Seriously, craft beer and employee background checks?  How could I possibly mix alcohol and work as an HR professional?  That is hypocrisy.

No, this has nothing to do with splitting a growler while your candidate signs the background check authorization form.  This is about the similarities of a craft brewery and a quality background screening firm.

I am counting on the beer references to keep you interested.

Hardly a week passes that I don’t read about a new craft brewery popping up here in central Indiana.   I read recently there are now more than 80 throughout the state.

Honestly, there is a lot we can learn from the craft brewers.  There is an art and sophistication with craft beer.  A recent Indiana Business Journal article credits the craft brewing explosion with creating a limited supply of hops.  Why?  Because the craftsmen are focused on quality.

That has not always been the case with beer.  As a matter of fact, ten years ago beer drinking and sophistication would never be uttered in the same sentence.

The background screening industry is no different.  From the inception it has been churning out millions of gallons of cheap, mediocre, service-free background checks.  The huge screening firms that dominate the market have peddled cheap products and services in the name of profit.  And most have evolved into raw data aggregators.  You put data in and they spit data out.  Then you are stuck trying to make sense of the results.  Is it your person or not?

This is troubling on a number of levels.  Erroneous background checks and lack of legal compliance are resulting in an avalanche of lawsuits.

If  you approach background screening as a commodity then you will end up with the Pabst Blue Ribbon of background checks.  And some of you might be fine with that.  PBR has made a comeback albeit still cheap and still not synonymous with quality.

But if you are a category of one type company then you refuse to settle for mediocre.  You have a craft brewery mentality.

I love clients and prospects that have this craft mentality.  They raise the level of the game.  They ask tough questions and expect detailed answers.  Cost is important but quality is what drives them.

Which leads me to the 4 similarities between craft beer and an excellent background screening firm.

#1 is a Commitment to Quality.

The background screening industry is highly unregulated and has traditionally provided a very low quality product and service.  The Fair Credit Reporting Act provides guidance and consumer protections but it does not require the screening industry to adopt quality background checks as a standard.

There has always been an unhealthy dependence on database products which are terribly incomplete and searches limited to seven years.  A handful of states restrict reporting but not Indiana.  So why would you not want to see the whole picture and make an informed decision?

The screening industry has also treated background checks like an ATM machine.  You put something in and get something out.  But what if there are alias names that were not disclosed?  You run the risk of missing a record or doubling the cost of your background check since most screening firms charge for each name.  That smells like profit is more important than safety and security.

Also, the background screening industry seems to be in a constant mode of acquisition.  Large firms gobbling up the smaller firms.  Recently, the largest screening firm was purchased by another of the large firms, creating a mammoth corporation.

As the screening firms grow larger and larger, their commitment to service and quality goes lower and lower and the reliance on automation goes up.  Have you followed the U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit involving a huge screening firm that did not complete more than 650,000 background checks but cleared them in the name of profit which resulted in federal clearances based on incomplete background checks?  Google this and see for yourself.  You just might recognize the name.

Now, don’t get me wrong, automation can be a good thing.  We have integrations with ATS providers such as Taleo, paperless processing and automated reference checks.  We are about to release a new interface that includes recruiting, background checks, automated reference checks, onboarding and payroll all bundled together in one application.  Technology is a great thing.

However, you cannot remove human eyes from the background screening process unless you are willing to accept the risk of missing a serious record or mislabeling someone as a criminal who is not.

That is not a risk that I would think most of you are willing to take.  The legal climate today demands that your screening partner help you navigate legal minefields such as FCRA or EEOC compliance, state law restrictions, and Ban the Box which hit the streets of Indianapolis on June 5, 2014.

Quality screening firms are committed the to the spirit of the FCRA and consumer protection.  They will be as concerned about misreporting information on a candidate as they are on missing information.

FCRA compliance is not that difficult.  But it does require a screening firm that is committed to helping you.  The forms require specific language that must be included as well as language that should NOT be included such as a waiver of liability.

There are two requirements every single time you run a background check:

  1. Provide a Disclosure Statement; and
  2. Receive Authorization (written or electronic)

And this MUST be a separate, stand-alone document from your application.

