A Serious Commitment to Customer Service

Customer Service Means Going The Extra Mile

A couple weeks ago, I read an article criticizing the money that Rutgers University spent to recruit beleaguered Athletics Director Julie Hermann.

The article’s sensationalist headline reads: Rutgers paid $70,000 for failed background check. This headline is extremely misleading and reflects the kind of sloppy, irresponsible journalism that fuels populist disdain for the mainstream media.

The article targets Parker Executive Search, the recruiting firm that Rutgers hired to locate a qualified candidate.

For those who are not aware, the executive search process involves a thorough research, vetting and interview process to select the most qualified candidate and negotiate the compensations package once the preferred candidate has emerged. One part of this process is conducting a comprehensive pre-employment background check.

Parker outsourced this work to a background screening company, as most executive recruiters do, and their background screening partner for this assignment was Kroll, Inc.

This article first ran in a local newspaper and the folks at Parker declined to comment. Why should they comment? They didn’t conduct the background check. Kroll did.

However, I’m rather surprised that Kroll did not take steps to protect their client’s reputation when the local paper ran this story, before it became a national media fiasco.

Eventually, the story ran in USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and other major media outlets. The story has been alive for more than two weeks, keeping Parker Executive Search in the spotlight, in the most unflattering way.

There is an old saying in crisis communications management: “What is the quickest way to diffuse a bomb? Set it off.”

Had Parker Executive Search been our client, we would have fallen on the sword to protect their reputation. This is how we would have handled the situation.

We would have written a guest editorial to the local newspaper that:

  1. Describes that background screening is a necessary but imperfect process.
  2. Explains that Parker did not actually conduct any of the background screening and does not deserve to be singled out in an article that mischaracterizes the “cost of the background check” at $70K.
  3. Describes the actual cost of the background check.
  4. Describes the searches that were performed, including the sources used and the very thorough efforts expended to obtain the most accurate information.
  5. Describes any risks or drawbacks associated with this kind of background check.
    Examples might include how a professional reference will rarely say anything bad about the employment candidate, and how the employment candidate may not fully disclose information that could harm their chances to get the job.
  6. Close by summarizing (and repeating) that in the modern era, which has been marked by numerous high-profile employment controversies, pre-employment background checks are a necessary but imperfect process.
  7. Once this op-ed ran in the local paper, we would have been prepared to submit it for publication to any other media outlets that picked up the story, and “link” to the original op-ed in the online comments section of any other media outlets that covered the story.

We would have asked our client to refer all media calls to us so we could clarify the situation, explain our role as the background screening company and provide a detailed explanation of the steps involved in the background check, including the information sources that were used. This would have deflected criticism away from our client and shaped the story around the pros and cons of pre-employment background screening.

We would have also penned a letter to Rutgers, explaining in great detail the steps that were implemented to obtain complete background information on the candidate.

While this approach may not have entirely kept Parker out of the media spotlight, it most likely would have prevented the shellacking they suffered through a two-week media cycle that went from local to national virtually overnight.

This is just one of the ways that Precise Hire takes customer service to a new level, because falling on the sword for your clients is just good business.


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