Background Checks: As Important in Politics as They are in Business

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As the CEO of TalentWise and with a long family history of public service, I was happy to meet a father at my son’s school who was interested in applying the best practices of employment background screening to politics.  I was more than a little surprised to learn that the electoral process is void of any formal background checks, despite being a standard practice in both the private sector and for government employees.  Today I serve on the board of his non-profit venture, CandidateVerification, and have witnessed first-hand that our work at TalentWise provides value not only to HR professionals and their businesses, but also improves the underlying ecosystem of our democracy. 

Last year, through a pilot project launched with a local candidate rating agency, candidates were asked to participate in a free background check provided by non-partisan CandidateVerification.org.  2014 has seen more traction as one county party and three political action committees (PACs) have joined the movement, leading to an over 60% participation rate by Washington State legislative candidates. As November 4th nears, more candidates and PACs are joining the movement.  This has not been easy, but momentum is building.

In every election cycle, candidates from all parties and walks of life have been caught hiding embarrassing information from the voters.  In line with private sector industry statistics, the majority of cases involve discrepancies around job titles, degrees earned, and professional credentials.  Not surprising, the results from our 2014 candidates corroborate those numbers, which is why I am proud to devote my time and the power of our TalentWise solution to this public good. 

CandidateVerification is poised to scale nationally beyond our home state of Washington.  In addition to significant media coverage in Washington State, a brave blogger in Indian Wells, California, frustrated over dirty politics in their previous city council election, held all candidates in this years’ local race accountable to participate.  Not only did all candidates on the ballot sign-up for the service, one candidate chose to withdraw because he refused to participate. Now we’re talking.

This is not just about catching white lies and whittling down the field with evidence of a resume fraud of a criminal background.  It’s about deterrence.  As HR Pros know, raising the bar for one raises the bar for all, improving workplace safety, protecting shareholder assets, and improving the quality of hire.  The same value proposition applies to the 500,000 elected officials in the United States.  Verifying their backgrounds should be an easy first step that will deter future scandals and ultimately lead to a higher quality government and a stronger America.  

For more information or to contribute to this important cause, please go to candidateverification.org.