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March 11, 2016

Why HR Should Expect Better Background Screening Practices

HR Should Expect Better Background Screening.jpgHiring the right candidate in a timely manner sounds easy, but it’s a virtual minefield of disaster waiting at every step. A key component of a smart hiring decision is the background check.  It’s essential for HR professionals to invest in smart background screening practices to make sure they don’t get stuck with unsafe or unqualified employees. Candidates misrepresent themselves quite often, and companies need to catch these exaggerations before they extend an offer. .

Three key points that help companies maximize the effectiveness of your background screening efforts are:

Number 1: Screen specifically for each position

Blanket policies can get you sued

Broad processes such as “we don’t hire anyone with a criminal conviction” or “we pull a credit report on everyone” are not only ineffective, they can get you in hot water with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and result in embarrassing, costly litigation. Avoid EEOC claims by steering clear of blanket statements that encompass every job position, regardless of relevancy.

Relevant and fair practices based on the position

Make sure your process is fair and not-discriminatory. Each piece of your background screening process needs to be related back to the specific position you are filling. Set up a consistent system of documentation. In cases of negligent hiring, an employer can use your set processes and findings as valid evidence of why the person was or was not hired. 

Know how and when to weigh criminal convictions.

Make a practice of not asking about criminal history on the initial job application (you can ask later in the process), make certain a criminal history is relevant to the position being filled, and take into account the type of charge and the time since that has passed since the conviction. A burglary charge six years ago isn’t necessarily grounds to not hire a job seeker. A burglary six months ago is an entirely different story.

Number 2: Employ comprehensive screening.

One simple criminal search doesn’t give you the whole picture you need to help reduce risk in your hiring decisions. Based on the position you are trying to fill, consider these ways of screening.

Criminal records searches.

Conduct a county criminal records search going back 7 years for all the counties the applicant has worked, lived, or studied. In addition to, not in place of, the county search, conduct a National Criminal Database search. A database search isn’t all inclusive because it isn’t required that states or counties report to a database, but the search may uncover crimes in places that were not initially targeted to search. It also offers a social search and a sex offender registry search, which can show you other areas that may not have originally been targeted to search.

Verification searches.

Employment and education verifications are crucial when the position requires experience or training to perform the job function. Employment and education are both areas where job candidates frequently and easily manufacture false information. A background screening company will verify an applicant’s position held, dates of employment, and school attendance dates and degree obtained.

 Assessment testing.

Other background screening searches don’t shed light into core behaviors like integrity and honesty. Uncover an applicant’s character, allowing you to weed out undesirable candidates earlier in the process, which saves time and resources.

Credit reports.

Reviewing a person’s credit report helps determine if the applicant is suited for a financially responsible position. These are normally used in financial positions, or when part of the job duty is handling large sums of cash.

Drug screening.

Drug abuse causes a variety of issues in the workplace, from missed days to unproductive performance, to harmful accidents. Drug screening reduces turnover and improves workplace safety. Many drug screening options are available, including urine testing, saliva testing, and hair testing.

Number 3:  Strive to stay in complianceCompliance_Maximum.jpg

Understand your applicable state laws

Laws vary widely depending on each individual state. It's vital for HR professionals to stay abreast of specific state laws concerning hiring. Ban the box laws are an example of how states, and even cities, pass laws that don't apply in other areas. Follow the laws to the letter. 

Utilize proper authorization

The employer must disclose in writing to the applicant that he or she will be the subject of a background report as part of the employment selection process.

And the applicant must authorize the background check. The authorization can be in writing, or it can be electronic. Keep that paperwork in case there is ever a discrepancy.

Follow adverse action procedures

If you decide in whole or part to deny employment based on information obtained in a background report you’re required to send a Pre-adverse action notification along with the copy of the report and the CFPB’s Summary of Rights (most background screening companies supply these documents to their client).  Giving the consumer a copy of their report allows them to review the information reported on them and, if they want to dispute the information on the Consumer Report, they have the right to do so.  The pre-adverse action notification is required to have the contact information of the Consumer reporting Agency (your background screener) who performed the report.  Then send the Final Adverse action letter. Although the FCRA does not state a specific time to wait between sending both required documents it is best practice in the industry to wait 5 days. 

lady_with_red_folder.jpgHiring employees who are qualified for their jobs and pose little risk to the workplace is ideal, and missing dangerous pieces of a person’s background sets your company up for potentially huge issues. As important as screening is, it’s just as necessary to employ consistent, compliant practices. Implementing these tips into your background screening processes will minimize the risk of a bad hire as well as the consequences of dealing with a negligent hiring lawsuit, and sets you up for hiring success in 2016 and beyond!


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