January 04, 2014 • By Dennis Beaver
If you are an employer presently using, or considering using the services of an employment agency, our story today could save you hours of wasted time, embarrassment, theft or worse, and we begin with this question:
When an employment agency sends you a job applicant’s resume, you can assume that they have done an adequate background check and verified information stated on the resume. True or false?
“David” is an attorney in Central California and a longtime reader. He learned the answer to that question soon after speaking with a “counselor” from a local branch of a nationwide employment agency about his need for a part-time receptionist with general office skills.
“I made it clear that I did not need a legal secretary or a paralegal, just someone who had good general office skills, to work afternoons.”
Two days later, the employment counselor phoned, stating that she had “the perfect candidate” and emailed Amy’s impressive resume.
“It was indeed impressive, far more than I had expected or requested, and as a former Deputy D.A. specializing in fraud cases, it immediately set off alarm bells,” David told us.
“Under ‘Education,’ Amy stated that she was a student at Western State College of Law in Fullerton from September 2011 to the present; both her law degree and criminal law certification was anticipated in May 2015.
“What first came to mind was, how could anyone be a full-time law student and work at a distance of four hours from her school? While Western State is fully accredited and does have an evening program, it would be impossible for Amy to make it to class on time, given the distance.
“And a criminal law certification? For that, you have to be in law practice for years and pass a really tough exam,” David pointed out.
Applicant admits to lying
His curiosity awakened, David called the employment counselor, discussed his concerns, and asked for an explanation as well as to have Amy phone. Later, the counselor informed him, “Amy told me she is in their online program.”
He next called Western State, only to discover that they do not have an online program.
“Minutes later, Amy called and admitted to now being enrolled at some unaccredited, online law school. When I asked her about certain well-known historically important cases which any first-year law student would be aware of, she had never heard of them.
“Amy poured out her life story; she had to return home to take care of her three children and was on state disability because ‘One morning I woke up and my legs were paralyzed. The doctors don’t know why,’ she told me, ‘but it comes and goes.’
“Apparently, just like her honesty,” David added.
“Dennis, I wasted a great deal of time attempting to verify what her resume claimed. The employment agency sent me this ‘perfect candidate’ without validating anything on her resume and they finally admitted it. It seems clear that if you trust someone an employment agency sends as having been vetted, you could be inviting real trouble. Is mine a common experience?”
Due diligence and most employment agencies do not go hand in hand
“With the exception of companies that specialize in health care or law enforcement, rarely do employment agencies, headhunters or ‘recruiters’ perform any due diligence background screening other than perhaps a telephone call to confirm the last employment,” Santa Maria-based private detective Riley Parker told You and the Law.
Parker agrees that potential employers often assume that resumes sent to them by an employment agency have been verified, but stressed that most agencies:
• Do not run Social Security number traces in order to determine known alias names or additional counties/states of residence.
• Do not research criminal records or arrest history.
• Do not research civil records, which could divulge prior litigation against former or present employers.
• Do not research family law records, which would reveal the presence of domestic violence restraining orders.
• Do not research federal records that could reveal bankruptcies or federal criminal records.
Parker cautions all employers:
“Before reaching a decision to hire, employers should insist upon a full-blown pre-employment screening by a member of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners. It will usually cost less than one day’s pay and could save you a fortune.”
But you probably are wondering if the employment agency owes David for his lost time.
And what happens if an employment agency advertises that it does perform due diligence background checks, you hire the person they’ve referred, and they turn out to be one costly nightmare because no adequate check was ever done?
We’ll have the answers next time.
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.