Comments Off on How to Focus Your Screening Efforts

There are three reports run by most people who need to screen a prospective tenant or employee. While there are a large number of additional reports, these three are extremely important in the decision to accept or reject so, with apologies to those who run additional reports, I will limit my discussion to the big three.

It is useful to obtain information on a prospects credit, criminal history and employment for any screening. Credit reports lead the way with mountains of information on credit, former addresses and other associated names. Criminal reports, hopefully, have very little information but, occasional, provide pages of crime statistics. Employment only provides verification of employment, length of employment and current salary but this is generally as useful as good credit.

Criminal Reports, unfortunately, are very unreliable for two very different reasons. First, Courts do not keep social security records so the person you are screening may simply be unfortunate enough to have the same name and a similar address as somebody who was charged. A social security filter can be used to reduce this error but, sometimes, it eliminates a correct record.

The second reason is that many records no longer accurately reflect the person you are screening. Most crimes are non-violent such as smoking pot, related to a single instance of stupidity such as fighting with another person over an alleged slur or stealing a candy bar on a dare.

In the first case, the report has a very real chance of being inaccurate and, therefore, of no value. In the second, the report may look far worse in the legal language used in the report than the incident deserves.

Credit reports easily win the battle of providing the most information. Unfortunately, about 17% of all reports have inaccurate information on them. Sometimes the incorrect information is good and sometimes it is bad but, in either case, it is inaccurate. A credit score is a system designed for banks and credit card companies to judge the viability of prospective clients. If you are not a bank or credit card company that number could be misleading. Banks and Credit Card companies care a lot about on time payments. That’s great, but you may be concerned if the prospect has used up 90% of their available credit which is less damaging to a score than might be good for you.

Employment checks should be done hands on. For the same reasons the other reports can be inaccurate employment information from a database could be outdated or misleading. The best results are achieved by contacting the employer and obtaining the information needed directly from Human Resources. If you ask the ‘boss’ you might be getting the information from somebody who has been warned to provide exaggerated figures. It may not even be a person from the company in question.

Still, if you check out the company and contact the Human Resources Department you can be almost certain the information provided is accurate. You may have to fax or email your request so they can check you out, but that is something you already thing is a necessary procedural objective.

In the final analysis the key difference between the Employment check and the others is that this check is hands on and direct to the source. The information received is a direct answer from a person you have verified and who should have no reason to provide false information.

Because the information is direct, it contains accurate information and you can easily read into this accurate information for more about the prospect. Length of employment is a realistic foundation for stability and most people who hold a job for a year stay much longer. Just a few questions and you know the prospect is relatively stable and makes enough money for your purposes.

Would you rather choose a person with a good job history and poor credit or a person with good credit and a poor job history? Good credit can disappear quickly with loss of employment. Credit can also be quickly improved with stable employment.

Many of the same arguments also apply to Criminal History Reports. If the prospect did something 8 years ago but has been stable on the job in the years since that event, which is the measure you think works better in filling your need?

Clearly a good job history provides more stable and meaningful information. Do all the checks but weigh the job heavily to get the best results.