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April 17, 2015

Background Screening for New Employees: What It Is, and What It's Not

The majority of employers understand the need for background checks, but still may not fully realize the best way to utilize these reports to make smart, but still compliant, hiring decisions. 

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Here are a few quick points of what background screening for new employees is, and what it is not. 

It is: a way to minimize the risk of making a bad hiring decision. Information in an applicant's background can give evidence to the person's work ethic and honesty. 

It's not: a way to discriminate against individuals. While the background check may uncover negative information, it shouldn't be used to discriminate against protected classes. Make certain you background screening policy is fair and consistent, and fits with the job responsibilities. For example, a janitor in a warehouse shouldn't be judged by a credit report, as it has no bearing on the position. 

It is: a verification tool to make certain the resume and application contain truthful information. It's estimated over half of resumes contain exaggerations or outright lies. A background screening report can confirm the applicant's claims, or prove them false. 

It's not: a guaranteed way to avoid hiring a dangerous person. While a thorough background check can minimize the risk of hiring someone who is a danger to the workplace, it is not 100% fail-proof. Criminal information may be missed because the crime was committed in a county or state that was not searched. This is why it's imperative to search every place the applicant has lived, worked, or studied in the last 7 years. 

big_red_checkmarkIt is: a way to get access to the person's background and work history. Previous performance at a job gives the new employer valuable insight as to whether or not the job candidate would be a positive addition to the workplace. Look at dates of hire, key responsibilities, and if he or she is eligible for re-hire. 

It's not: a blanket process that automatically weeds out candidates. Employers should be wary of using background checks to eliminate candidates on the front end. Many states have activated "Ban the box" laws, prohibiting employers from asking about an applicant's criminal history on the front end of the hiring process. Stay informed about your state's hiring regulations, and design a system that is fair as well as thorough. 

It is: helpful information that assists in reaching a smart hiring decision. 30% of business failures are the result of bad hiring decisions. Checking an applicant's background can mitigate the risk of hiring someone who cannot perform the job well, has a dangerous criminal history, or is generally untrustworthy.

It's not: information that can be used against the applicant without their knowledge. It is vital that employers gain written consent from the candidate before checking his or her background. Secondly, if the background check is used in whole or part to deny a person employment, adverse action procedures must be followed. Failing to do this can get employer's sued!

A successful background screening process allows employers to hire the right person for the job. However, they do have a responsibilty to use the background report thoughtfully and consistently, and in a compliant manner. 

Susan McCullah

Susan McCullah is the Marketing Project Manager for Data Facts Background Screening Division.

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