Organizations of all types and sizes require a safe environment for employees and customers, and car rental operations are no exception. It really begins with who you hire and place in a position of trust.

Yet, at the same time, today’s economic climate is requiring everyone to control costs. Budgets are being slashed, and everyone is expected to accomplish more with less. This often leads to the cutting of corners, and mistakes can occur. Hiring, like other business processes, is not immune to this. After all, the wrong candidate in the wrong position can prove disastrous for a car rental company’s reputation, and to the career of the person doing the hiring.

Delaying Background Checks Can Cost You

Unfortunately, when it comes to hiring new employees, background checks and due-diligence are among the first items to get cut when money is tight.

Background screening seems like common sense, and it is. However, sometimes a company will delay a thorough background check on a candidate in order to see how he or she will function on the job first. This happens particularly in positions where there is a higher turnover rate, such as frontline counter reps, and where more background checks are required.

Then again, some forgo the screening process entirely, or perform a cursory investigation in hopes that things will just work out. These scenarios hold potentially terrible consequences and can expose an organization to far greater losses than the initial cost of conducting thorough background checks.

As in any industry, the effort to do a thorough background check goes a long way, and in the automobile rental industry it is paramount. When millions of dollars in assets are placed in the trust of strangers, managers owe it to the company to learn as much as they can about the people they hire.

What Background Checks Should Include:

The best indicator of a person’s future behavior is his or her past behavior. This is why background checks are essential. Resumé fraud alone is rampant and can range from minor embellishment to a complete and total fabrication that can embarrass an institution or result in exposure to danger. With this in mind, whether you are conducting background checks in-house or have contracted an outside source, here are five points to consider:

• Criminal Record Investigation: The first step should be a criminal background check that investigates, at a minimum, the past seven years of a candidate’s life. It’s not enough to just check the past few years. Even if an item of concern is a distant memory, it’s simply better to be aware of it so an organization is not caught off guard if questions do arise down the road.

[PAGEBREAK] • Prison Record Review: A question that should be asked of a candidate, and investigated, is if he or she has served prison time. If so, it is important to learn not only the circumstances of the person’s arrest, but the terms of his or her release. There may be some restrictions as to what type of activity the employee can perform. Note that various agencies do not necessarily share information, so it is important that an investigation be comprehensive.

• Motor Vehicle History: An inquiry with the Department of Motor Vehicles about a candidate’s driving history is obviously essential for car rental operations. Motor vehicle records can also provide insight into a candidate’s behavior not necessarily captured in a criminal background investigation.

• Credit History: Particularly in tougher economic times, it is understandable that a candidate’s credit history could be adversely impacted. However, a questionable financial past may also reveal motives for potential thieves, or expose a person’s inability to recognize the importance or severity of situations. While reasonable explanations can be made about a credit history, it is an area to check, and one where a candidate should be questioned.

• Online Search: The Internet is a very powerful and easy-to-use tool, and a simple search on a candidate can produce amazing results. A Google or Yahoo! search is a great place to start. Also of interest should be a candidate’s social networking habits. It should also be noted, however, that not everything you find on the Internet about a person can be assumed to be accurate and viable in judging character.

These various checks make up a reasonably thorough background screening process. Also, for higher managerial posts and those in positions that interface with the public, such inquiries should be made periodically. Those whose behavior has become erratic should also be closely monitored. After all, people and their circumstances can change over time.

John Nagy is senior vice president of Andrews International.