Background Checks: From 2000 to Today

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Think back to January 2000. Seems like yesterday. And yet it was before 9/11, before the tech wreck, before the corporate scandals of Enron and its kind, Google was barely a noun much less a verb, SOX was something you wore on your feet, and most significant for our purposes, only 70 percent of large companies and less than 20 percent of small to mid-sized companies performed background checks on potential and/or current employees. The world has changed in seven years and all of its changes have contributed to the fact that today, virtually all large companies and more than 60 percent of small to mid-sized companies perform regular employment screening–and the number continues to grow.

With this new emphasis on background screening, human resources and security professionals are faced with taking a function that may have started out as an afterthought and turning it into an effective, efficient enterprise-wide program. They must also ensure that their programs meet the requirements of company policy, employee safety, federal, state and industry regulations, privacy issues, and the usage requirements of multiple constituencies. It's a big job and must be continuously updated and enhanced as needs, requirements and limitations change.

Much has changed since 2000, and what worked for your background screening program in 2000, may not be enough in 2007. The following are several guidelines and popular practices to be considered when evaluating today's background screening program:

  • Start with the big picture. Even if your background screening program is large and well developed, it's probably time to step back and thoroughly analyze whether it meets all the requirements, regulations and preferences of the organization with regard to hiring and workforce access. Are there inefficiencies, loopholes or inconsistencies that need improvement?
  • Decrease your time-to-hire. Every company feels the pressure of the job market when it comes to hiring good people. Getting there first with an offer means improving efficiency by reducing the potential for errors and eliminating redundancy such as needless keystrokes associated with repetitive data entry.
  • Maintain compliance. Companies today must comply with a host of governmental and industry regulations such as FCRA requirements, Sarbanes-Oxley, the Patriot Act, the Federal Deposit Insurance Act and many others. Adhering to compliance requirements through an automated background screening program can help reduce risk, and save time and money.
  • Keep others informed. Employee screening was once a concern for only a small group of people within a firm. Today the information must be disseminated to many users in multiple locations without compromising privacy, security or efficiency. If your current program is a combination of web, software, phone and fax–all duplicated in different locations–it may be time to reconsider an on-demand, automated solution.
  • Consider international screening.  Much of today's workforce has lived, been educated, or worked outside of the United States. Build international background screening into your program right from the start so that you are prepared to screen applicants with global backgrounds.
  • Don't overlook your extended workforce. In 2000, outsourcing was emerging. Today, entire functions are outsourced regularly, granting access to a company's facility, data and staff to a significant number of workers who have not been vetted to the degree of full-time employees. To be consistent and protect your company's resources, a background screening program should have a built-in method for screening the extended workforce without compromising vendor autonomy.
  • Integrate and consolidate. Wherever possible, save time and effort by integrating background screening into your other hiring programs and consolidate the many steps of the screening process into one solution.

The demands and responsibilities associated with background screening have grown exponentially since 2000, with the increasing focus on employee and workplace security. With the volume of complexity present in today's employment screening environment, to get ahead of the curve, employers should consider shifting from leveraging disparate processes and systems to a solution that offers true screening management.


HireRight is a leading provider of on-demand employment background checks, drug and health screening, and electronic Form I-9 and E-Verify solutions that help employers automate, manage and control background screening and related programs.

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