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In the business world, issues such as theft of trade secrets, merchandise, accounts and more can be of such an impact that the company could be forced out of business.  Surely the cost of a simple background investigation pales in comparison to such a loss.  Accepting the premise of the importance of background investigations, we must then recognize the importance of a relationship between a human resources department and the security function.  The method of linking the human resources function with security will depend on the structure of the organization.  Whether you have a security force, a third party contractor ,or outsource the investigation to those that specialize in background investigations, the benefit of the relationship cannot be overstated. 

The mere examination of a resume or application is not sufficient to determine the acceptability of a candidate.  While it may be tempting to accept a resume with a solid work history at face value, a company is exposed to both personal and business liability if a thorough background investigation is not conducted. 

The background investigation addresses the issue of foreseeability, which is one of the elements in a vicarious liability case. The premise is that if a background investigation is done, then the behavior of the applicant may be predicable. The failure to conduct such an investigation underlines the company's disregard for its responsibility to due diligence. 

Since September 11 2001, there has been an increasing trend toward legislation that requires criminal checks and drug testing of security job applicants.  In contrast the business community, for the most part, decides if an applicant is to be subjected to a background investigation.  It also chooses the type of investigation to be used, which could be cursory or in depth.  The choice is usually made based on the size and type of the business, as well as the nature of the position, and of course cost is always a factor.  Of note, those companies that fall within or are on the fringe of the definition of critical infrastructure are now mandating background investigations.  In government "Request For Proposal" (RFP), the requirement for background investigation and drug screening has become the standard. 

The question must be asked: what do we really know about an applicant merely by a careful review of a resume?  The answer lies in the validity of the information provided by the applicant.  The Society of Human Resource Management conducted a survey in 1988 (Applicants Stretch the Truth: Survey of Falsified Information on Resumes and Applicants) regarding the validity of information provided in resumes. The results were as follows: 

Falsified Information

Length of Employment

Past Salaries

Criminal Records

Former Job Titles

Former Employers

Driving Records



Schools Attended

Social Security Number

Percentage of Applicants Falsifying Data











If we look at length of employment (53%), what should come to mind is to question if it is an attempt to conceal short-term employment, possible incarcerations, or some other issue that would be cause for rejection of the application.  Criminal record (45%) speaks for itself.  While some missteps in life may be acceptable, others are not.  Whether taken singularly or collectively, the result of the survey clearly demonstrates the importance of a background investigation. 

The best way to verify an applicant is to have a full background investigation done, which includes a criminal check, verification of employment history and references (gaps in employment, job hopping etc.), credit checks (consistent with the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act), driving record, and other information that is of interest in evaluating an applicant for employment.

When considering third-party vendors that will be servicing your business operations such as a contracted security force, maintenance, and construction contractors, your agreement should reflect a written verification of background investigation and drug screening that is consistent with your company's hiring policy.  This becomes an important legal document if an incident takes place that results in a lawsuit that is caused by a third party contractor. 

The hiring of qualified, honest applicants is the fast track to ensuring the efficient growth of your company and the security of its assets.  This is best accomplished in a committed policy of thorough background investigations of all new hires.  The short-term cost is far outweighed by the long-term benefit.

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