Check 'Em Out

Does your hire have a past? It's worth investigating

You can ease some of the anxiety that comes with hiring new employees by ordering background checks on promising candidates. The amount of information available will probably surprise you -- everything from criminal charges and convictions to real estate ownership and business affiliations. B ut background checks alone won't ensure honesty -- the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners estimates 83% of embezzlers had never previously been charged with an offense.

You'll want a professional to conduct the check -- someone who has experience in litigation, financial services, and pre-employment settings. Look for investigative-services firms specializing in both online and on-site public records investigations. Allow two to three weeks for a search to be completed, and expect to pay a few hundred to a few thousand dollars to research a midlevel employee. A thorough search on a senior executive or a business partner, which might include several character witness interviews, and, if the person has moved frequently, searches in several jurisdictions, can run tens of thousands of dollars. But if the fate of your business hangs in the balance, it could be money well spent.

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