Comprehensive pre-employment background checks are an absolute necessity. Your time is a valuable commodity. When you consider taking on a high-touch candidate destined for executive placement it is of even greater importance, as the time you spend performing comprehensive background checks may be considerable. Above all, you don’t want to lose on your investment.
Knowing what potential dangers lurk before you put a lot of effort into somebody makes good business sense. If it were a business acquisition, you would be performing the same sort of due diligence on the company you intend to purchase, so why not apply this to your human assets also?
Conducting comprehensive pre-employment background checks prior to in-person interviews is one of the surest ways to confirm that your candidate is representing themselves with verity — your brand reputation and the company’s future depends on it. When it is a leadership, management or customer-facing role, it is even more important to know exactly who is sitting on the other side of that desk. In this age of lawsuits and litigation, being armed with verified, up-to-the-minute information is your best protection.
Performing comprehensive pre-employment background checks before you hire is important. Performing a background check during the course of the recruiting process is just as crucial. The more you know about a candidate, the better you will be able to predict their success or lack of it.
Making sure you are placing the right person in the right position is so much more than just job experience and having the appropriate demeanor: ensuring that your candidate will meet all expectations and does not present a danger to you, the on-boarding company, their brand or their staff assures a return on your investment. It also gives you a stronger platform to work from when negotiating the deal. If you are committed to presenting the best candidate for the job, having a thorough background check in place is not just an option – it is a necessity.
Most HR departments, hiring managers, and recruiters ask their candidate to supply several references. Let’s be honest – these are peers, friends, and by and large 50% are therefore biased. Retained executive search firms like NextGen dig up and cold call references we find who are past internal customers the candidate interfaced with, vendors, external customers, and those who reported to him/her, as well as his/her former superiors. These names we dig up are caught off guard, are honest, and really do help to provide an accurate balance of professional references in comprehensive background checks.
SSN trace, search and validation: This verifies your candidate’s identity. A social security number is specific to the state and city where it was obtained, and can tell you a great deal about an individual, such as their residential history. A verified SSN can also help to verify other information that the background check might reveal.
County criminal record searches: This will reveal if they have been in trouble locally.
Current and previous residences: Frequent moves can be a harbinger of trouble to come, revealing transiency or any kind of trouble in holding down a residence.
National criminal file: This is a validated result that is cross-referenced to known addresses. Care must be taken to verify this information against a known quantity, such as an individual’s SSN. There are likely thousands of William Smith’s in the world, for example.
Federal criminal record searches (last 7 years): Any federal criminal offence will appear here. Federal offences are far more serious, and include many ‘white-collar’ crimes such as fraud.
Federal civil records searches (current and previous residences): this will illuminate problems with money, handling money, securities and bad debt–very important in hiring for fiduciary positions. It will also reveal past marriages or any civil proceeding that the candidate has been involved with.
OFAC terror watch/sex offender check: It probably goes without saying, a history that includes terrorism, violent crime or a sex offence has the potential to cause a great deal of harm to your company, your customers and your workforce.
Education verification (2 highest degrees): Education verification to prove your candidate’s claims.
Employment verification (last 3 employers): Verifying past employment, positions held and more proof of claims.
Professional character references (past superiors, direct reports, internal/external customers as applicable): How your candidate interacts with others should be of great interest to you. This is the trickiest part as most HR departments lack the skills to conduct job references pertaining to those whom the candidate interfaces with. It’s not just the interactions, but the mentor and coaching capability, listening skills, ability of the candidate to sell their ideas, examples of conflict resolution, and teamwork.
Social media reputation reports: Many people reveal their true character online in ways they never would to your face. It’s not about the kids, the cottage or the kittens, but if your candidate is a drunk or has a tendency to bad-mouth their employers or even worse – their customers – online, you’ll want to know.
