The Cost of Getting it Wrong

Jul 26 / James Ellender
Undertaking background checks, screening or vetting on current and potential employees is a smart move for any organisation. It is one measure to help mitigate against insider threats, and also ensure the person you are employing has the required skills, attributes and abilities.

Think of the film called “Catch Me If You Can” (2002) featuring Tom Hanks and Leonardo Di Caprio, which followed the real life escapades of Frank Abagnale who travelled the US posing as a pilot. Fast forward now 40 years on and in 2022 you have a commercial pilot being sentenced to 12 month’s imprisonment on four counts of fraud. Those charges include fabricating references, making false entries, and altering entries in his pilot's logbook in order to obtain or retain employment with BA CityFlyer. There lies the proof that screening and vetting is a necessity not a nicety.

The Challenges faced with employee screening, background checks and vetting.


There are various inherent risks with adopting a robust mechanism to check each and every person. We have compiled a reference guide to assist you in determining what is the right type of background check for your organisation.


1.     Firstly consider you goal and current processes, then you can decide which product or service suits your need.


Not one shoe fits all!  

Before you embark on performing a background check or adopting a program for screening you need to be clear what your goals are. Some roles require a higher level of employee due diligence than others, this could be due to their levels of responsibility or their unrestricted access to ‘sensitive’ material. Other positions could just warrant social media checks to ensure inflammatory or prejudice behaviour is not endorsed, liked or encouraged.

Mostly vetting or screening is a proactive process however it might become a reactive process if you haven’t established the correct vetting for your business or situation or encounter an unexpected event.

What we mean by that is: 
 
Proactive Screening/Vetting - Every new employee undergoes a screening or vetting process and current employees are subject to periodic vetting to ensure their personal situations, views and opinions have not changed or could bring the organisation into disrepute.  

Reactive Screening/Vetting - Normally this in response to a certain situation or event that has had an extreme adverse effect on the organisation.  “The Fox in the Chicken Coop” is the perfect analogy where the business might have had a bad actor employed or a number of data breaches relating to a particular department, it has now been decided that the current systems aren’t fit for purpose so the policy of vetting or screening will be revised.
2. How deep do you want to go with your checks and what information do you want?

Most employee background check companies will offer differing levels of reports based upon your goals. Behavioural Cues offer 3 tiers of reports however we are commonly asked to create a bespoke report for clients, or for their candidate positions based upon the specific role requirements. We would undertake an exploration with the client to ensure we have a report that is fit for purpose.

The more detailed the check the more costly the service is, hence there is probably little point conducting detailed credit checks for school teachers however a criminal records check would be more suitable as the role involved teaching children.

Ask yourself some of these questions:

Are we looking to verify that the employment and educational history which has been written on their CV?


Research suggests*:

  • Almost 40% of UK employees have lied on their CV at some stage in their professional career, according to a new survey by SavoyStewart.co.uk.
  • Some 39% of respondents admitted to lying about something on their CV and 94% said they would do so again, in the survey of 2,315 workers across a range of sectors.
  • Out of those who had lied, 79% said they had got the job they were applying for.
  • The most common lies told on CVs were to do with the candidate’s skills, such as knowledge of certain types of software, with 34% admitting to fibbing about their skillset.
  • The second most common lies were about work experience, with 31% bending the truth. Some 29% of employees have lied about their personality traits such as how organised they are and 21% have lied about their education.


Do we want to verify their identity?


  • You might want to do this if the role they are performing is a sensitive position where commercial intelligence could be disclosed, valuable IP lost or there is a high risk that the role could assist fraud being committed against your customers or business.

 

Are criminal records checks required or even a credit reference enquiry?


  • If so what are the thresholds of expectance? Any criminal misdemeanours, or likewise one missed payment on their credit card or excessive debt relative to their income but all payments are made on time.

 

What does social media say about the person?


  • Social media is a great assessment tool to allow you to see how the employee conducts and moderates their behaviour in their personal lives, and if they have strong opinions, views or association to any extreme groups and prejudices.


3. Reference Checks….and their worth!  

If an employer wants to get rid of a bad employee they may still give them a good reference! This is a statement we hear a lot when conducting reference checks on behalf of clients. That is not to say reference checks are not needed.  

Constructing the questions for a reference check in the correct manner may well give you the answers you want. This could be to verify salary, tenure, position, role, skills and attributes. A lot of the time reference checks are just seen as part of the process of recruitment however cleverly crafted reference questions can provide invaluable information.  

4. Integrity, Teamwork and Bad Leavers  

How do really understand if what the candidate is saying is true. To be frank there are not many ways, as we are not mind readers and generally if a candidate has applied for a job and is being interviewed they probably want it…..perhaps at any cost.   

Behavioural Cues considers Layered Voice Analysis (LVA) as the answer to genuinely understand what a candidate truly and really believes.   

Next time ask your candidate “Would you old employer reemploy you in your previous role”. Without a doubt the answer is yes, if this response was monitored by LVA  technology you will see if they genuinely believe the statement they just made. Clever, or not?  

5. Misinformation  

Misinformation can have devastating effects on employees as they might lose the opportunity to work in an organisation if they have been incorrectly identified or associated as being someone else. A significant importance should be placed on cross referencing exact name spellings, date of births, locations or other information to ensure you have identified the correct candidate. Imagine if you were misidentified as having a criminal record, supporting extremism or even as a sex offender. These examples have all happened and people either did not get the job or were subsequently dismissed from their current employer.  

With the rise in the use of AI, automation and mass data collection it creates more opportunities for background screening companies or employers to verify the past of a potential employee. However there is a more inherent risk that more data creates more opportunity for error as the increase in data you have to sift through will inevitably mean that more can be misinterpreted.        

4. Cost versus results  

Many providers offer employee screening, background checks, and vetting however unless clear goals are set the results can be limited or too narrow, or to the extreme -the process of vetting because cost prohibitive.   
In a recent case an employer wanted 100’s of employees mass screened for association to a particular group, and if they have ever displayed comments with any racial prejudices. The issue that came here was achieving a low set budget. They only wanted two social media channels researched and the search parameters were too narrow and specific. The advice here was that unless the majority of the social media sites were researched and the criteria/parameters widened, the results were likely to not truly represent the full content available online.     

Budget consideration is important that is why it is worth discussing what your objectives are balanced against a realistic cost. A good phrase to remember is if you buy cheap, you might have to buy twice!  

Summary  

Be clear on what you want to achieve with the correct goals and don’t just do something for the sake of it, a tick box exercise. Choose the right company that truly understands vetting and screening, and what it takes for you to get the accurate results to protect your business. Choosing the wrong employee screening partner could mean you employ the wrong person and don’t employ the right person for the role.       

Reference:  

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