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Date: Sep 19, 2018 @ 08:00 AM

By: Sue Bury, President & CEO, 1STWEST Background Due Diligence, LLC

According to data cited by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), nearly one-fourth of 2,882 job candidates in a recent survey admitted to exaggerating the truth on their resumes. 

Fortunately, for firms hiring new top-level executives, it's never been easier to access and verify information provided to you by a candidate. However, in an increasingly competitive job market where embarrassing information has the potential to literally live forever on the Internet, companies have been lowering the bar on what kinds of “white lies” are acceptable for an executive candidate passing through a recruitment process. You may ask yourself, for example, if a prospective Chief Executive Officer should be turned downed for lying about the medals he won on his college dive team?

The answer is not black and white; every company is entitled to have its own sensitivity about seemingly innocuous dishonesty. But when it comes to filling the highest-level executive positions at your firm, is any amount of dishonestly truly innocuous? 

Consider this: For a recruit being vetted for a position like CEO honesty is about more than fudging a few qualifications for a specialized position, or presenting a more impressive version of an otherwise lackluster university career. Top-level executives are the public face of your company’s brand. And, as recent headlines have shown, all it takes is one misstep (or a series of them) by a single top-level employee to put a machine in motion that even the most storied company might not have the fortitude to survive. 

That’s because honesty is about character. And it should be reflected in every corner of your business, especially the boardroom. 

With that in mind, running a comprehensive background check is critical for firms vetting a job prospect. 

But where to begin?

Few of us haven’t succumbed to the temptation of checking up on a new romantic partner, or digging up dirt on a daughter’s new boyfriend. It seems easy right? Run a few Google searches, or, if you really want to play detective, maybe even a run a cursory search of the local criminal docket. Don’t let the glimpse of information you’ve managed to dig up fool you though. You don’t get paid to be a detective. And thoroughly vetting a high-level job candidate is much more complex and nuanced than simply stalking Facebook. 

The most important advice may seem simple: Don’t cut corners. But what does a comprehensive background search look like?  It invariably means shelling out money to hire a reputable background check service to do the work for you. Consider it an investment in your company’s future! 

There are a seemingly endless number of services selling information online, and many companies promise to offer thorough background checks.  However, just because a background check service charges a fee doesn’t make them any better. The best firms employ a combination of technology and human resources to gaze behind the looking glass of the simple facade of a candidate’s resume and references. 

Just because a resume is loaded with strong talents and reputable experience, or a candidate comes with glowing references doesn’t mean they have the character to represent your firm at the highest level. Remember, “Character” is about more than qualifications; it’s about how an individual behaves when no one else is watching, and the cameras are off.  

It is highly likely that a lot of potentially relevant information on a candidate remains off the radar. This is why the best executive background check services will always employ a “set of human eyes” in addition to any proprietary technology they might use. 

Aggregating public data may offer a rough sketch of an individual’s past, but it’s unlikely to confirm whether your candidate really is a combat veteran, or to root out whether they were previously a member of a controversial organization that doesn’t align with your company’s brand. 

When push comes to shove, and the reputation of your company—of your very livelihood—depends on accurately vetting another human being, there is no technology better than good old human intuition. Why is that? Because humans have the capacity to obtain information that lies just out of sight. For instance, a social media search may pull up revealing facts about an individual, but it takes more depth to look two or three levels further, into the postings of associates or friends. 

Also, it’s important to remember that not all information is reliable. Just because something pops up on a Google search doesn’t mean it’s true. Your company’s reputation isn’t only at stake if you hire the wrong person; it’s also at stake if you don’t hire them for the wrong reason. Relying on bad information leaves a firm open to potential legal action, and while technology may be able to gather information, only a real person can decipher its value. 

Equally important, all executive background searches must be in compliance with state and federal law. This means not only complying with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, but also domestic and international privacy law. Compliance is critical, as is knowing what information you can and can’t legally obtain. 

Nothing is ever what you think it is. Whether it’s your company brand or your personal brand you don’t want to jeopardize any of those pieces. By failing to do a robust background check when hiring a new executive you’re putting both of those at huge risk. 

I have a saying: “How you start is how you finish.” If you don’t do it right the first time you’re going to regret it in the end. Nowhere is this more true than in hiring top-level personnel for your firm. Make sure the character resonates throughout your brand!



Sue Bury
President/Chief Executive Officer | 1STWEST Background Due Diligence LLC
Sue Bury oversees the strategic direction, operations, vendor management and marketing of Denver-based 1STWEST Background Due Diligence. As a big picture visionary and business strategist, Ms. Bury and her team have engineered the most comprehensive Risk Intelligence Platform, providing leadership in risk mitigation solutions by uniting cutting-edge technology and advanced data intelligence with hands-on expertise.

Ms. Bury has over 25 years of experience in the background screening industry. She is a strong advocate for brand and bottom line protection by mitigating risk through enhanced background due diligence and routinely conducts webinars, frequently speaks as an industry expert on panels, and authors blogs/articles with numerous industry associations and publications.

Professional work history includes a proven track record as a successful entrepreneur in numerous ventures and she has held senior executive marketing positions with public and mid-market companies garnering award-winning achievements for prominent global brands. Ms. Bury is experienced in leading comprehensive business development, organic growth expansion, operation efficiencies, establishing and sustaining superior brand positioning, concept to market product innovations, investor development & relations and marketing communications. Sue has been an effective company spokesperson and an on-air lifestyle host with numerous cable and digital brands in diverse industries.

Ms. Bury actively networks within the following organizations: Commercial Finance Association, Association for Corporate Growth, Turnaround Management Association, Small Business Alliance Association, International Factoring Association, Society for Human Resource Management and the Women Business Enterprise National Council. She holds a B.S. Degree – University of Iowa.
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