Sunday, July 22, 2001

Company helps employers screen applicants




By Jenny Callison
Enquirer contributor

        In the best of all possible worlds, prospective employees would always tell the truth about themselves in the job application process. But about a third of the time, misrepresentation occurs, says Cindy Franklin, president of Background Bureau.

        She cited the findings of a survey of Fortune 500 companies: It takes a company an average of four months and costs an average of $15,000 to identify a hiring error.

        “Anything an employer can do to enhance their potential of hiring the right person for the job is money in their pocket in the long run,” Ms. Franklin said.

        To assist companies large and small, Background Bureau provides a report on job applicants that includes a check of the person's criminal, credit, motor vehicle, employment and educational histories. Personal references are checked. The profile also includes any on-the-job accidents the applicant may have had that affect his or her ability to perform the work in question.

        “We call the previous employers and know what kinds of questions we can ask about job performance, and what the person's strengths and weaknesses are. Our being a third party means we take away a lot of the previous employer's worry about what he says. And our client has no liability at all.”

A BIT OF BACKGROUND
  Cindy Franklin started Background Bureau in 1993 when she bought a background-check company that had been in operation since 1978. She renamed the enterprise and retained the older company's client base. Her company works with clients throughout the United States and Canada and typically processes about 300 reports each day. Subcontractors in other states travel to county courthouses to perform criminal checks to ensure accuracy.
  A company pays about $35 for a check of an applicant's history, although discounts are available for large volume. An individual pays $60-$100 for his own background check. Performance Profiles cost $50 to $100, depending on the position for which a person is being evaluated.
  Background Bureau can be reached at (859) 781-3400, (800) 854-3990 or www.backgroundbureau.com.

        Ms. Franklin's Fort Thomas business is by no means the only background checking service in the country. But she takes on the competition by broadening her company's array of services, promising fast response and emphasizing Background Bureau's personal approach.

        “I don't like to lose touch with people,” she said. “Your computer can talk to my computer and if they screw up, nobody knows. A computer is a wonderful thing, but it can't give you advice or give you the service a person can.”

        Ms. Franklin is proud that anyone who calls during business hours is greeted by a receptionist, not a menu of push-button options.

        “When you call they are friendly and act like they know you,” said Molly McCarthy, an owner of Modern Office Methods in Blue Ash. “We've been with them for a long time, although we used to use a competitor.”

        What sold the office equipment dealership on Background Bureau initially was the venture's quick turnaround: 24 to 48 hours, as opposed to other companies' responses that could take weeks.

        “We also get more information for less money,” Ms. McCarthy said. “They've been very reliable, very accurate and helpful. And they always follow up.”

        “Ours is a service with no contracts and no minimum,” Ms. Franklin said. “We offer the same service to everyone.”

        Often, smaller companies may feel they don't need or can't afford to check the backgrounds of job applicants. Ms. Franklin begs to differ.

        “If you have 1,000 employees and, over a period of 10 months, you lose 10 of them, it generally doesn't affect your business. If you have 20 employees and over three years you lose 10 of them, it really does affect your business.”

        To hone the company's competitive edge, Ms. Franklin has added services to Background Bureau's roster. The company does exit interviews, conducts surveys on wages and benefits to help clients evaluate their own standing, and checks backgrounds of potential tenants for owners of apartment complexes.

        Recently Background Bureau began offering employers an additional means of evaluating a potential employee's suitability for the job. Its performance profile of work abilities and attitudes indicates an applicant's risk factors, preferences and potential.

        “Suppose you're looking for a manager trainee, and you find that a person has no feel at all for supervision,” Ms. Franklin explained. “But you might have a job for them where they would work alone, and do very well. You know from day one what to look out for, how to train a person and what to focus on.”

        “Performance Profile gives you a lot of information on behavioral characteristics such as attendance,” Ms. McCarthy added. “Would there be a chance for someone to be out a long time? Are they likely to be injured on the job? What is their stability? Their management potential? It's a very useful tool for us.”

        Background Bureau most recently has aligned its services to help people in the job market. Individuals can now order some types of background checks on themselves to attach to their resumes. Ms. Franklin said that this effort on an applicant's part enables him or her to stand out from the pack in a tightening job market.

        “By seeing the information attached to the resume or application, a potential employer knows in advance if a particular applicant satisfies their employment standards. Employers can also direct applicants to order and forward their reports to them from their home PC, saving time and money.“

        Ms. Franklin said that regardless whether Background Bureau is working for an individual or an employer, the client can expect absolute accuracy in data gathering and reporting.

        “There an awful lot to a company like this, and one thing is that we have a very moral and ethical obligation to make darn sure that what we report is right,” she said. “We are dealing with people's lives.”



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