To Check or Not To Check?

Killers, alcohol, marijuana, and the South Pole?

We know, you'd rather play with a bag o' glass than listen to a podcast about background checks, huh? Bet you'd change your mind if you knew the guest had worked at NASA and did a stint in the South Pole though, right? In this episode, the boys join Kim Jones, professor at UC Irvine, and dig into the seedy underbelly of the business of background checks and point a big finger at the HR folks who major in laziness instead of getting to the heart of each human being who seek employment.

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Kim (1s):

You have companies who potentially decline employment to someone with a marijuana conviction, but you will allow drunk drivers to continue to not just work at your company, but still park on your company property.

INTRO (13s):

Hide your kids! Lock the doors! You're listening to HR’s most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheeseman are here to punch the recruiting industry, right where it hurts! Complete with breaking news, brash opinion and loads of snark, buckle up boys and girls, it's time for the Chad and Cheese podcast.

Joel (40s):

Every guest should be Jones so he could open every show. Like that.

Chad (44s):

I wish.

Joel (44s):

What's up Chad?

Chad (45s):

Hey dude, it's another day. And we're going talk about something that generally I find boring, but this is a pretty hot, this is pretty hot topic. Actually, we have Kim Jones, If you don't know Super Kim, you will know Talent Acquisition Superhero. She's actually Senior Director at Enterprise Talent, Strategy Instructor at University of California, Irvine, Chief Executive Officer Kelton Legend. She was, this is some pretty cool stuff. Director of Talent Acquisition at NASA.

Joel (1m 22s):


Chad (1m 23s):

Yeah, so right out of the gate, give us a little bit more about you, Kim, give us a little Twitter bio about you. And then I will, I want to dump into the background check for NASA. Go ahead.

Kim (1m 36s):

I thank you, first of all, for allowing me to be here with you guys today. So I will say my career is representative of the inner nerd that I have, and I found a way to marry that inner nerD through HR and talent acquisition. And so I've been really fortunate to work in very technical environments. I learned a lot from engineers and it actually helped me be a much better HR leader because of what I learned from engineers and how they solve problems. So NASA jet propulsion laboratory, Northrop, Grumman, GE Aviation, Raytheon, and Honda. I started my career at Nationwide Insurance Company in Columbus, where I'm originally from.

Kim (2m 15s):

So I am very appreciative of my life and career journey.

Chad (2m 20s):

So when we actually got engaged on Facebook and I've been looking for a reason to bring you on the show like that just engaged in the conversation was around something that was, was somewhat boring and background checks. Although background checks, I mean they impact individuals on a daily basis. In most cases, they, they negatively impact you. You were at Raytheon, GE Aviation, Northrup Grumman, NASA for goodness sakes. So you you've gone through a few background checks. How was it for you starting back in the day? It just became kind of like normal to you, but can you talk about, and then how you started to see differences and how they impacted you versus others.

Kim (3m 4s):

Yeah. So I'll give you a little bit of a personal story and then just kind of professionally. So I have a very common name. Kimberly Denise Jones. William Tincup will tell you he and I had this conversation. I share my name with a rapper, Little Kim. We have this exact name, Kimberly Denise Jones.

Joel (3m 25s):


Kim (3m 25s):

So with almost every company that I've gone to work for, my background check was always complicated by the fact that I have a very common name and it was not uncommon for things to be reported on my background check that were not mine. And so it would typically take another, a few additional days to clear out negative or just erroneous things that weren't a true.

Joel (3m 49s):

Little Kim's done jail time, right?

Kim (3m 51s):

She has. And so when you understand the nature of trying to understand who a person is so that, you know, whether or not that it's safe or if that person can be trusted in your organization. And so then when I put on my HR hat, it is exactly that. Organizations have a responsibility to make sure they are doing their due diligence to say, is this person who they say they are? And can they be trusted to work here around coworkers, around clients with company assets. Where this becomes the evil twin, is when companies intentionally create policies to exclude or misinterpret, intentionally misinterpret information to exclude and now you are impacting people who tend to be in protected classes.

Kim (4m 46s):

And so when I talk about talent acquisition, it is as much art as it is science this area of background checks really requires a good talent acquisition or HR professionals to understand both the art and science of background checks.

Joel (5m 2s):

Do you have an example of the intentional screening out or using, I guess, background checks as a weapon to exclude people?

Kim (5m 9s):

Sure. So, perfect example here in the state of California a few years ago, there was a law passed called ban the box. And I've been in the boxes related to the fact that on an, in a traditional sense, the employment application, have you been convicted of a crime? And when that question is asked at the initial stage of the application, then candidates were automatically being rejected. This tended to impact communities of color because communities of color are more likely, because of systemic racism to encounter law enforcement, to be arrested, to be hailed, to be, you know, wrongly convicted because they don't necessarily have access to the best representation.

Kim (5m 54s):

And so now I'm standing outside a store, someone doesn't like the way I look, police show up, I'm arrested for disorderly conduct. I apply for a position. And now this question of, have you been convicted of a crime?

Joel (6m 8s):

Was it a crime or felony?

Kim (6m 9s):

Every organization may ask the question differently. Crime is a very general, general statement. Let me give you an example.

Joel (6m 17s):

A speeding ticket.

Kim (6m 18s):

A speeding ticket is a crime, we're all criminals. Every single one of us are criminals. So when you think about, yeah, like I said, just disproportionately the answer to that question. What California did was that question can't be asked at the initial application, you can solicit that question post offer, because now good organizations say post offer - preemployment. I will now make a decision about your employment, not your candidacy, because I don't ask that question until after and now I will utilize a consumer report to better understand what that crime is and what that crime precludes you from, either performing the job or just in general being employed at this particular company.

Chad (7m 5s):

So Kim, it's interesting because I know, and to answer Joel's question, I actually was working with an organization to help them in their whole hiring process. And one of the things that they had as a standard, and this is an organization that, that is manufacturing dry wall. Okay. And they asked about felonies. And my question was, why is this even necessary? Are you afraid that they're going to steal dry wall? I mean, what's the purpose behind this, right? What do you, what are you expecting this individual to do coming in at, you know, less than $20 an hour?

Chad (7m 46s):

And why are you asking this question? Are we not, are we not being bold enough as talent acquisition to go up the ladder and say, okay guys, why are we asking this question? And then also pushing back and challenging them on, this is not necessary.

Kim (8m 2s):

So you have to have a good talent acquisition, professional who is educated, I will say wise enough to know when to ask those questions. Lots of organizations do it because it's always been done without really understanding the purpose. So specifically, when you think about crimes that are felonies, felony, assault, rape, murder, theft. So if I am looking to bring someone into my organization who will be among coworkers, who may be interfacing with clients either because they come into our establishment or we're sending them out to somewhere. Am I automatically saying yes, because it's a felony or am I simply evaluating what that felony was, how related it might be to the job and how long ago it was, and does this person actually then have multiple felonies that I might need to consider that indicates to me, this is probably a rule breaker who may not do well here?

Kim (8m 58s):

So it shouldn't just simply be, do you have a felony? There are other things that should be evaluated so that, you know why, what you're saying yes or no to, and you're ready to assume whatever level of liability or responsibility may come with, employing someone who may have a felony. For example, someone who was a convicted child molester probably shouldn't be a security officer. Someone who's been convicted of embezzlement probably shouldn't be your CFO. And so there's a degree of responsibility that you have as an employer to know why you're saying yes or no, and how much risk you may be creating or risk that you could potentially mitigate.