Aug 272010

This is a Guest Post by Robertson Howard

Owning your own business is often referred to as the American dream. Starting a new business is no trivial matter and can certainly require a lot of time, energy, patience, fortitude and proper planning.

Many business owners will tell you that the two most important factors related to a successful startup are access to financial resources and the ability to hire quality talent. The decision of when to hire and who to hire is often debated back and forth by company leadership.

As the unemployment rate climbs, the number of job-seekers on the market climbs as well. At first glance this may seem like a good thing for a young company: high-end talent is available at affordable rates. Keep in mind, however, that people are unemployed for a reason. The reason behind their separation from their employer is something you will want to know about. Upon further investigation, you may find that they weren’t simply the “victim” of difficult times.

The economic climate today makes it harder and harder to be successful in business; hiring the wrong people does not have to be a contributing factor. With that in mind, be sure to set aside funds to properly screen and qualify the people you want to hire.

Accuracy of information presented on resumes, in interviews, during training and via word-of-mouth can only be taken at face value. There are professional firms dedicated to pre-employment screening that help to offer official documentation and written proof regarding a person’s history. Drug tests, background checks, credit reports and employment history are all crucial to truly find out who you’re hiring. Anyone that applies for a job, especially a job with a young company, should be properly investigated. Few people will want to “report” transgressions from their past; it’s your job to discover things that could come back to bite you later on.

With the far-reaching grasp of the Internet, there is a lot of information available for free. You can learn a lot about a person by spending a time on a few websites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google. Start out by typing a person’s name into Google and read through the results that are presented. Any time someone is in the news, for good or bad reasons, it typically is on a website somewhere. You’d be amazed at what you can discover.

Social media is a mainstream activity today that almost everyone is involved with. Find the person’s Facebook and Twitter accounts and see how active they are. Many people use social media as an outlet to vent and talk with their friends. Have they said anything questionable about their past employer, co-workers or clients? What are they doing with their time at work? Are they posting garbage and nonsense when they are on company time?

LinkedIn is designed to be a professional networking opportunity. Anyone that is not actively engaged in this (free) service is missing a lot of potential interactions. Wouldn’t you want your new employee to be seeking support, advice and leads on such a network? If they take their job search seriously and aren’t afraid to interact with others, you can learn a lot about the type of hard working employee they will likely be.

One last piece of advice centers around seeking references from a person’s past employers. Spend time speaking with their previous supervisors/managers. Ask questions about why they left the company, their work ethic, their timeliness, professionalism, ingenuity and ability to work well with others (both within the company and with clients). Don’t be afraid to ask the difficult questions and press for information. After this, speak with someone from that company’s HR department to make sure that the supervisor/manager you spoke with is held in high regard. Just because John Q Applicant gave you a name as a reference doesn’t mean that the reference has the ability to provide you with high-quality information that will help you during your hiring process.

It’s one thing to know that you’re making the right hiring decisions when starting a new company, which should be made easier after you’ve done your due diligence and investigated your new hires’ background. You can never be too careful or too sure in today’s day and age.

One situation that will require even more attention and time is when you’re considering a partner for your business. Friend, family, colleague or complete stranger, they still deserve to be screened. It’s often said that the cost to hire someone is either paid now (through proper screening and checking) or paid later (when problems arise and actions must be taken).

Analyzing a person’s current, and past, financial health can be crucial to learning more about them. Interviewing your potential partner(s) and asking a multitude of questions can uncover information you weren’t aware of. If they have, or have ever had, ownership in a business it is vital for you to learn more about their involvement with that business. Were they successful? What did they receive from their investment in the business? What are they expecting to receive from this new business?

Discuss risk tolerance and industry experience with your potential partner(s). Make sure they understand that new businesses often struggle and require a lot of knowledge to make work. If you can establish a good working relationship with your potential partner(s) before things get started, you’re more likely to succeed down the road.

Remember this: due diligence is a necessary undertaking. Spending time and money in an effort to position your business for success is a reality. Take the time in the beginning to help your new company succeed in the future. When you invest in any and all types of pre-employment screening available to you, you will surely profit from your efforts.

Robertson Howard is a background check analyst, employed by People Check, a firm that focuses on providing a comprehensive, single-source employment screening service to employers and businesses across the country..