Whether it’s an employee embezzling from your company or a salesman smelling like an open bottle of whiskey, a company that doesn’t pre-screen employees does so at its own peril.

“Unfortunately, in the construction industry, people move around a lot. It’s just good business to really know who you’re hiring,” says Richard Feeley, president of Feeley Mediation & Business Law, in Marietta, Ga., and a REMODELING contributor. “You could be interviewing someone you think is the cat’s meow but two years ago in another state they got into some serious trouble.”

There are a number of online companies that can do basic background checks, but Feeley recommends contracting with a professional firm that knows exactly what to look for. Feeley also cautions against ignoring any red flags that could show up in an employee’s past because the only thing worse than not finding a past indiscretion when one exists is finding one and ignoring it.

John Aurgemma, co-president of Rhode Island Home Improvement, in Warwick, R.I., says that his company does its vetting in-house. “What gets on the applications are those employers the candidates are happy with,” he explains. “What they leave off is the most damaging.”

Feeley says that a firm specializing in such investigations can usually do the job for between $50 and $100 per candidate, and online sources cost even less but are probably less thorough. Aurgemma adds, “You do the best job you can and you hope and pray that what you see is what you get.”

—Mark A. Newman, senior editor, REMODELING.