The final two FCRA compliance steps only apply if you are denying employment (or insurance or credit) “based in whole or part” on the screening report.  This requires a two-step process:

  1. Pre-Adverse Action Letter.  Just like it sounds.  Before you take adverse action, you must provide your candidate with a Pre-Adverse Action Letter which provides the toll free number to your screening firm, provide them a copy of the screening report (they have a right to see what is being used against them and dispute inaccuracies) and a Summary of Their Rights Under the FCRA.
  2. Adverse Action Letter.  The Adverse Action Letter is issued after waiting a “reasonable amount time” for the candidate to receive the Pre-Adverse Action Letter.  A good rule of thumb is at least 5 business days.

Here is where the FCRA can be a bit lax on the requirements of background screening firms.  There are two options for reporting of criminal records:

  1. Verify all criminal records with the government source (best practice); or
  2. Section 613(a)(1) allows screening firms to use contemporaneous notification instead of verifying a criminal record.  What does that mean?  It means if they find a criminal record in a database they can provide it to you so long as they provide the same information to your candidate.  It is called a shortcut to save money.  A NY screening firm is being sued because it mislabeled a candidate by using contemporaneous notification and he was denied employment.  A simple verification with the courts could have avoided this.

Short cuts in brewing and background checks will increase profits but will always result in a poor quality  product.

#2 Sophisticated.

True aficionados of craft beer are sophisticated.  They talk about lacing, earthy notes, sweet malts or citrusy hops and what food it pairs well with (my grandfathers would turn in their graves if they heard such a conversation about beer).

And background screening is a highly sophisticated process.  The days of data aggregation are over (unless you like to spend time in court).  You can’t afford a screening firm that is willing to cut corners in the pursuit of greater profits.  A firm that uses contemporaneous notification could get you in big trouble with Indiana’s expungement statute.  Most criminal databases do not receive dispositional updates so you could receive a criminal record that has been expunged.  The penalties are not light.

Or the EEOC knocks on your door because of your misuse of criminal background checks.

Or you live in a community like Indianapolis that has adopted Ban the Box (limited application to city/county government).  And your screening partner did not take the time to mention the new law.

This is the perfect time to call a time-out and review your policies and make sure you are hitched to a sophisticated screening firm that adheres to the highest possible standards.

#3 Price Conscious

Sophistication does not have to break the bank.  I realize that I cannot get a good craft beer for a dollar and I should understand that I cannot receive quality employment background checks for $15.  And there is no way to do quality volunteer background checks for $9.  Yes,  I know a Google search will say otherwise.

It might look like a craftsmen is more expensive but when you read the fine print you will realize you are actually receiving a lot more.  High quality.  Great service.  And peace of mind.

#4 Great Customer Experience

I have visited numerous microbreweries around the state and noticed they all have a cult following.  This is the pairing of a great product with a great experience.  It is an art.  Personal.  Relational.

Background screening is also relational.  Working together.  Sharing information and asking questions.  Equally yoked with the same goal of protecting your organization.

I don’t think it is too much to ask that phones are answered by human beings.  That voicemail and email are returned promptly.  Maybe I am old school.

Customer service is not an act that can be easily taught.  It is ingrained in the culture of the company (or it’s not).  It starts with hiring and bringing people into the organization that have integrity and personality.  We can teach skills.  We can’t teach serving our clients.

HR is a fast paced environment and there is no room for poor service.  You should not have to delay your hiring process because you cannot get your questions answered.

The good news is that there are craft screening firms that will provide all of this and treat you like you want to be treated.  Cheers.

About the author:  Mike McCarty is the CEO of Safe Hiring Solutions LLC a global background screening firm and CEO & Co- Founder of eReferenceCheck, a competency-based reference checking software platform. Prior to founding Safe Hiring Solutions, Mike was a violent crime detective with the Metropolitan Police Department in Nashville, TN where he was instrumental in the development and implementation of one of the largest community-based family violence investigative units in the United States. The program was labeled a model program by the U.S. Department of Justice and former President Bill Clinton.

Mike is also the author of “Choking in Fear: a Memoir of the Hollandsburg Murders” which was also the basis for a documentary on the Discovery Channel titled Very Bad Men.  Mike has facilitated violence prevention training and consulting nationally and internationally to organizations such as U.S. Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Justice- Violence Against Women Office and U.S. Department of Defense.  Mike is a graduate of Wabash College.