This is an interesting problem to have:

  • You want to hire people.
  • You’re a government entity.
  • You sit on a border with another state.
  • Your applicants come from both states.
  • Your current background check system only examines your home state’s records.

What do you do?

If you’re like East Grand Forks, Minnesota, you start considering outsourcing your employee screening needs to a private company.

Here’s the situation:

East Grand Forks (EGF) is next to Grand Forks, North Dakota. They are divided by the Red River (interesting fact, it’s one of the few North American rivers to flow north).

Because of their close proximity, people often cross state borders to work. Some folks from EGF maybe work at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, and some folks from Grand Forks are maybe employed at the large Cabela’s in EGF. But when it comes to working for a city government, things get a little more complicated.

Candidates who want to work for EGF are currently screened by a police department secretary who is certified to conduct background checks by the state. The problem is that since EGF is a border city, the scope of what the city is allowed to investigate is diminished; The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension limits what information employers are able to have access to in Minnesota records.

For example, if someone is arrested across the border in Grand Forks, the EGF police chief says the department’s check might not find that record. Obviously that’s an issue and could leave the city in a vulnerable position and open to lawsuits if an employee does something egregious and whose criminal history should’ve indicated the person never be hired.

East Grand Forks is considering expanding its background checks for jobs that involve working with children, and for those applying for liquor and business licenses.

As EGF continues to investigate other background check options (it’s still in the early stages before the city council), the city will undoubtedly realize that the best way to move forward with its screening needs is to go private. The city’s isn’t required to bid out the screening services, but the council has asked staffers to look into local agencies who can accommodate the city’s needs.

It’s critical to note, however, that screening agencies should be judged on more than just their location. While it may be true that there are exceptional, nationally-accredited screening agencies in the upper Red River Valley, the reverse may also be true – that the local screening agencies may not have the chops to handle the amount, and types, of background checks that the city needs. Therefore, location shouldn’t be the primary factor EGF considers when hiring a background check firm.

What should be considered when assessing screening agencies? We’re glad you asked! Here’s four things EGF, and really, anyone who needs background check services should ask before signing on with a screening company.

Who’s used your services before and how pleased were they with the results? Word of mouth is the best NAPBS-accredited-Newsplace to start for these answers. Check with members of your local networking groups. We’re thinking of places like the Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Exchange, One Million Cups, young professionals associations. And, we strongly urge you to work with agencies who have been accredited by the National Associational of Professional Background Screeners. The process to become accredited by NAPBS is rigorous and only the best survive. We should know – we’re one of less than 50 companies who have earned their seal of approval. 

What are the agencies priorities? You interview job candidates, right? You should take the same care in vetting your screening firm. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions. Have they ever been cited for improper techniques? Do they vet their own employees? How experienced are their investigators? If the firm continually stresses its lightning-quick turnaround time and cheap costs, alarm bells should be ringing in your head. There is no such thing as instant results. If they claim that, move on.

Who compiles your checks and where do they get their information? Off-shoring background checks is dangerous business and can compromise what should be privileged and protected information. While outsourcing your screening needs to a CRA can often improve your hiring efficiency and make the candidate experience much more enjoyable for everyone involved, offshoring can present a bunch of dangers, the most egregious being a lack of security with a candidate’s Personally Identifiable Information (PII). Simply put, DO NOT work with screening companies who off-shore their checks. These foreign countries are not held to the same federal regulations U.S. companies are when it comes to handling PII.

What types of background checks does the agency routinely run? A city like EGF is going to need a smorgasbord of background checks. Drivers, childcare workers, healthcare workers, etc. They’ll need an agency who is familiar with running these sorts of checks on a daily or weekly basis, not occasionally. Just because an agency says it can run a certain type of background check, doesn’t mean that it does it regularly enough to be proficient. Here’s the well-rounded list of services that Active Screening provides – and, yes, we do them all on a daily basis.

We know that East Grand Forks can’t be the only city grappling with this problem – do you know of other border cities facing this hiring challenge? We’d love to hear about it and show them how we can help.

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