ScreenDiscussion

Blogging background checking and security issues

1.27.2005

Standards?

So the standard amount of time in which criminal records can be reported is seven years, right? Where did this come from, and why do we think we can communicate this as fact to prospective clients when there are all kinds of government agencies who do not subscribe to this “standard.” I don’t know why 7 years for criminal searches was adopted, but I can speak to the government issue. Employment screening is largely a private industry and private industry, at least in the short run, is left to itself to deal with the inconsistencies of government. Standards obviously have to be adopted or else employers would face all kinds of lawsuits over inconsistent hiring practices, so this means that people who do employment screening have to do their best to deal with the government systems. Some only have searchable records for the past 5 years. I was looking for a record from the 80’s in the Hamilton County, OH courthouse a while ago and was directed to the archives section of the courthouse. I found my way to the dungeon, located the appropriate section and saw that for year 198X there were maybe 50 records on file. Perhaps it was Cincinnati’s golden year and people at that time lived in crime-free bliss, but the pessimist in me tends to think it was just poor record-keeping. Unfortunately this happens all the time and in courthouses all over the country.

And don’t forget motor vehicle record searches. Some states, like Pennsylvania, only go back 3 years, while other states, like Massachusetts, will report every violation a person has had since the license was first issue. Does this mean that the industry has to adopt 3 years as the standard since it’s the lowest common denominator, or does it mean that if the industry adopts 5 years as the standard then employers who get motor vehicle records from Pennsylvania get a bum deal? I don’t know if there’s a standard for motor vehicle record reporting. The best attempt at communicating standards I’ve seen is a sheet that lists all of the states and their individual reporting guidelines. Not much of a standard.

The State of Drug Testing

Drug testing is messy business, and I’m not just talking about spilling the specimen collection cup. While most of the services performed by companies in the employment screening industry only require the client to submit an individual’s information to the employment screening company, a drug test usually requires the individual to take a form with him to the collection location. This presents a few problems. First, the individual has the primary responsibility for getting the service done. If he or she is applying for a job then there is a good source of motivation, and if the test isn’t taken within a given amount of time then the person can be removed from consideration. However, if it’s a random drug test or a post-accident drug test it can get a little messier. There is always the threat of losing the job, but unless the individual is a horrible employee this is the last thing the employer wants to do. If the person is fired for not complying with the company’s drug testing policy just because he or she is a procrastinator, then the company has to recruit, hire and train a new employee and do all of the paperwork that accompanies this process. It’s not cheap and takes some time. Sure, there are other kinds of background checks that the applicant can occasionally delay, but in my experience drug testing has by far the most applicant/employee caused delays.

So what can be done about it? Are there any solutions on the horizon? There are the self-test options, but most employers prefer to do drug testing using a recognized, professional lab. Another option is to do on-site drug testing, but unless you’re at a large location and need to test a lot of people at once, the cost per test can be very expensive. If you don’t fit into this category, and not many companies do, then you’re stuck with a high level of applicant/employee dependency. Why don’t the big players in the industry tackle this one? If either Quest or Labcorp, who have a network of specimen collection and testing locations all over the country, were to find a solution wouldn’t they leave their competition far behind?

Because of the costs involved I don’t see a way around having to send individuals to a collection location, but what about eliminating the form? This would at least make random and post-accident testing much easier because the employee could go straight to the clinic without having to first swing by the office to pick up a form. Additionally, prospective employees from out-of-state would be able to test right away without having to first wait for a form to be shipped in the mail. If a company has an account set up with Quest or Labcorp, why can’t they send people to take tests without a form? The collection locations could be outfitted with a means to produce documentation of the test, and the individual could simply provide a one-time-use code given to him or her by the company to confirm that he or she is authorized to take a drug test.

Employment-related drug testing is in increasing demand as employers become more safety and security conscious. There is a lot of room for process improvement in this industry, which means there is also potential for significant profit for the company that can make serious advancements.

High Maintenance Clients

How much time is too much time to spend on client requests? We provide a set number of services, and each of those services has a documented process that is followed every time. If something goes wrong with the service, there is another documented process that details the steps that are to be followed to deal with the problem. Once a person understands how the processes work, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to get the work done.

So if everything is documented and handled the same way, why do clients ever get the idea that they can make special requests that are to be carried out outside the process, and why do they get upset if those requests aren’t followed? There are a few reasons that come to mind immediately:

One – The client has worked with other companies in the past that have met all of their special requests, and they say that if you don’t meet their request then they’ll find someone who will. This is the heart of competition.

Two – It wasn’t made clear to the client at the beginning of the relationship what the processes are and where the boundaries are. There is almost always some tension between sales and operations, and when sales gets too interested in pleasing the customer at any price, life in operations can become a nightmare.

Three – The processes that are in place aren’t consistently followed. This is the same thing that happens when a child’s rules aren’t consistently enforced. If you tell him that he can’t play in the street, but an hour later say nothing when he ventures into the street an hour later, he will immediately recognize the inconsistency. Similarly, the client will not hesitate to ask you to do extraordinary things for them (whether or not they realize how extraordinary the request is) if they don’t know what you can or cannot realistically do. You don’t want to offend the client by constantly putting up walls when they ask for something, but clear communication about what the requests involve is essential.

Four – The client has a lot of weight to throw around. If you’re working for a million-dollar company, they’re used to getting what they want and getting it right away. They don’t care what your internal standards are. Childish? Yes, but that’s the way it happens.

You don’t want to offend the client by constantly putting up walls when they ask for something, but clear communication about what the requests involve is essential. What it comes down to is a basic cost versus quality question. How much money do you want to spend and how many people do you want to employ in order to be able to effectively meet every client request? There’s a tradeoff here, and I think that the successful company is the one that can occasionally bend a few rules and communicate effectively with the client about what can and cannot be done. The client has to know that you have their best interests in mind, and that if you say you can’t do something it’s because you don’t want to sacrifice the quality work you’re already doing for them.