PEER credit report: A PEER credit report takes an individual’s personal credit, residential and employment history into account and is a little more detailed than a standard background check. The PEER report is more a gauge of dependability than credit worthiness, and does not result in a credit inquiry for the candidate. Use for C-Suite level, VP and fiduciary roles.
‘Ban the Box’ laws impacts comprehensive background checks
In states or municipalities where a ‘ban-the-box’ law is in place, access to your candidate’s criminal history in comprehensive background checks could be limited until later on in the hiring process. You might think that this legislation has limited influence with regard to executive search and placement, but it still has the potential to lead you down a blind alley every once in a while. You might, for instance, spend a great deal of time on a candidate during the on-boarding process only to find that there were some legal or ethical issues that you just cannot afford to take a chance on.
The legislation itself applies to federal government job applications, some private contractors and companies operating in specific regions that have adopted the policy. While it is arguably a useful and constructive way to level the playing field, it could still impede your process when hiring mid-level to senior management.
Since the legislation can be enforced at the state, county or municipal level, it is important to find out what the laws are in your area, and understand what you can and can’t legally ask up front.
Most ban-the-box laws do not prohibit an up-front comprehensive pre-employment background checks, but some do require the employer to wait until after the first interview or even later in the hiring process.
Your HR department can check references and social media, but a verified background check ensures the information you obtain is bona-fide and that the person whose life you are looking into is actually the one you intended. Additionally, there is a lot of information that cannot be uncovered in a limited search.
Some data can only be accessed by a licensed firm that specializes in comprehensive pre-employment background checks. Such companies have the experience to get you what you need in an expedient manner, and will help to prevent you from looking at personal data that might put you in violation of state or federal law. If you are in doubt, consult your legal department first. Most states require that you obtain a written consent from the candidate prior to conducting a search. You should also expect to provide a copy of that search to the subject in addition to any related communications or recommendations.
Above all, look at a broad spectrum of information. Don’t just look at the negative, and don’t focus too closely on any one thing. The sum total of your candidate’s data should tell a story – hopefully a good one – that will help you decide how best to proceed.
Loads of companies and recruiters use some type of screening tests but few look at the all important concept that faster productivity + team dynamics in whether a potential new hire is both a role fit AND a team fit We know that a new hire impacts team dynamics. While some have a one-size-fits-all behavioral analysis testing for the candidate only, what are the recruiter or hiring manager comparing the candidate to?
Some measure job skills, others measure interpersonal and communication skills, planning and organizing, and some measure aptitudes, and still others cognitive ability. There are even some that test applicants on their ability to make presentations or on their behavior pattern in a simulated meeting, however they still fail to consider profiling hiring teams in order to form a target candidate profile as part of measuring team fit to make a new hire impacts team dynamics positively.
Productivity in how New Hire Impacts Team Dynamics
One way to understand the first part of performance based recruiting is in the discovery step prior to planning a search strategy. Sadly too many internal recruiters and HR managers put too much emphasis on matching potential candidates to a “one-size-fits-all” corporate culture. They fail to take into account that EACH TEAM is UNIQUE.
Each team has it’s own culture that is not a clone identity to the corporate culture. If you want to achieve faster productivity, recognize how new hires impact team dynamics in recognizing the positives and negatives. You must take that individual team culture the new hire will work within as part of your search strategy. What the executive search consultants at NextGen do is to ask the stakeholders (listed below) to take a brief less than 10 minutes online survey that can be taken 24/7.
his/her direct report/hiring manager
at least 2-3 internal customers
for sales, product management, product marketing, and sales engineering roles, we recommend at least 1-2 key external customers on whom this position will have an impact.
This is where many internal hiring managers miss the boat. Many in Human Resources and even some executives fear asking external customers (who can be direct customers, partners, or vendors) to participate. Their immediate thought is to perceive this as negative. Rather it is completely positive as those external stakeholders value and appreciate you have included them on designing a target candidate profile. It makes for better customer interaction because you are taking into account how not only how they interface with this role, but also the impact the potential new hire will have on productivity + team dynamics.
