Data Facts Background Screening Blog

Top Mistakes HR Makes In Screening Their Talent

by Susan McCullah

Jun 10, 2016 10:48:07 AM

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Background screening practices are an integral part of savvy talent management. Companies with comprehensive, consistent background check plans are more likely to eliminate potential employees who would pose risk to the workplace. Background screening helps bring to light false qualification claims and unsavory activities that would be detrimental to a business.

However, a background screening process is potentially wrought with issues that can result in unfair and unsuccessful screening.


Eight mistakes HR makes in successfully screening talent are:

#8: “Oh no! I threw them away!” Purging documents too soon
Background checks contain highly sensitive information. Employers must appropriately and strictly secure the confidentiality of the information. Retain relevant documents in a secure manner for a period that complies with applicable state and federal laws and regulations. The FCRA’s statute of limitations states an individual must make a claim within two years after learning about a violation. If the violation is not discovered within five years of the violation date, the statute bars an action.

Employers who purge the systems too often risk tossing important documentation that’s priceless if an individual files a claim. Lack of evidence can put the employer on the losing end of any claim!

#7: “He had a felony, why am I in trouble?!” Ignoring adverse action processes
If an employer considers an adverse employment action (declining to hire the person) based in whole or part on information in the background report, they must:
a) notify applicant
b) provide a copy of the background report
c) provide “A Summary of Your Rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.” (Referred to as “Pre-Adverse Action”)
Applicant may contact the background screening company to dispute any information in the background report.

The background screening company re-investigates disputed items and issues an updated report to employer and applicant.

Employer reviews the updated report, making the final employment decision. If the employment decision is adverse, a notice of adverse action is sent to applicant (referred to as “Final Adverse Action.”)

There needs to be reasonable time (usually at least 5 business days) between the Pre-adverse action letter and the Adverse Action letter.

Follow this procedure every  time!

#6: I didn't know I shouldn't look at that!” Utilizing irrelevant information young_lady_eyes_covered.jpg
Utilizing criminal history and credit history in your background screening practices to screen for employment has recently come under scrutiny.

Exclusion of applicants based on conviction records is prohibited unless the employer shows business necessity.

  • To establish business necessity, an employer must be able to show that it considered:
    nature and gravity of the offense or offense
  • time that has passed since the conviction and/or completion of the sentence, and
  • nature of the position held or sought.

When screening with a credit report as a component for your background checks, employers need to show the individual's credit history is relevant to the position. While a person who is hired to handle money may need to show good credit history, it may be irrelevant and therefore unfair to utilize a credit report to screen for other positions.

#5: “So I didn’t tell you?” Failing to gain applicant’s consent
A key employer responsibility in compliant background screening practices is for employers to disclose in writing to the applicant that they will be the subject of a background report as part of the employment selection process.
This document needs to stand alone, not included in the employee handbook or the application.

#4: “I went with my gut.” Screening erratically
Practicing inconsistent background screening practices is a big mistake HR makes, and this is asking for trouble. Hiring managers cannot choose to run checks on some applicants and ignore checking others, because of EEOC guidelines, and overall good sense. Screen everyone in the same manner, and keep a list of the type of background checks that are performed for each job function.

The Cost of a Bad Hire (Cost of a Bad Hire)

#3: “I found them online.” Utilizing a non-accredited background screening company

Information is only as accurate as the source. Dubious information sources or sloppy best practices can result in a report that does not adequately screen your talent.
The National Association of Background Screeners (NAPBS) awards accreditation to companies that prove the strictest of best practices and procedures. To gain accreditation, background screeners submit to rigorous processes to prove they maintain the highest standards of operations. Choosing an NAPBS accredited company ensures you are working with a top performing background screener.

#2: “I believed him.” Taking applicant information at face value
It’s estimated almost half of resumes contain at least one item that isn’t true.

Degree fraud, changing actual employment dates, false references, and inflated job titles are a few of the exaggerations we frequently see on resumes.
Screen your talent by looking at resumes and applications with a critical eye and verifying all information.

#1: “But I checked that!” Misunderstanding criminal records shadow_mugshot.jpg
One of the key mistakes HR makes deals with confusion over criminal records searches, which is rampant. Here are three pointers:
 Criminal records are filed by name. Criminal records are not filed by social security number, but by name. It’s essential to spell the name correctly, and search any maiden/alias names.
Criminal searches aren’t one stop shopping. Different crimes are held in different courts, county, state, or federal. Searching a county won’t show a crime committed in a different county (even just one county over). Federal charges won’t be found in the county in which they were committed because they are held in federal courts. Finally, the widely utilized National Criminal Database is not a complete database, because some county and states don’t report to a database. Multiple types of criminal searches are required to gain a true picture of the applicant.
Each state has its own laws. Some states gather county information, so a state search is complete. Others don’t. Some states have 7 year restrictions. Stay compliant by familiarizing yourself with the laws of the particular states where you conduct hiring.

Employers need to be aware of the pitfalls of screening talent, and prepare to avoid mistakes HR makes by crafting a comprehensive but fair background screening policy.  Being educated on the background screening process will allow for higher performing practices, more informed decisions, and a more qualified talent pool.

Topics: background screening company, criminal records search, EEOC, background checks, background screening practices

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~~Susan McCullah is the Marketing Project Manager/ Background Screening Division for Data Facts, Inc, a 25 year old Memphis based company. Data Facts Inc -an NAPBS accredited company- is a leading provider of employment screening solutions. Check out our website for a complete explanation of our services.