by Michael Gaul
Employment background checks are a valuable strategic endeavor for organizations that compete on the quality of their workforce. Yet many employers are finding themselves faced with increasing legislative control and legal attention due to mistakes made by themselves or others who incorrectly use background checks to inform their hiring decisions. These mistakes, while often unintentional, result in unfair hiring practices that threaten applicants and employers alike.
Smart employers will take time to evaluate their employment screening programs, as they would any other business program, to ensure legal compliance as well as strategic effectiveness. These employers recognize that the right thing to do is to put fair policies in place, follow those policies consistently, and screen their people for a more qualified, safer, and more productive workforce.
Common Employment Background Check Mistakes
Background screening companies are frequently asked to evaluate the programs of new or potential customers. Here are some of the more common mistakes we find:
1. Neglecting to Check Contingent Workers
As companies increasingly rely on temporary workers or independent contractors, some neglect to consider that the actions of these contingent workers on the job can still fall under the responsibility of the hiring company. Companies that neglect to require the same screening for contingent workers as for regular employees add undue risk and liability to their organizations.
2. Lack of a Background Check Policy for Existing Employees.
Often individuals will begin at a relatively low risk role in a company before moving into higher level positions with less supervision, greater responsibility, and subsequently – higher risk. Far too many companies lack screening policies that address existing employees who change roles within the company. Instead, individuals who are promoted to positions of higher risk or greater authority should be subject to a higher level of background screening. Similarly, as an organization’s screening policy changes and evolves, current employees should be subject to screening based on the new criteria.
3. Not Using a National Criminal Database Search
Until recently national criminal database searches were not included in the employment background check programs for most companies. Now, with an increasingly transient workforce and access to national databases that are much more robust than before, a national database search is a valuable tool to guide the criminal search process. Just remember, a national database search is to be used as a supplement to local criminal checks – not as a substitute.
4. Lack of Established and Published Background Screening Policy
Commonly overlooked, a screening policy should be specific to the risk tolerance and business goals of the organization. It should detail the types of background checks to be conducted at varying levels within the organization, when and how screening is to be conducted, and what information will be collected. Well-articulated policies keep everyone involved in the hiring process on the same page.
5. Missing a Well-Documented Background Screening Process
Stemming from an established screening policy, a documented process should detail how a background screening policy will be implemented. The process should help both the subject of the report and the hiring managers within the organization understand what will happen.
A typical process includes:
- 1. Verification of the Identity of the Applicant
- 2. Determination of the Scope of the Search
- 3. Fulfillment of the Search
- 4. Evaluation of the Resulting Information
- 5. Take Appropriate Action
6. Neglecting to Apply the Background Check Process Consistently Across Each Individual
Consistency is critical in many processes, including background checks. Consistency is needed to help employers avoid claims of discrimination that result from conducting checks on a selective basis. To demonstrate consistency applicants applying for the same or similar positions must be subject to the same type of background check prior to receiving an offer of employment. Take care to create consistency in your program.
7. No Clear Link between the Background Check and the Job
One of the most potentially damaging mistakes an employer can make is neglecting to establish a clear link between the background check and the job. Employers should take care to evaluate the risks of a given job and determine the information needed to make a safe and appropriate hiring decision.
8. Lack of Strict Accordance with FCRA Regulations, State and Federal Laws, Etc.
The complexities of employment background checks are many when considering the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity and Fair Credit Reporting Act meshed with state Equal Employment and Fair Credit Reporting laws, combined with Americans with Disabilities Act and other legal or contractual obligations you face. But it’s well worth the effort to understand and act in accordance with the various laws and regulations that affect an organization.
Create an effective employment background check program:
Your background screening company can help you design, implement, and manage an effective employment screening program to avoid the common mistakes discussed above and leverage the power of screening to build a better workforce.
Michael Gaul is VP of Business Development for Proforma Screening Solutions. With more than 20 years experience in fields of human capital risk management, physical security, and employment background screening, Michael crafts successful solutions to help employers make better hiring decisions.Tags:background check policy, background checks, background screening, background screening company, background screening policy, Employees Verification, employment background check, Employment Background Check Mistakes, Employment Background Checks, employment screening, employment screening programs, pre employment screening, screening policy