In this episode of PeopleWork, we are joined by Tammy Tucker of National Crime Search, a nationwide provider of background checks and employment and volunteer screening. We had an extensive conversation about the things employers should know and consider when it comes to running background checks and employment screenings on potential job candidates. Below you can watch the video and/or read the transcript from our conversation.
- Why employers should run background checks on new hires.
- When employers should run background checks.
- Types of information employers should look for in a background check.
- Why you can't just Google a candidate's name to find information.
- Common myths or misconceptions about employee background checks.
- About the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
- Emerging trends in the background check industry.
Watch the Video
Read the Transcript
Hey everybody, CJ Maurer here with Complete Payroll and welcome to another episode of People Work. We have been focusing a lot on employee background checks and creating a lot of content about why employers run employee background checks, the different regulations that govern how employee background checks should be administered and the benefits that a lot of organizations realize by screening their candidates before making a formal offer of employment. So, that's why today I'm super excited to welcome Tammy Tucker. Tammy Tucker is with National Crime Search, which is a nationwide provider of employee background checks and a variety of other screening solutions and is in fact a partner of Complete Payroll. So, Tammy, thank you so much and welcome to People Work.
All right, thank you CJ for having me and thank you for your partnership. We certainly enjoy working with you.
Tammy, before we get started, why don't you tell me a little bit about your background. How you got here? How you got into this line of work?
It's actually kind of a crazy story. My background is really in journalism and then I ended up working for my University here at Arkansas as a communications person and I was ready for a change and they had an opening here. A good friend of mine does our programming here, and he said, "Hey, why do you come join our team. You'd be a great fit. You'll love it here." So, I've been here now three years and loving it. It's a great group of people.
That's really cool. What have you found most interesting about working in the background check industry?
I have learned so much. I had no idea how background screening worked and all the regulations you were talking about and the crazy things that you see that pop up on people's records. Kind of, definitely a learning experience to see what all people have been charged with and you think wow, it's kind of a crazy world out there.
Yeah. I remember when I was being hired at Complete Payroll, they extended me an employment offer that was contingent upon a background check and all of a sudden they said they were running a background check on me and all of a sudden I got nervous and started thinking about man, "Did I commit some crime that I don't know about?" It was really weird when somebody says they're running a background check on you and I'm sure that I applied for a job before where they ran a background check on me before, but this was really just the most recent memory. But working for Complete Payroll and understanding how we help a lot of our clients in the payroll, HR, labor law and administrative capacity, you realize that they're actually a pretty commonplace function that a lot of employers rely on to make sure that they're getting the right candidates and they're not gonna make ultimately a disastrous hire. So I even actually read a statistic that about 70 percent of private sector employers, or maybe it's all employers, I'll have to double check that. Actually, close to 70 percent of employers run background checks on potential new candidates. So I was curious, do you want to kind of explain why employers do that in the first place for those that it may not be obvious to like myself?
Well, I wish 100 percent ran background checks. That would save a lot of companies a lot of time, money and trouble because we hear stories all the time people call us and say, "Oh, I've hired this person and now I found out that they committed murder." And they've been released from prison, but you don't actually want that person in your office, or hiring someone who has embezzled in the past. They've done their time, but if they're handling money, do you really want that person in your office. Those are things you want to know before you hire them. To throw another statistic out there, about 50 percent of resumes or applications actually contain false information. So background checks help verify that what they're telling you is correct. That their experience and their education is correct. We verify all those things. So you really know the trustworthiness and character of the person that you're hiring. You know their background, so you definitely showing your employees that you want to have a safe workplace and that you're hiring quality people and you're hiring the people who fit that specific job with their experience and their education.
Fifty percent. That's quite a staggering number. Especially when you think about how many people are constantly looking at applications and resumes to be considered for employment.
How self-conscious that must make a lot of employers in hiring managers and realizing that they may not be so quick to trust a lot of the information. I also thought what you said about the criminal record was interesting. A couple weeks ago we had on an insurance broker named Jeff Lionmark and he actually talked about the risk that employers incur when they have employees who drive on behalf of the company.
Why employers may want to consider having their employees increase their personal coverage limits. That doesn't even get into employees who actually are drivers. And when you just think about all the different motor vehicle infractions and things like that and how much that might play into it, I think that's really interesting because I do understand that one component of, one aspect of a background check will be looking into motor vehicle history, correct?
Correct. We work a lot with trucking companies. Even fast food restaurants, pizza delivery, you don't want to have your pizza delivery person be a convicted robber or have a crazy driving record with tons of tickets and reckless driving out there representing your company.
Yeah. So, when should employers go about running background checks on candidates?
