For more than 20 years, organizations have relied on employment screenings as of part their standard hiring procedures. Over the last decade, this practice has only continued to grow in the private, public and nonprofit sectors.
There are several components of the employment screening process that organizations are increasingly looking to utilize. Criminal background checks, social security traces and verifications are just some of those components that equip employers with essential information about their job candidates.
Given that so many employers now regularly count on employment screenings, it is critical for organizations to consider creating a formal employment screening program. But in order to ensure that they are practicing prudent hiring protocol, every employer needs to be aware of the laws that govern employee screening procedures. And as an employer, you also need to understand the limited scope of capabilities that you may have to conduct high-quality employment screenings.
Here are three things to consider about establishing and operating employment screening programs
1. Why Implement an Employment Screening Program?
An employment screening program furnishes your human resources (HR) team with the operational framework it needs to effectively recruit and hire employees.
It can also serve as an incubator for establishing internal policies and procedures for conducting employment screenings. These policies should address such matters as when an employee can initiate certain phases of the screening process, and how the information retrieved from each of these components may impact hiring decisions.
In addition, the structure afforded by a program helps your HR team integrate and organize each of the various components they leverage during recruiting and hiring campaigns.
Formal screening programs also provide peace of mind to business owners who are concerned about the quality of their job candidates and employees.
By having an employment screening program in place, an employer increases their chances of hiring a job candidate who possesses the ideal skill set for the open position. As a consequence, they also retain an employee that is successful in that role. This ultimately leads to fostering a more productive workforce, and maintaining a better overall working environment.
What is more, implementing an employment screening program can reduce an employer’s risk of liability and committing an act of hiring negligence.
2. Consider Using a Background Screening Company
All too often, employers think that they will reduce implementation and operational costs, by executing their applicant screenings through their own in-house resources. However, many of these organizations fail to recognize the expertise, established relationships and costly digital tools that are required to conduct a comprehensive background screening.
Specifically, both criminal background checks and verifications are two components of the employment screening process that can be incredibly time consuming, and almost impossible to navigate, without the benefit of industry expertise. On most occasions, it serves in your organization’s best interest to work with a background screening company that has the brain trust and know-how to acquire accurate information on candidates in these two areas. Here is why:
Criminal Background Checks
Criminal background checks have steadily become a key part of the employment screening process. In 2012, the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) “Background Checking – The Use of Criminal Background Checks in Hiring Decisions” survey reported that 69 percent of organizations “conduct criminal background checks on all of their job candidates.”
Yet, most employers who begin to conduct a criminal background check quickly start to realize that it can be a convoluted and protracted process. Trying to track down a criminal history on a job applicant can often turn into a bureaucratic nightmare.
For efficiency’s sake, criminal background checks should generally be outsourced. In order to conduct an efficient criminal background check, one needs the ability and experience required to expertly navigate the court system. You do not want to be calling courthouses all day. Most employers do not have the resources to do the type of thorough background check that an outsourced background screening provider can conduct.
Similar to conducting a criminal background check, the verification process is typically a lengthy and involved undertaking. Whether you are looking to verify a job applicant’s educational background, employment history, professional references and/or professional licensure, you need to know what is required from you as an employer. This is true for either an organization that attempts to conduct verifications on their own, or for one that chooses to outsource the verification process to a background screening company.
In 2008, the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) published its Verification: Best Practices brochure which serves as a helpful roadmap to employers looking to engage in the verification process. In particular, it outlines why in many cases it makes more sense to outsource this routinely labor-intensive process. And, it also highlights the issues around outsourcing that employers need to comprehend.
The verification process often involves investigating some very sensitive areas of information. By working with a background screening company, employers can attain the added benefit of legal protection. The background screener serves as a protective firewall between the employer and the entity (applicant’s former employer or educational institution) that is being contacted for verification purposes.
By outsourcing, you protect your organization from being potentially liable for asking questions that could be misconstrued by your job applicant’s former employer or educational institution. Background screening companies bring their expertise in knowing how to ask the right set of defined questions when conducting verifications.
But employers need to always remain conscious about the level of participation, and additional expenditures, required of them during the verification process.
On certain occasions, requests for more customized levels of verification can result in increased costs and slow lag times. It is important for employers to be aware of this when working with a background screening company. They should be cognizant of any third-party source charges that will get passed onto them during the verification process.
3. Understand Federal, State and Local Laws
Prior to implementing an employment screening program, you want to have a good grasp of the laws that regulate how you, and/or your provider, can conduct employment screenings.
There are different federal, state and local laws that mandate how, and what, information can be acquired during the verification process. At the federal level, chief among these laws is the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Make sure you are knowledgeable about the FCRA’s requirements for both employers and background screening companies. It is incumbent upon you to know how to remain compliant with the FCRA for all of your employment screening initiatives.
Furthermore, several states have adopted an analog FCRA statute over the last few years. Each of these states decreed their own restrictions on the reporting and use of applicant information. Familiarize yourself with your state’s analog FCRA statute.
Lastly, even local communities have taken action to limit the use of specific components of the employment screening process. Some cities have passed ordinances that regulate things like the use of criminal records and drug testing for employment screening purposes. Become informed about any of your community’s relevant ordinances before you set up an employment screening program.