Here’s a question I got recently from a client I am coaching to help him build his company (he’s a successful cleaning business owner). He’s growing his commercial cleaning business and wants to make sure he has the staff needed to service his new accounts: “When hiring new employees, what is the best way to conduct a background check? I don’t have a big budget, and don’t want to waste money on someone I would not hire.”

Here’s what I recommend:

Depending on where you get your worker’s compensation insurance, they may have an arrangement with a provider to offer this at a discounted rate. I would check there first.

Also, I’d look into joining a self – insured worker’s compensation (WC) group (kind of like a credit union) for WC insurance if you haven’t already. That way you all have the same goals, and they will be motivated to help you with this as employees with clean criminal backgrounds usually mean less WC claims as well.

Here are a few other tips that can streamline your process and also help you reduce your exposure and expenses:

1. Establish a simple written policy for your company that describes what types of convictions are grounds for disqualifying an applicant. In my company we disqualify for anything having to do with theft so that would include things like: petty or grand larceny, possession of stolen goods, breaking and entering, trespassing, burglary, credit card or bank fraud, etc.

2. You are not required to share this information with applicants or employees, but it protects you from possible claims later of unfair hiring practices if you have it in writing. This is part of your basic Human Resources plan that includes the written application, steps of your hiring process, employee manual, safety program, training, etc.

3. Include a question about any criminal history on the application. Something like: “Have you been convicted of any crimes (felony or misdemeanor) during the last 10 years? A “yes” answer may not necessarily disqualify your from seeking employment with XYZ Company. However, failure to disclose or falsely answering this question will make you ineligible for employment and will be grounds for immediate termination should you be hired.”

4. Also, ask about it during the initial phone screening. This will make sure to catch those applicants who didn’t see that question on the application and give you a chance to get more details. Some applicants may answer yes to your question on the application or may state “will explain in interview” so this gives you an opportunity to follow up. Make sure that this question is on your interview checklist so it NEVER gets missed accidentally! Checklists are a great resource to prevent forgetting a simple but crucial step or question in your process.

5. Then, see if they pass your interview process (which should include multiple call backs and a pre-employment test) to further weed out those who are not reliable, can’t follow directions, don’t have good cleaning or work skills, etc. At that point I’d suggest you go ahead and pay (about $25.00) to run the check which is pretty comprehensive. This cost estimate is based on my experience (working with a referred partner) through my self- insured worker’s compensation group. Hopefully you connect with a company or group that offers this service based on my earlier suggestions. If you haven’t, you might check with your local chamber or BNI (Business Networking International) group to see if they can refer a reputable firm to you.

That being said, some bad apples may still slip thorough but at least you’ve done your due diligence and can assure your customers of your efforts with a clear conscience. While I applaud your desire not to waste money, it’s been my experience that the time spent to carefully screen potential new hires in the beginning, pays significant dividends later by assuring you the highest quality employees available for your company.

Finally, limit your exposure to new hires by the careful monitoring of access, codes and keys, until they’ve worked with you long enough to relax your vigilance a bit ( and then only a bit at a time). I like Ronald Reagan’s advice “trust, and verify.”

Successful marketing for your cleaning business will have had the happy result of bringing you new, high quality clients. There’s nothing worse than potentially losing a good account or damaging the relationship with poor hiring practices. So, be sure to go through your process and spend the money on a background investigation. It’s a good investment in preventative maintenance for you and your clients.

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