Definitely before they are on your payroll. But, a lot of state laws and federal laws now, you may have heard of Ban the Box. It's a huge trend right now and it's catching on in a lot of different states and in different cities, counties across the nation. So that really determines when. In most states now, you can't run a background check legally until you extend an offer contingent upon the background check. So once you get past that interview process. You no longer can put on the application, have you ever been convicted? You may have seen that before on applications. In most states, that is no longer allowed. You can't ask about criminal history until you've extended that offer. So, it's not saying don't do a background check, it's just saying "You have to wait until you're ready to offer them that job."
Interesting. What type of information do you think that most employers should be looking for in a background check on a potential candidate?
Across the board everyone should be looking for any kind of misdemeanor, felony that's related to that job position. Say, it's just a clerical position, you probably don't care about a speeding ticket they got three months ago. That's not relevant to that job. But, you're gonna be looking for any kind of felony, definitely and then any kind of misdemeanor. Maybe if they handle money, you're looking for a credit report to make sure they're responsible financially in how they handle their money and you just want to make sure that what you're looking for is related to that position. We see a lot of people, they might have a criminal record, but it had nothing to do with the job that they're doing and so the employer says, you know, we're not worried about that and they'll go ahead and hire them.
What, this might be a hard question to answer. So, forgive me for asking it. I'm wondering, are there common red flags that show up in employee background checks that you think are very common deterrents for employers to rescind that contingent job offer following a background check result?
One of them would be anyone who's on the sex offender registry. We see a sex offender, most people, definitely that's a red flag. No matter what the office is. But definitely if it's a church volunteer or anyone who's around children. That's a huge red flag. Usually any kind of burglary, if they're robbing someone's house or business, it could very well happen in your office also. That's a big red flag.
I'm aware that you guys also do volunteer screenings. So you just mentioned if this person was a church volunteer. What's the difference between running background checks for employment and for volunteer screenings?
There's really not a difference. The packages that we offer are really, they're looking for the same criminal history. We're still looking for your misdemeanors, felonies, sex offender registry, anything like that. With us, we try to help out volunteer organizations and non-profits and help them with their budget and give a discount. But, as far as what they're looking for, it's really the same.
I also understand that large components of background checks include employment history and education history. You mentioned that up to 50 percent of applicants either provide false or misleading information on their resumes or their applications. Is looking into their employment and education history, 'cause that's different from a criminal record or offender list or something like that.
Is that mostly just the way to make sure what they're saying is true? Or is there anything else to learn from looking into employment and education history?
You're right. It's really just to make sure that it's true. If you have a position that requires a doctorate degree, you want to make sure that that person, they put it on a piece of paper, but do they really have that diploma? You'd be surprised how many people think, "Oh this little white lie won't matter." And then it turns out they don't really have any degrees. If they lied to you about that, what else are they gonna lie about in the future? It's a character issue.
Yeah. So, I'm somebody who thinks of myself as somebody who can solve a lot of problems through Google and obviously with the amount of information that exists on the web today, a lot of us amateurs can do a lot of different things on the internet that in generations past was always strictly left to professionals. So, what's stopping somebody from trying to Google a potential candidate and kind of conducting an amateur background check on this candidate through Google? Why is it important to work with an accredited provider of background checks?
That is a question that we get all the time and to be honest, it drives us crazy, because someone will call and say, "Well I Googled this person's name, this newspaper article came up and said that they murdered someone or they robbed this business and I don't see that on the background check that you have." Well, because we have regulations and we're following the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which is a federal law, we know that you can't report arrests or any criminal records that were expunged or dismissed. You don't know by reading that newspaper article necessarily what was the outcome of that scenario, that situation. So, you can't always trust Google. Google's great, but not necessarily when you're trying to follow rules and regulations for background screening. So, we always recommend that you use a trustworthy background screening company because we do know what can be reported and what can be used in the hiring process because you don't want to get in trouble legally because you used something that you found on Google which turns out can't be used in the hiring process.
Yeah. That's a good point. You brought up the Fair Credit Reporting Act. We recently published a blog post about that. So I'll make sure that we link to it here. But, for those people who aren't familiar with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, why don't you kind of give a basic overview of what it is and how it governs how background checks are administered?
So the Fair Credit Reporting Act or the FCRA as we refer to it, governs any kind of consumer reporting agency which is what we're considered to be as a background screening company. It basically gives us rules like the timeframe for how far back records can be shown on a person's background search. Typically we can only do misdemeanors to seven years, and felonies basically 10 years. That's because in their eyes, if someone has committed a crime and they've done their time and done their punishment for that, then to be fair, they should have another shot in society getting a job and turning their life around. That's one reason that was created. The other part that it governs is making sure that we have permission to run that background search. We have authorization form that has to be signed. We can't release any results without that because it would be an illegal search technically. We have to have that person's permission.
