Don't Let the Suit or Stethoscope Fool You

August 14, 2014

Looks can be deceiving and sometimes well-spoken, clean cut professionals aren't always who you think they are. Trust is often earned easily by professionals with seniority or an impressive title, so it's not uncommon for hiring managers to throw precaution to the wind and waive the background check. By allowing exceptions to be made to your background screening policy, you are leaving your organization open to significant financial and safety risks.

CEO with a Past

Hiring a new CEO can be fraught with challenges and sometimes businesses let their guard down when they are trying to land their next executive.  When hiring from the outside, most companies conduct some sort of due diligence, ideally including a comprehensive background check of criminal history, education verification, and employment verification. But what about when they promote from within?

Michael Sharpe, the CEO of the Family of Urban Schools of Excellence resigned after the company belatedly found out about his criminal past, including a conviction for embezzling over $100,000. He also admitted to lying on his resume about earning a doctorate. During his tenure, Sharpe was given millions of dollars in state money and despite a policy requiring everyone from the superintendent down to undergo a background check, he mysteriously slipped through undetected. This incident may have been prevented, had an education history check been performed, which would have revealed that he falsified his credentials.

Who is Screening Doctors?

In April, Dr. William Thomas Dando allegedly assaulted a 41 year-old woman in a locked examination room and now faces charges. But the fact that a physician, a person who is in a position of trust, sexually assaulted a patient isn't the most shocking part of this story. This was not his first run in with the law. He pleaded guilty to a sexually-based offence in 1987 for which he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Yet somehow he was granted a license to practice by the Maryland Board of Physicians.

In Maryland, you must undergo a criminal record check if you want to be a nurse, therapist, social worker, or even a mortuary driver. But not a doctor. The current policy for licensing doctors is voluntary self-disclosure of past convictions; however, the board is considering the introduction of a background screening policy.

Licensing boards across the country, especially in the healthcare industry are faced with the question of whether or not they are ultimately responsible for conducting background checks on their applicants. A state audit of health-related licensing boards in Oregon revealed that veterinarians aren't screened for criminal history even though they handle prescription drugs. According to the Oregon Veterinary Medical Board, the issue of background checks has come up in the past, but the board concluded that the crimes uncovered would not reveal animal abuse or substance abuse that would disqualify an applicant. Lori Makinen, executive director of the board expects that background checks will be introduced in some way.

Inconsistent application of background screening policy is an issue that spans multiple industries, not just the public sector. Unfortunately, it is all too common for organizations to conduct criminal checks on entry and mid-level positions, but stop at top-level executives, directors, or other professionals.

The reasons for skipping over senior level or professional positions varies by organization, but it may be based on the smaller number of executive level hires or a lack of formal policy for these positions. How ever it happens, it's a dangerous oversight as executives and professionals carry great responsibility and access to valuable assets.

So what should you do next time you are hiring an executive? Select a background checking provider with experience in screening high-level professionals. The candidate experience is extremely important in these situations so you'll want to work with a provider who is knowledgeable, compliant, and thorough.