Before you welcome a new hire onto your PR or marketing team, it’s important to do a background check. You want to make sure that all your marketing and PR employees are who they say they are and that they’re going to do a good job. This is a simple and typically inexpensive step that can save you a lot of time, money, and headaches in the future. Here’s how you can do it right:
Key factors for employee background checks
In an employee background check, you’re typically looking at the following:
Criminal history: First, you should check the applicant’s criminal history. For example, has this applicant been convicted of any felonies and misdemeanors? Do they have any judgments? Are they listed in records from agencies like the FBI, the DEA, or the National Sex Offender Registry? Having a criminal history doesn’t mean you should instantly disqualify the applicant, but this is important information to have before making a hiring decision.
Education: You’ll also want to look at this applicant’s education and verify that they have the education they claim to have. A simple call to a college or university can quickly help you determine whether they truly have the degree they claim to have.
Employment: In line with this, you should verify the applicant’s employment history. They may claim to have 10 years of experience in PR working for one of your competing agencies, but you can’t just take their word for it.
Some employment background checks also investigate an applicant’s credit history, especially if the applicant is applying for a job in finance. For the most part, you shouldn’t have to worry about this when hiring someone for a PR-related role.
The value of background checks in PR
Conducting background checks can help you with:
Improving workplace safety: Your organization is going to be safer and your employees will feel safer if you conduct background checks before hiring people. If someone has a violent criminal past, or if they’re a repeat offender, you can prevent them from causing any distress or chaos in your workplace.
Ensuring a good fit: This is also an important measure to ensure a good fit for your open position. You’ll make sure that the applicant has the education and experience necessary to fulfill all their responsibilities in this role.
Reducing liability: Many organizations execute background checks simply to reduce their own liability and future legal costs.
How to conduct background checks
Here are a few steps you should take to conduct background checks on your new PR hires:
Talk to a lawyer: Before taking any steps related to background checks, you should talk to a lawyer. Employment laws and employment discrimination laws are complex, and they vary from state to state. You should be familiar with the limitations of your background checks and the laws dictating how they should be performed.
Create a background check policy: Next, create a background check policy for your organization if there isn’t one already in place. This is going to serve as official documentation for how you conduct background checks, so you can ensure that all applicants are treated equally and fairly. If you’re accused of discrimination in the future, this policy may help defend you.
Rely on compliant third-party services: Most organizations benefit from relying on compliant third-party services. This way, you won’t have to navigate the law on your own, nor will you have to expend any additional time or effort conducting background checks.
Make a contingent job offer: Certain states have “ban-the-box” laws on the books, prohibiting employers from asking about criminal history on a job application or during an interview. To remain compliant with this law and others, always offer a contingent job offer before conducting a background check; if the background check doesn’t come back clean, you can withdraw the offer.
Follow through: Once you get the results of the background check, decide whether you want to proceed with hiring this individual. Otherwise, explain why the background check failed.
Keep all your records: Maintain all documents and records related to every background check you do. This way, if you ever face legal trouble in the future, you’ll have a paper trail backing you up.
Be consistent: Be consistent with the execution of your background check policy. If you reject an applicant for a specific reason but hire another applicant despite being afflicted with the same factor, you could face legal consequences.
Every PR agency or similar organization should conduct background checks on all their hires. You’ll spend some money upfront in doing so, but you’ll practically guarantee better, safer hires, and you can reduce your legal liability and potential legal costs in the process.