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A presentation at a local networking group got me thinking about examples of a bad background check.  In fact, what people described as a background check, was not only a bad background check, it was downright awful.

At a Westchester County, New York business networking, I had the opportunity of doing a presentation to the group entitled The Anatomy of a Background Check; What it is – Why it’s Important and How it Can Apply to You.  The presentation was an introduction to owners and business leaders about the type of information you can obtain in a background check and some real-life examples of how a background check could avoid a potential disaster.

Prior to the presentation, we had a round table discussion.  Everyone was asked if they have ever had an experience conducting a background check on a potential employee or if they have been the subject of a background check themselves.

Based on the feedback from the group and some general misconceptions about what a background check is, I’ve put together a list a four examples of a “bad” background check:

1Search the Internet

The Internet is extremely powerful, but it does have its limitations.  Consider this – the surface web (a typical “Google” search or search engine) accounts for less than 3% of the Internet and by Google’s own admission, it would take more than 300 years to index all of the world’s information and make it searchable.

I use it every day as part of what I do, but only searching the Internet is a mistake.  The Internet contains only a small slice information that you can find about a person.

2Search Social Networks

Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, Myspace and other social networking sites have changed the way people interact on the web.  Some people will say just about anything about themselves, without any regard to the fact that the entire world may be watching.

Sure, you may find some inappropriate pictures, vulgar tweets or insight into how they spend their free time, but social networking sites are not going to tell you if the person is a convicted criminal, sex offender or if they have been arrested for drinking and driving, fraud or passing bad checks.

3Check References

If you are entering into any type of significant relationship with a vendor, business or  employment matter, checking with references should be a part of the process.  Understand, however, that these “references” have been hand-picked and you may not be getting an honest opinion.

If you truly want an unvarnished opinion, call people that aren’t listed as references; the former CEO at the company where the person served as Executive Vice President, a former business partner or a vendor not listed as a reference.  You will get a more honest, real-life assessment.

4Rely on Others

“Well if he worked at [enter a reputable company here] and went to [enter Ivy League school here], they must be reputable!” Or the related “If [enter reputable person in your community] invested with him, they must have been vetted!”

Relying on what you think others did is a mistake. First off, because other people have hired or invested with somebody, does not mean they did their homework. Secondly, what if he really didn’t go to that Ivy League school or work for that reputable company? You wouldn’t know unless you checked it out.

Final Thought

In certain situations, searching the Internet, checking social profiles and checking references may be the only thing you need to do.  But it’s important to understand, that this is only part of the process of conducting a background check.

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4 replies
  1. Brian Willingham
    Brian Willingham says:

    I agree, hiring a private investigator is something that everyone should consider based on the nature of what you are looking into. It’s certainly not for every situation, but it’s something to consider.

  2. Versie
    Versie says:

    Some good tips here and you could potentially find some useful information, but I wouldn’t count on that. If you really want to do background checks on someone and actually get real and useful info, I’d advise on hiring a private investigator. They’re pretty crafty when dealing with checking people’s backgrounds and they work lightning fast.

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