check before placing a person in a responsible children’s ministry position.  If you hire a person to drive the company truck or car, you want to be sure they have a good driving record.  I recall one person who said they had an excellent driving record, but had six tickets over the past year.  We canceled the hire because of the tickets and the dishonesty.

Be careful to comply with federal and state requirements. Understand what may and may not be used in a background check. Generally, when a person signs an employment application they are giving permission for a check. Use an application form in compliance with your local laws.

Credit checks are a part of the hiring process many companies use. The perspective is that if someone is irresponsible with personal finances, they may be irresponsible on the job.  I would be reluctant to make someone responsible for money in a job who as a poor credit history. I don’t want someone tempted to steal because of personal financial pressures. Also, I would consider the credit background when hiring someone for a responsible senior position.  Otherwise, I figure that a person’s finances are their own business.

Criminal backgrounds are a different matter.  Each business person needs to decide when a past felony or misdemeanor conviction is an issue. I would not make a person responsible for finances in any fiduciary capacity with a conviction for theft.  Nor would I place someone convicted of child molestation in a children’s nursery.  Think through the balance between granting mercy and second chances with the need to protect the business and your customers. For example, a person working on outside landscaping who is well supervised may pose little risk while a person cleaning homes may pose a larger risk. A person with several assault convictions is not the best person to work through customer disputes.

I knew a CEO of a large firm in Detroit who supplied design and engineering services to manufacturing companies.  The cost of training was high, around $60,000 each in 1990. However, when trained; the workers were easily hired by other firms because of the training.  “Ralph,” the CEO, worked with the state prison system to train inmates prior to release and offer them jobs after they completed their sentence. Ralph believed that their intense training resulted in low risk, and others would be inclined not to offer them jobs.
I admit that when Christ has transformed a person, I am inclined to give them a break. I know a drywall installer who hires people when released from jail. He does new construction and provides adequate supervision.  His business has helped give these folks a chance to become productive. He also shares the Gospel with them.  

We cannot always know who we should trust. Scripture shares Judas’ example.  “He was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.” (John 12:6b, NIV) Background checks are about protecting your business and your customers. Don’t overlook them.

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