SURVEY SAYS: Do You Do Background Checks?

February 23, 2006 ( - According to published reports, Radio Shack's employment policies included reference checks and criminal record checks - but (apparently) not a check of employee academic records.

They’re not the first firm to stumble across those types of revelations, of course – this week we asked readers what kind(s) of background checks their organization did.

More than a quarter (28.57%) of this week’s respondents said they did employment checks on criminal records, credit history, academic records and reference checks, while a plurality (42.86%) said they did more than one of those checks.   Among the latter group, the academic check was most likely to be omitted, at least based on readers who listed them.

Among the other categories, roughly 7% did only a criminal check, while about 4% did credit checks, and nearly 15% said they checked references, both personal and business, in most cases.  

There was some variance in the responses, depending on the type of position.   As one noted, For hourly, we check criminal only, for salaried, it depends on the position, but it could be “all the above.”   A number of respondents noted that academic, criminal and reference checks were “standard”, with a credit check done for positions that had significant financial exposure.   Several readers noted that driving record checks were also the order of the day for positions that involved being behind the wheel.

We are, however, living in a different world these days.   As one reader noted, “I’ve started checking prospective employees on the State Courts web site, after my spouse began working for an employment agency and alerted me to that idea. It’s been shocking how many young, presentable folks have a really amazing criminal record! 3 or 4 felonies before age 30 are not unusual – guess I’m from another generation, where that was not the norm.”

Another noted, “We do not run a credit check even for purchasers or the finance, sales or HR departments.   If the employee needs to travel for the job we push a Company sponsored credit card in front of them with the understanding it is for business use only.”   Then went on to note, “We are surprised every single time someone is in credit trouble with the company sponsored card, and it does happen with a fair degree of regularity.”  

“I don’t thing we gain a lot of knowledge from reference checks – we have encountered many employers who will only give name, rank and serial number, but we do it anyway,” observed another.

“Prior to a merger in May 2004, my company performed thorough criminal records, credit history, and employment verifications (A, B, and C),” said one, who went on to note that “In an effort to be economic with out resources we do a half a**ed check of A (criminal) & C (references).   Our frugality may come back to bite us in the other half of our   a**.”

A respondent from a large employer who used all of the noted checks also offered that “After having the privilege of working with many in our area, I think that in some cases they used (f) none of the above, and only asked (i) other:   “Do you know how to answer a phone…you know the black thing sitting on the desk?”. 

But this week’s Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who claimed that their firm checked “All of the Above – Plus Blood and Hair Sample, Genetic Make-up, Retina Identification, Colonoscopy with full Anal probe, what’s your Mother’s name, what’s your Father’s name, how many se.xual partners have you had, have you ever had a STD, have you ever slept with Dennis Rodman or Kid Rock (male or female), and on and on and on……. And this is just to clean the bathrooms!!!

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!