Jim Dammann, GIS’ resident education industry expert, has been working in the background screening industry since 1996. Since 1997, he has been helping school districts, colleges and universities establish and fine-tune their screening programs – and his clients have seen great success in their screening programs.
Ahead of the CUPA-HR Eastern Region Spring Conference, we chatted with Jim about his take on background screening in the education industry. If you want to hear more bits of wisdom, visit him at booth 201 at the conference!
Why do you think screening is so important for schools and educational institutions?
When I started, the background screening conversation I was having with schools was similar to the conversation I was having with everyone else: Regardless of what industry you’re in, background checks are necessary to protect your organization and everyone who interacts with it – in this case, faculty, staff, students, etc.
In the past, risks to children’s and students’ safety were real but somehow felt remote. Now, especially in the #MeToo era, when names like Jerry Sandusky and Larry Nassar are part of normal conversation, we’re realizing it’s more common than we thought. Institutions are having to scrutinize their programs at all levels, from faculty all the way to vendors and volunteers.
In your experience, what’s the most difficult part of the screening process for higher education?
This of course varies by type of institution, but cut backs in spending are particularly difficult for state institutions. Additionally, more institutions are finding themselves with a larger foreign applicant pool, which means schools are spending money on international background checks which can be costly and lengthy in terms of turnaround times. Unfortunately, not much can be done to change that.
Of course, everyone’s also running into issues with the tight labor market, which just means that your candidate’s experience – from the start of the application, through the screening process and right on into onboarding – needs to be top-notch.
If you could convince every institute of higher education to do one thing they’re not already doing, what would it be?
Ongoing criminal monitoring and sex offender monitoring, without a doubt. Everyone knows at this point that they have to do pre-employment checks, but it’s almost as though people think that once you hire someone they won’t do anything bad for the rest of their lives. And that’s definitely true for most people, but there are some bad apples out there – and you don’t want to find out that you have a bad apple when you hear about it on the news.