Feb 8, 2007

On Checking Backgrounds and Individual Privacy

As a former business owner, I understand full well the importance of conducting background checks on individuals you might consider employing. At the same time, I have some reservations about the degree to which personal information has become a commodity.

I once hired a manager for one of my businesses who talked one hell of a game in the interview. He claimed to be a Desert Storm vet, that he had seen people die in combat, and that he was glad to be back in the States, where he could pursue employment that was less dangerous.

Both my wife and I were quite impressed with this ex-soldier, and we hired him on the spot.

Bad move.

He neglected to tell me a few things, like the fact that he was a cokehead, that he'd been fired from more jobs that he could count, and that he had quite a lengthy arrest record. It took several months - and at least several thousand dollars in embezzled funds - before I learned the hard way that I had hired a first class con artist.

And the only reason I started looking more closely at this individual was that a fellow employee casually mentioned that they had seen him pocket a relatively insignificant trinket on the way out of my office. He is now, by the way, in an Ohio jail for - surprise! - embezzlement from an employer after me.

If you are in a position to hire people for your company, consider the Instant Background Checks services offered EasyBackgroundChecks.com, which sponsored this post. The money you spend up front to weed out problems might save you hundreds of times more in the long run.

I also had another "trusted" employee who bilked my company out of several thousand dollars. This young man was so convincing I even hired him once to paint the picket fence at my house. Through under-ringing of sales, he snagged over $1,000 one weekend, although his greed was what sank him, as he might have stayed under the radar if he just kept nickel - and - diming me.

This dishonest employee, too, might have been avoided had I taken advantage of the services of a background check firm.

Still, we live in an age when - for just a small amount of money - people can learn a great deal about you in an instant, and I am not sure what this bodes for the future. Especially of concern is the confidentiality of medical records, which are increasingly finding themselves in the marketplace of commodified information.


Anonymous said...

Horror story time. When I managed an Ina nd Out we had an assistant manager with a bad crack habit. Before they hauled her away in cuffs we figure she hit the company for $20K in 3 months.

Do said...

I used to trust my instincts when dealing with people. Now I trust a background check.

We use them to screen tenants for our rental properties. While it can't tell you if someone has bad drug habits that they haven't been busted for yet, it can tell you if there is a trend toward not paying bills, changing addresses frequently, utility shutoffs, etc. After I review the material I make an informed decision as to whether they will make a good tenant.

historymike said...

(shuddering at the anonymous horror story)

historymike said...

Good call on checking tenants, Do.

My one experience as the owner of a rental property soured me on the business. I learned the hard way not to trust tenants, especially when they fall behind on the rent. I once lost a couple thousand dollars by being a nice guy to a tenant who fell behind on the payments, and threw a lot of good money after bad in the process.

Hooda Thunkit said...

In the current environment it is foolish not to check.

Before I closed up my retail business and before I ever had a computer, I could surely have benefited from such a service ;-)

Peahippo said...

Let me get this straight, Mike:

You confirmed that for EVERY employee you hired, there was a 1:1 correlation between a prior legal history and current illegal behavior?

OR, did you just notice that for 2 thieves, they just happened to have criminal backgrounds?

In other words:

How many employees have you seen that had criminal backgrounds that also were worthy employees?

We must also consider that there are a disproportionate number of squirrels in Toledo who are looking to get a nut. Toledo's population is growing ever poorer, and such a population tends to fill up with criminals -- which becomes more true with time since people summarily refuse to hire them on the basis of background checks, causing their incomes to fall, leading to poverty. Employers in Toledo can only be faced with similarly increasing instances of felons looking to work for them.

(In that light, what exactly are we trying to do, here, then? Are we really predicting, or are we merely enforcing?)

historymike said...

Good points, Peahippo.

(taking off ex-employer hat and putting on civil libertarian hat)

And we might add the number of people getting criminal records over controlled substance laws. The US has 5% of the world's population and 25% of the world's incarcerated poulation.