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Surprising Background Checks

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When we speak with staffing agencies, we find that people's opinions are split. Half of them are dismissive of the background checks, assuming nothing will come back that will prevent them from being hired, as is usually the case. The other half have been around a while and have seen things. Here are some of their stories.

Let's start with one of our own. We interviewed someone who seemed great. We told him he was hired, conditional upon his background check. He promptly vanished. He left the office, and we never heard from him again. We still don't know what we would have found. Who goes into a job interview not expecting a background check? Why not prepare us for what we might find, and let us decide if it's something we can work with?

As part of a background check, one company looks into a candidate's social media. Some leeway is given; many of us have been "hacked" and had a friend post something we would never post ourselves. In this instance, it was "I lost a bet to a guy in a chiffon skirt; but I make these high heels work." The interviewer recognized these as Panic! at the Disco lyrics and had a laugh. A note was made on the file, "Do not threaten with a good time." (Also a reference to the song)

Someone was working at a toy store as a hiring manager. Their policy was to allow for the hire of criminals, but those with theft convictions would not be allowed to handle money, and no one who had harmed a child would be allowed under any circumstances. The hiring manager had a bad feeling about one candidate, though she could not pinpoint why. He was well-dressed but not overly so, carried himself well, admitted to getting into some trouble with the law in his youth but had straightened out and was looking to rebuild his life. He was charming and funny. The manager of the store wanted to let him start working before the background check cleared, but the hiring manager advised her against it. Not only should you not do that, but she couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong. The background check came back clean, which didn't make sense; he said he had trouble with the law. She looked for him on social media but couldn't find him. She couldn't find a record of his arrest. Unable to shake her feeling, she searched his email address and finally found him -- under a different name. One of his friends had the name he had given. She put two and two together. She looked him up under his real name and found he was a convicted pedophile who had just gotten out of jail. His victims had been significantly younger than the legal age. She called the police and worked with them to bring him in under the pretense of employment, and they arrested him for violating parole, which said he could not be anywhere near such establishments. The company gave her a raise.

Similarly, someone was conducting a background check for a candidate he hoped would be a great hire. The background check came back clean, but one detail appeared to be off; the birthdate was thirty years older then the person he had interviewed. Sadly, this was not a case of having the same name as his father and things getting mixed up; the candidate was here illegally and had purchased stolen identification.

One man was very open about what would be found on his background check: a murder charge some years ago. He explained how it was "completely justified." He was walking alone at night and heard someone behind him. He kept walking, and the person remained behind him. He became convinced that he was in danger and decided to kill before he was killed. Seeing a fallen brick, he stooped and pretended to tie his shoe while picking up the brick. When the person behind him reached him, he stood up and began swinging. He seemed surprised to learn he would not be hired.

Lastly, a man was asked to go through the background screening and provide proof of identity. At first, he declined, saying he had a constitutional right to not give that information out. When asked to leave (the interviewer was not putting up with any of that) he amended his statement, saying there had been a fire, and he had lost everything. He said it was a long process to replace it all, but he needed to work now while he waited. The interviewer again asked him to leave, not believing his story. He tried again, saying he was broke and his kids needed food and his wife was pregnant and ill in the hospital. As the interviewer picked up the phone to call for help, the man finally hurried out.

It's reasonable to allow for certain accommodations. If you're honest with us and upfront about what happened 6 1/2 years ago, we'd likely give you a fair shot. Some of these, though, leave us scratching our heads.

Do you have a story you'd like to share? Let us know! We're happy to give you credit (unless you'd rather us not) and link to you and/or your company.


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