Chief Officers, whether Chief Executive, Chief Finance, or Chief Operations, have a growing role in multitudes of companies that are connected to various audiences through Internet-based channels as well as more traditional routes. The executives, together known as CXOs, in these roles set the ‘tone from the top’, establishing the written and unwritten rules of the organization, including its culture, ethics, and standards by which people under their leadership handle themselves as part of the organization.
In addition to acting as leaders within the organization, CXOs tend to have deep access to the resources and inner-workings of the organization, such that hiring the wrong person—for example, one who seeks to defraud the organization—can cause serious damage.
According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), there is a “strong correlation between a fraudster’s level of authority and the financial impact of the fraud.” In its 2014 study, the ACFE found that “owners/executives accounted for less than one-fifth of all frauds, but the median loss in owner/executive cases was $500,000, approximately four times higher than the median loss caused by managers and nearly seven times that of employees. Authority tends to be strongly correlated with loss because high-level fraudsters generally have greater access to organizational assets and are better able to evade or override controls than lower-level employees.”
Greater authority = Greater need for background screening
Hiring officer-level employees requires more extensive background research than for lower level positions. Yet organizations sometimes put less emphasis on the background check of a C-suite applicant assuming that reputation and claimed accomplishment demonstrate the fitness of the candidate. There have been cases where this laxity has led to very unfortunate hiring decisions.
In general, a C-level position has certain characteristics that increase the level of role-related risk associated with it. These include:
- Leadership: the assumption of strategic responsibilities and decision making at the strategic level.
- Fiduciary responsibility: access to financial assets and/or financial performance of a section of the organization.
- Position of trust: a very high degree of independence in unsupervised activity that includes the ability to commit the organization’s reputation and resources to a course of action.
- Operational responsibility: authority over high level direct reports who manage important units of the organization.
The higher risk inherent in these responsibilities makes intensive, broad background checks essential.
Components of a C-Level Background Check
A typical background check will include the following services:
- SSN Locator
- National Criminal Database Search
- Sex Offenders Record Search
- Local Criminal Records Search— Minimum 7 Year History
- Statewide Criminal Records Search — Minimum 7 Year History
- Federal Criminal Records Search—Minimum 7 Year History
- Motor Vehicle Records Search
- Employment Credit Report
- Education Verification
- Employment Verification
- Employment References
- Civil Records Searches— Including Tax Liens and Judgments
- Open Source and Print Media Research
- Professional License Verification
- Possibly also International Criminal Records Search
The CXO or C-level roles within an organization are extremely important to organizational success and requires a very careful review of the individual’s background before hiring. The people you choose today will set the stage for what your organization becomes tomorrow. Take the time to screen carefully.