Failed Background Checks

Failed Background Checks

Do background checks really work? Let’s take a moment and discuss this. There have been several high profile and publicized events where red flags were missed in background checks. The Wall Street Journal recently published an article that identified shortcomings in detecting an employee’s history of inappropriate behavior or misrepresentation, causing significant embarrassment to well known institutions. The article highlighted several recent events where executives at Yahoo, Veritas Software, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, as well as a number of university administrators and coaches, have been fired or forced to resign because they misrepresented their credentials. The list in this article is really just the tip of the iceberg.  Inappropriate behavior and misrepresentation is mainstream, both on a small and large scale, and in all aspects of society. Some of these situations go well beyond embarrassment, and extend into the security and safety of our employees, family and friends.

The above mentioned situations were subjected to some form of a background check that clearly didn’t work.  A background check that simply searches a couple of databases will, in most cases, not provide the totality of information required to make an accurate and informed decision on someone’s background. No one database holds all the relevant information required to makes the necessary comparisons, or index the tentacles of information that need to be examined. To be complete, an analytical process needs to occur along with some solid digging to ensure the source of the information is compared and determined reliable and accurate. Be cautious on using a company that simply uses one source of data. Technology has given employers and individuals an ability to authenticate someone’s background and afford some protection from treacherous behavior. With the right approach, a person’s reputation, patterns of behavior and associations can at times, be established.

How much background investigation is enough?

Would you make a significant investment with an individual you know nothing about?

The question then becomes how much research is enough? It all comes down to the amount of risk an individual or company faces when engaging with another person. Would you make a significant investment with an individual you know nothing about?  Would you hire and train someone that requires significant time and financial investment without considering a proper background investigation? It is ultimately your decision, but a $50 background check might not cut it.  Most companies have a bottom line and are not prepared to invest in a proper background investigation and therefore default to a criminal record or credit check.

Authenticating a person’s background is another issue that a simple background check can easily miss.  If it’s an obvious lie, then it will likely be detected through a simple search. However, people are smart. Technology evolves for both the good and bad. (more on this  later). It takes nothing to create a false resume or get someone to be your reference, defeating simple database checks. More disturbing is the creation of Internet companies designed to bury a person’s past indiscretions, or act as their references. The irony in all this is that a person will pay far more money to create a false resume or identity than an employer will pay to detect them.

Background investigation compared to background check

It is now a daily occurrence to witness tragedies including corporate and political embarrassments, financial loss, personal injuries and significant damage to one’s reputation. However, prior to a particular incident, the $50 background check left the employer, institution or individual with a false sense of security that they had completed the appropriate due diligence process. Taking into account salary, fees, training and hiring/firing costs along with starting the recruitment process all over again, the $50 background check may be a little under funded.

It takes skill and ability to examine the layers of data held on the Internet and ensure the information is accurate. A “Google” background check is not a background investigation

A comprehensive background investigation, the type of “background check” we conduct at Fathom Research Group, is very different than a background check that simply looks at a couple of databases. On this website, you’ll see us refer to background checks, but only because the public doesn’t differentiate. Rest assured that the service we provide is an investigation, and not a cursory search. Make sure you know what you are getting and risk manage your situation. It takes skill and ability to examine the layers of data held on the Internet and ensure the information is accurate.  A “Google” background check is not a background investigation and is incomplete, leading to a false sense of security.  We understand everyone has a bottom line in investing on proper background investigation. Following an investigative critical path can reduce cost and get the information you need without venturing on a wild goose chase. We can look at your unique situation, and put something together that will customize your needs that is scalable to whatever potential risk you face.  In the end, a simple background check is just what it says…simple…and will likely fail.

About the Author

Pat Fogarty is a former organized crime investigator now leading Internet research and investigations at Fathom Research Group. Read more about Pat.