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September 17, 2012

The Do’s and Dont’s of Pre-Employment Screening

Screening potential applicants before they are hired has become a commonplace process for small and large companies alike. Checking a new hire’s background is an effective way to get a feel for the person and to uncover anything that may be dangerous or negative for a company to take on. An effective policy can minimize the damage of a bad hire. However, there is still a right way and a wrong way to conduct a background check on a job candidate.

First, let’s talk about some DO’s to put in place in your background screening policies and procedures.

DO have a plan. Set forth the policy of screening up front. An effective policy needs to be decided on in advance. Write down when you will screen and the types of screening tools and checks you will utilize. This is a great start in the right direction.

DO notify the applicant. The FCRA requires the applicant to be notified before their background is checked. Make certain you have notification measures set.

DO get the applicant’s consent. The potential new hire must certify in writing that they have been notified of the background check, and consent to it.

DO follow adverse action procedures. When deciding either in whole or part to not hire a candidate due to the information obtained in a background check, adverse action procedures must be followed. First, the applicant must be sent a Pre-Adverse Action letter, including a Summary of Rights and a copy of the report. (The applicant then has the right to dispute the information). Then, after a reasonable amount of time (usually a minimum of 5 business days), an Adverse Action letter needs to be sent to the applicant.

DO know your industry’s regulations. Certain industries, such as transportation and healthcare, have state and federal regulations which require certain types of specific background screening procedures. It’s advisable to keep abreast of these requirements, as well as any changes in the laws that affect your industry.

In addition to the DO’s we have listed, there are some actions that you should NOT take when establishing and conducting an effective pre-employment screening policy.

DON’T set blanket policies without regard to the job position. A high ranking officer will most likely need to be screened differently than someone being hired as a janitor. A “we don’t hire anyone with a criminal record” or “we only hire people with good credit” stance will serve to get you into trouble. The EEOC recommends considering the nature of the position when deciding on which types of screening are relevant and fair.

DON’T add or remove certain background reports “because you have a feeling”. A pre-employment screening policy should not be affected by your personal feelings about the way the candidate looks, their age, or their tattoos. If you don’t order extensive criminal checks on the guy in the suit, don’t order them on the lady with the piercings. Again, this can end up causing lots of legal issues.

DON’T dispose of relevant documents. It is important to follow the rules of the FCRA when dealing with the background reports on a job candidate. Employers should make a great effort to strictly secure these documents, and retain them for the specified period of time required by the FCRA statute of limitations.

DON’T set it and forget it. A good pre-employment screening policy should be reviewed every year or so and changed as laws and regulations change. A policy that was perfect 3 years ago may not necessarily be doing the job today.

Performing background checks during the hiring process is essential to maintaining a safe and secure workplace, as well as hiring a candidate who has the required skills for the job. It is, however, just as important to have a process in place that is fair and relevant.

~~Susan McCullah is the Product Development Director for Data Facts, a 23 year old Memphis-based company that provides employment screening solutions to companies nationwide. Check our our website for a complete explanation of our services.

Lisa May

Lisa May is the Executive Vice President for Data Facts.

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