Interesting. What myths or misconceptions do you find that anybody, but maybe especially employers have about background checks?
There are two big ones. One of the biggest is people think there's this all encompassing data base out there that we all use and it can pull any record, any time, from anywhere and that's really not the case. We spend a lot of time educating our clients. There is a data base, but what is uploaded to it and how frequently and how detailed depends on the source. So, we have a coverage area document that we refer to. It tells us in every state what county, what court, maybe the Department of Corrections, or Department of Justice, who is uploading to this database, how often and some states have gone historic and so they're no longer updating so you can't really rely on that. So we supplement those searches with other county criminal, more up to date searches. So that's one big myth that this one data base can just do everything. That's not the case.
The other myth, people think that criminal records are pulled by social security number. That's not the case. They're actually pulled by first name, last name and date of birth. So people will call and say, "I entered the wrong social security number." Well, that's okay, it's actually name and date of birth. We just use social security for address history to see where we need to go deeper on that person.
Are you noticing any trends in the background check industry right now?
So biggest one is the Ban the Box. That definitely affects when you're running that background search. The other one is, we're seeing a lot of states who have budget cuts, California is probably the biggest one affected right now. So, they're cutting back on how many county clerk assistants they have, which means they might say "Well, you can only go in and get four background searches today." So, that unfortunately delays sometimes getting those results, 'cause they're just kind of putting that on the back burner as far as priorities. So that's really affective searches right now.
Tammy, what would you say to an employer or hiring manager that is looking to hire a new employee, but has never done a background check before? What advice would you give them?
Definitely find a trust worthy background check company and do a background check 'cause you want to make sure on the front end that you're hiring the right person, rather than finding that out after they've been there a few months. Then, just working with the background training company, whether it's us or someone else on getting the right search, making sure that you're looking at that position, looking at your industry, and what you're needing in that search just to make sure that you're not missing something. That's something that we do all day, every day is talk to clients and making sure they're getting the right coverage on those searches.
What's a typical turn around time for a background check?
Part of it, that data base we talked about earlier is automatic. So, that comes back typically within a few minutes. If there are records or hits that come back, we do verifications on those. So those usually involve county criminal searches and those can take, depending on the state or county, that can take about five days for that part.
Okay. Interesting. Tammy I have to say that I believe I've asked and you have certainly answered all the questions I came here to ask. Is there anything else you thought of during this conversation that you think our viewers might be interested to know, that you'd like to share?
We talked about planning ahead, it's something that we haven't really mentioned. We were talking about turn around time. Some people will wait, "I'm trying to hire this person on Monday." And they're calling us at 5:00 on Friday saying, "I need this now." Well, sometimes it does take time to make sure that we're getting the right information out there, so definitely planning ahead if you're hiring this person, just making sure that you give yourself enough time.
Yeah. Absolutely. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, five days isn't very long.
Right. And that's something those deeper background screenings can get kind of pricey. But in our opinion it's worth it to know that you're hiring the right person and you're ensuring that safety in the workplace. So, to us it's worth that amount to get that screening done properly.
Sure. I mean pay a lot more money for insurance policies to protect their business. In a lot of ways, this is kind of like a little insurance policy just to make sure that you're bringing on the right people.
So, I mean, as a payroll company we do mostly payroll, but we also provide HR, time and attendance and we talk to a lot of experts in those fields and we talk a lot about the importance of people. After all, this series is called People Work.
People who work in the various disciplines of managing and developing people on a workforce. At the end of the day, your company is as good as your people are and any measures that you can take to not only make sure that you are bringing on only the best apples, but you're weeding out some of the bad apples, is definitely one that pretty much any HR expert I would have spoken with would whole heartedly endorse.
Right, it costs a lot more to have to fire someone and rehire someone than it does to do a background check.
Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, Tammy I have to say, thank you so much for coming on. I feel like you provided a wealth of information and insight and hopefully this isn't the last time we do this because we all know how important background checks and finding the right candidates are. As I said at the beginning of this video, Tammy and National Crime Search are a partner of Complete Payroll. They've been a really great partner in helping us provide background check services to our employees, but more so than that just being a really good resource for insights and education into why this is really important. I really enjoyed this. I'm gonna make sure that we give our viewers a lot of opportunities to learn more about you guys and provide more information. First of all, on behalf of me and the entire company and everybody who's following along, than you so much for spending some time with us today.
Yeah, thank you for having me. I'd love to do it again.
Links and Contact
Tammy Tucker can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 479-695-2111.