Finding the Holes in Your Background Screening Program

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Background check risks

During the past 5-10 years, many companies have become accustomed to developing comprehensive pre-employment background screening programs to improve workplace safety and reduce the risk associated with a bad hire. However, more and more, companies are beginning to realize that the original programs they set in place only cover a small sliver of today’s employment risk concerns. Are their current policies setting them up for potential litigation, or even worse, violence in the workplace?

Evaluation of screening programs should always be performed with risk mitigation in mind. If you haven’t recently taken a moment to re-evaluate the depth and breadth of your screening program, it may be time to get reacquainted with some of the biggest screening pitfalls for organizations. Below are some of the areas of greatest risk that companies can address in their programs:

• Geography – Until recently, many companies believed that performing background checks on only their domestic hires with U.S.-only backgrounds was sufficient. However, in the past several years, many incidents have arisen where false international backgrounds have led to bad hires and potentially dangerous situations.

To truly claim to have fair hiring practices, companies must execute a consistent background screening standard across all hires, including those with international backgrounds. For consistency, it is recommended that background screens be enforced throughout your entire workforce, even in foreign offices.

• Extended Workforce – On average, temps, contractors and vendor employees make up one-third of a company’s workforce. While most companies ensure that all of their direct employees receive a background check, other people with both physical and virtual access to facilities may not have undergone one. The concept of extended workforce screening is becoming more prevalent and accepted today, as the risk of danger from those outside your direct labor force is recognized.

One recent study of a HireRight client revealed that vendor employees screened had 92% more felony convictions than permanent hires from the same company. Does this set the stage for more undesirables going to work at outside agencies that do not typically screen their employees? While no one knows for certain, statistics like these can lead one to believe that the concept of adverse selection is real.

• Time Frame – While many people expect to have a background check performed pre-hire or when they initially begin with an organization, many people can work at a company for years without any further checks being performed. With a rash of litigation for negligent retention occurring, companies can no longer be comfortable saying that they have performed a single pre-hire background screen on a long-term employee.

It is important to recognize that employees can be arrested for theft or violent acts and remain available for work through parole or other options, and therefore fall under the radar. By performing recurring background screens in regular increments, you can alleviate your organization from additional risk and uncertainty.

• Drug and Alcohol Screening – As presented in a recent SHRM article, “about 15 percent of U.S. workers, or 19.2 million people, are on the job under the influence of alcohol at least occasionally, according to an article in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol.” Keeping that in mind, the risk of injury and the inevitable productivity damages alone should encourage you to maintain a contingent drug and alcohol screening program. Drug and alcohol screening should be available for reasonable cause at any time.

• Search Spectrum – As the world continues to flatten and workers move around more frequently, people are more likely to have committed crimes outside of where they live and work today. While county criminal searches are a necessity to identify the majority of crimes that take place in the U.S., the need to cast a wider net to ensure that criminal histories are not found in other areas is becoming a necessity. By using national and global searches, and other available broad database searches, companies can significantly reduce risk of a bad hire.

If you are performing background screening today, you have taken the first step to ensuring a safe workplace. The next step is systematically evaluating your program for any holes that may exist and assessing those areas for risk. It is up to your organization to determine what risk tolerance it can bear and to act accordingly. But, being cognizant of these common areas where risk may exist can ultimately help you make that assessment.

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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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