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June 15, 2022

6 Phases of a Good Background Screening Process

HR professionals must stay agile in the processes they manage or risk being out of compliance and working with outdated policies. The background screening process for new employees is one such example. It’s a balancing act to maintain a process that helps weed out dangerous or unqualified job seekers, all while doing it fairly.

*We are not employment attorneys, and this article should not be taken as legal advice.*

Here are the 6 phases of a good background screening process. Adhering to these helps your company protect itself from both bad hires and discriminatory hiring lawsuits.

Create a Written Policy

HR must put a high priority on staying in compliance and maintaining a fair and relevant screening policy. A written policy outlining this plan is essential. Decide when in the process you will screen, what screening products you will use for each position, and what factors constitute not choosing a candidate. Make every employee involved in your hiring process aware of this policy and train them to use it consistently.

Get the Applicant’s Signed Authorization

Gaining consent from the job candidate to investigate their background is required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). If you fail to do this, you’re breaking federal law.

Before you check into an applicant's background, inform them they will be the subject of a background check. Ask them to sign an authorization agreeing to be the subject of a background screening report. The authorization should be a stand-alone document, separate from the application and any other required documentation.

Order the Background Check

Chances are you want to get the background report returned as quickly as possible. Ordering correctly saves your screening partner the time of asking for additional information. To ensure fast turnaround times, enter as much information on the candidate as you can. Include their full name, social security number, address, previous addresses (if applicable), and date of birth. If you have information on previous employers and education institutions, include that as well.

Ask your background screening vendor to train you on all aspects of their ordering platform, including how to upload verifications, authorizations, and other attachments. Be sure you understand how to check the status of reports and retrieve information.

Review the Returned Background Check

When the candidate’s screening process is complete, you’ll receive a completed background report. This will include things like information and dates of criminal convictions, employer references, dates, and field of study of their education, etc. Review the information closely. It should align with the job seeker’s application and resume. If you find discrepancies, talk to the applicant to gain additional insight.

Decide on Hiring the Applicant

Use all the information gathered from the application, resume, interview, and background check to reach a decision on hiring a job candidate. Consider the applicant’s skill set, education, experience, and how you think they will fit into the role and the company culture. Avoid using race, religion, gender, disabilities, or other protected class information in your hiring decision. Follow your written policy mentioned above to ensure you’re reaching the decision fairly and compliantly.

Follow Adverse Action Rules…Every Time!

Handle applicants you don’t end up hiring according to the FCRA’s regulations.

1: If you’re declining to hire the person based in whole or part on information found in the background report:

  • Notify the applicant by sending a Pre-Adverse notification. Include the name, address, and toll-free number of your background screening vendor, a notice that the consumer is entitled to a free copy of the report and has the right to dispute the information.
  • Provide a copy of the background report.
  • Provide a description, in writing, of “A Summary of Your Rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.” (This process is sometimes called “Pre-Adverse Action”) 

2: The applicant may contact the background screening company if they want to dispute any information in their background report.

3: The background screening company would re-investigate any disputed items and issue an updated report to the employer and applicant/employee.

4: Review the updated report and make the final employment decision. After the appropriate waiting period, issue notice of the adverse action taken to your applicant. In some instances, state consumer reporting laws may apply regarding taking adverse action against a consumer based on a consumer report.

Finding, hiring, and keeping top talent is essential for an organization’s long-term success. Background screening is a key element in that success. Implement and follow these aspects of the process to hire qualified, experienced team members, maintain a fair hiring process, and stay in compliance with the FCRA. As always, trust your background screening vendor to partner with you from beginning to end.

John Hawkins

John is a Senior National Account Executive for Data Facts.

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