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by by Eileen Levitt, SPHR | March 10, 2009


I was in a pretty serious car accident four years ago. Long story short, the accident involved five cars, two of which were totaled and caused about $50,000 in damage. How is this relevant to employment and hiring? Well, the accident was caused by someone who was driving his employer's car and the person driving the car, was doing so using a revoked license. Apparently, the state revokes your license when they have determined that suspending it is of no use. Yikes!

As an HR person. I asked myself, the district attorney, a number of HR people, employers and the like: How could his employer have allowed him behind the wheel of a car without checking something as simple as whether that person actually had the right to be behind the wheel? The answer is money and time. Yes, companies don't want to spend the $5 it costs to check a driving record, nor do they want to wait for the record to come back before they can start the person working (sometimes it can take a day to get information back on this). Double Yikes!

So what does this tell us about the hiring process? A lot and, it isn't all good:

  1. Employers are leery to do background checks. Even knowing that it would be helpful and beneficial. Some companies and industries struggle so hard to find people that they don't want to even know if there is something that would prevent them from hiring a person.
  2. Employers don't want to add additional costs to their hiring process, as backwards as it sounds. Shortsighted employers don't want the additional expense associated with background checks. Cost vs. benefit. I always tell business owners my story and ask them, "If you knew that you could spend $5 today to save $50,000 tomorrow would you do it?" Of course, full background checks can cost as much as $100 but again, cost vs. benefit.
  3. Some employers don't even know that they can do a background check or how easy it is.
  4. It hasn't cost them money - yet.

What can you do?

  1. Recognize that hiring right does take time and costs money.
  2. Develop a job description up front that clearly defines what is required of the position.
  3. While you are developing the job description, think about what you will need to check in the person's background and determine how you will do it. There are a number of organizations that provide this service very inexpensively, including ADP, HRPlus and others.
  4. Know everything you can about someone before you hire him/her.

Eileen Levitt, SPHR is our vault recruiting expert and president of The HR Team, Inc. in Columbia, MD. She can be reached at (410) 381-9700 or Keep up with human resources trends and issues, subscribe to "The Team Player", The HR Team's free monthly newsletter. Just click the link to send a subscription e-mail:


Filed Under: Workplace Issues

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