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Reduce the risk of bad hires


Background checks are useful to employers in helping them avoid hiring problem employees.

People often fabricate either educational or job experience on their applications, said Charles Mitchell, a partner in a Phoenix-based national staffing firm, All About People Inc. It also helps ascertain the character of the people whom you hire, he said.

"We've actually had a background check within the last couple of years where a person had been convicted of murder," said Mr. Mitchell. "We've had situations where people had been convicted of very gross offenses, such as child rape" and sexual assault, he said.

"It really sickens you when you come across those types of instances, and you're really shocked and surprised because maybe you spent time with the person in the interview process, and people are impressed and wham—you get this information."

In one case, he said, shortly before one applicant was to begin work at a bank, a background check uncovered several convictions for embezzlement that had not been revealed in his application. "You would suspect since they weren't truthful they probably would have gone backÖand repeated that criminal behavior," said Mr. Mitchell. "It's an indication that background checks do work."

Kim Kerr, who is now vp of background screening solutions at Boca Raton, Fla.-based LexisNexis Risk Information Analytics Group, said while he was at a previous job for a large organization, "We were hiring an individual that was going to be involved with training and working with many small children in a production of sorts." A background check, though, revealed he had a history of arrests for pedophile-related crimes.

Courtney Larsen, human resources director at Phoenix-based Take Charge America Inc., a credit counseling agency, said in one case, an applicant with a common name filled out the paperwork prior to his background check with a Social Security number that checked out OK.

But after he was hired, he subsequently put down a different Social Security number—his real one. Fortunately, this was discovered. As it turned out, "He had a pretty unsavory past, and we terminated him immediately," said Ms. Larsen.

That incident "caused us to make changes in our process," said Ms. Larsen. Now, "We're just much more careful in double-checking all those numbers in advance."