Achieving Longer Retention | New Hire Impacts Team Dynamics
It is designed to gauge and measure each respondents view of the role and team in terms of values and motivations, relational communications traits, decision making and conflict resolution skills. These questions in the survey, combined with how each stakeholder views the OBJECTIVES of the role instead of the requirements and responsibilities, is used to create a Composite Team Profile.
With the information gathered the original job spec, the discovery step, and the composite team profile, the recruiter can effectively construct a Search Strategy including a Target Candidate Profile for screening and assessment.
The end goal is to identify, recruit, assess, and determine a shortlist of candidates that are both a role fit and team fit, meaning that they have a high likelihood of achieving the objectives of the role. In other words, new hire impacts team dynamics becomes a positive impact. NextGen’s award-winning Leadership Vault search process has resulted in 94% of our placements still working for the company we staffed at 3.5 years of employment.
In addition, the most common feedback is that the candidates we presented not only met, but exceeded client expectations. Combined with an industry leading 24 to 36 months replacement guarantee and performance based recruitment fees, we are often called upon when other search firms have failed to deliver.
All companies expect job references, aka professional and employment references to be conducted prior to making an offer of employment or shortly thereafter. Nine times out of ten these are pre-determined references provided by the candidate. Some may well include former bosses, former or current colleagues, and industry references.
That is the real question. Many of these are in fact “personal relationships” where the person(s) providing the employment references will give a glowing reference (call it pre-defined or pre-arranged) that is neither spontaneous and often times misleading. Since I am obligated to deliver a short list of candidates, I do not wait for a pending offer to conduct employment references and comprehensive background checks.
Don’t Use Outdated Process for Job References
In the 21st century, we live in a constantly moving and increasingly social media world. Employees’ reputations – both professional and personal – can impact a company’s corporate image, affect how they are viewed by customers and vendors, and can project either a positive or negative social image of the company. With that in mind, the employment verification call that includes employment references aka job references directly from Human Resources or the supervisor of said former employee is useless fodder.
Same goes for accepting verbatim without question those provided by the candidate as they are so often former colleagues who are great friends unwilling to look past a biased lense. After identifying a target list of potential candidates through my Rolodex, networking, and referrals, I conduct one to two pre-screening interviews with the objective of understanding the motivations, skills/experience, and accomplishments of those potential candidates. If I am satisfied, they move forward to deeper interviews on my candidate shortlist.
Use Behavioral Analysis Prior to Making Job References Calls
I have the potential shortlisted candidates take an online 10 minute behavioral survey. This customized testing produces a Behavioral Analysis on a candidate’s motivations, values, decision making traits, aptitudes, communications style, and whether they are a Natural Fit with the team AND the role.Once armed with that analysis, I have sufficient data needed to conduct professional job references calls that are relevant to the role itself. Most search firms simply accept employment references provided solely by the candidates.
What I ask from each candidate is for two each of the following current or former (within last 5 years) by name, phone, email, title, and relationship as follows: superiors/managers they reported to, subordinates that reported to them, internal customers in their respective positions, external customers, peers or colleagues (professional references NOT like any of the above), and personal and/or community go one step further in validating the list of these employment job references requested of the candidates.
I research, identify, and cold call former internal/external customers, colleagues, and vendors that were NOT supplied. These validate the professional references the candidate provided while at the same time reveal the best unscripted job references possible.There are a growing number of companies who save time by automating job references checks.
Some are pre-defined standard Human Resources types of questions. Others allow you to add your own questions for professional references checking. Thee system sends out emails, the contacts answer the questions online, and you get the results.The problem here is that the human factor does not exist. You cannot hear and ask additional questions based upon what you actually hear and perceive, as well as lacks ability to build a relationship with these professional employment job references. The truth is that I gain new relationships, fresh perspectives, and sometimes additional retained searches by conducting professional job reference calls the best way possible.
