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The Weakest Link

Do you remember the TV show, The Weakest Link? It was a fairly short-lived game show airing on prime time in 2001 and 2002 before going into syndication. A team competed by trying to correctly answer questions. At the conclusion of the round the team was prompted to vote to eliminate one of their teammates that they felt under-performed in the previous round (the so-called "weakest link" in the chain). The one with the most votes was eliminated and sent home with the host (Anne Robinson) telling him/her "You are the weakest link, goodbye!"


If you use contract workers or if you allow unescorted service workers on your premises, all your background checks and other security policies may be compromised if you don’t also apply them to visitors. After spending time and resources making sure your employees are properly screened, a temporary worker sent by your staffing agency could be your weakest link.


If you have contract workers on your premises regularly or if you frequently have a service technician doing work inside your facility, you can require his or her employer to conduct a thorough background check on them prior to allowing them on your premises. You may even want to write that requirement into your contract with the service provider or temporary staffing agency.

The key is to properly define the term background check. If you don’t, they are free to interpret that term themselves and may skimp on how well they search for criminal records or how far back they search. Simply asking your staffing agency or the company that sends a repair technician a few times per year if they do a background check is not enough.


If you are careful to determine where your applicants for employment have resided for the past 10 years and then do a real time search of the criminal court records in every one of those jurisdictions, make sure your vendor is as thorough as you are; and make sure you get it in writing. Staffing agencies, like the rest of us are in business to make a profit. Most don’t do any background check at all unless their client insists on it. Even then, many of them will do a minimal, bare bones check so that they can claim they did it without spending the few extra dollars required to be thorough and conduct a background check that would meet industry best practice standards.


I have countless examples of clients who contract with my company to perform background checks on applicants who started as a temp, placed by an agency who claimed to do a background check prior to placement. When we perform the background check our client has mandated and find a criminal record the temp agency missed, the reason is usually because they were cutting corners. Staffing agencies can and will perform thorough background checks, but only if their clients insist on it and make it part of the contract. Your screening agency should be able to assist you in writing a specification for a thorough background check.