Archive for September 5th, 2007

Dear Danielle: Are Background Checks Necessary?

Dear Danielle:

A client I have been consulting with now wants me to submit to a background check before deciding whether to work with me or not. Is this customary? —DE

Uh, that would be a big NOPE, it’s not customary at all.

You aren’t going to be this client’s employee (“client” being the operative word here, not “employer”).

Even though your support to clients is very closely collaborative and personal, this still boils down to commerce between two businesses, plain and simple.

You both choose to do business together according to the usual standards of business — not employment — or you don’t work together.

Clients should be exercising their due diligence and choosing an Administrative Consultant based on qualifications, expertise, chemistry and business fit.

That is accomplished by reading the business information on your website, reviewing testimonials, going through your consultation process.

But a background check… no, I think not. And if they choose to work with you and realize it’s not a fit, they simply take their business elsewhere.

This kind of request is a strong signal that the client lacks the understanding that you are NOT their “worker” or employee, but in fact are a vendor.

Do they seriously ask all their vendors to submit to background checks? Unless they are some kind of defense contractor or something, it’s a ridiculous idea.

We’ve had this same conversation many times in our industry.

One member even reported a recent prospective client wanted her to submit to a drug test!

Another member joked that if a client asked her to submit to a background check, she’d tell them, “I’m happy to meet your requirements. However, in the spirit of reciprocity, I require prospective clients to submit to a drug screen, personal back ground check AND business credit check, as well as psychological testing.”

We all laughed, but you know, that just might get the point across indeed.

Joking aside, here’s my advice (use this an an opportunity to make improvements in your business):

  1. Decline the request. It’s not appropriate and far too invasive.
  2. Set this client straight about the relationship (i.e., a business-to-business one, NOT employment)
  3. Improve your client education process and information. This client clearly thinks you are some kind of employee, which means you haven’t done a proper job of educating them. The fact that this client even requested this and thought it was appropriate signals the fact that your website content, processes and interactions are lacking and needs to be clarified.

Hope that helps 🙂