Corporate recruiters and staffing firms utilize various forms of screening interviews and candidate assessments but fail to measure role fit and team fit to help determine who makes the shortlist for for the Hiring Manager to consider. For executive recruiters it’s a combination of interview notes, references, details about accomplishments, and the recruiter’s gut feeling that these are the candidates to consider. Corporate recruiters and large staffing firms often add some type of DISC based behavioral test or aptitudes testing to help in their candidate assessments.
Candidate Assessments Fail on Team Fit
In the end the Hiring Manager thinks they are getting the best candidates available according to the recruiter’s gut feeling, the interview committee’s thoughts on a relatively short interview, and one or more candidate assessments (according to their HR, corporate recruiting/talent acquisition group, or external recruiter). But all too often failing to make sure the candidates being considered fit the role and are a team fit that will be a positive impact on team dynamics. What ends up happening is that a “C player”, a body that shows up and can perform the tasks but adds no real value, is hired.
Time after time I hear from VPs that within 6 months, a year or two AFTER a new hire that that “x” employee is okay, but he/she wishes the employee had the insight and ability to make better decisions, develop effective cost savings, or improve deliverables. This puts an added burden on the rest of the team that employee is working within, as well as the VP or manager who must figure out a way to make up for that employee’s lack of added value.
Team Dynamics are Improved with Proper Candidate Assessments
Hindsight shows that the candidate assessments are resulting in a shortlist delivered to the Hiring Manager prior to the face-to-face interviews and hire failed to address whether that candidate would be a “natural fit” for the team and what about that candidate would bring “real value” to making the overall team better. The most common, and mistakenly, the worst determining factor, is based primarily on whether the candidate has the skills, experience, and track record of past accomplishments to do the job.
This is a rote exercise where the recruiter matches up the responsibilities of the role with past work history and matches requirements with skills on a resume. The Hiring Manager and his/her interview team then “guess” if the candidate’s personality and communications style will tell them id he/she is a team fit. Yes that is a guess as those latter parts are determined by a few or a committee whose members spent at the most a few hours in a prefabricated interview process face-to-face with the candidate.
Tragically, these candidate assessments and screening processes result in recruiters delivering the “C player” and occasionally a “B player” or the company hiring someone who will reveal they lack in key interpersonal areas or were the wrong team fit. What the recruiter should have done is take the objectives, aka the end game of the role into consideration. Responsibilities on a job description rarely give more than a very brief sentence or two about the objectives.
The recruiter should get with the Hiring Manager to discuss the short-term and long-term objectives of the role apart from the responsibilities. The second factor is whether the potential candidate is a cultural and team fit. This is where the recruiter fails most often as companies are too eager to use a corporate public image profile of their culture they would either like the public, their employees, or customers to believe in or that they desire to attain.But the truth is EACH DEPARTMENT is unique.
One needs to consider the team profile the candidate will be working within to then analyze if a candidate is a team fit. This means taking into consideration that team’s natural and adaptive communications styles, values and motivations, and decision making traits in order to identify a Team Profile.
Since we are not all born and raised in the same place, geographical culture, education, religion, and family dynamics of individuals play a big part in this – especially in the relational side of how one views his/her self and views others.
Many vendors provide different forms of scientific, or skills-based, or psychometric, or behavioral testing and candidate assessments software. Most are one-size fits all in their approach and fail to take the skills, interview notes, and other aspects into consideration.
And without FIRST developing an ACCURATE Team Profile, you cannot know whether that candidate will be a “natural fit” as these tests and assessments are too one-sided. Sadly, this leads to often hiring the wrong person.
The third factor is the relevant accomplishments. Again this all too often is another rote exercise where recruiters miss the boat. Just because candidate “x” has this and that accomplishment for a direct competitor does NOT mean they will have similar success in a new role. You have to look at the team fit, company culture, team profile, and customer base dynamics he/she was working for in order to verify the accomplishments are really relevant to THIS new role.