Employment background screening has become an extension of the HR function. In fact, more than eighty percent of large companies in the U.S. now perform criminal background checks on all new hires and most companies are expanding their efforts to include checks of employment history, education verification, credit history check, driving histories and more employment background screening services. Background checking is so much a part of the corporate mainstream that it is now integrated into e-recruiting software so that HR pros can initiate checks in seconds. Such integration saves time and significantly reduces the chance of error or fraud.
Despite the growing popularity of employment background screening and the technology that has made it an accessible tool, organizations may still make a lot of mistakes in their screening procedures and practices. These errors can leave companies vulnerable to the things they are doing background screening to avoid – negligent hiring, violence, and the presence of sex offenders, terrorists, substance abusers or other types of criminal behavior in the workplace. Here are some of the common mistakes to avoid:
Error 1. Failing to establish a standard background screening policy
Just because a company conducts some form of background check doesn’t mean that its recruiters or HR professionals are performing the checks consistently or using the data appropriately. Having a standard written policy for every job title assures that the same types of checks are always performed on like individuals and that data is used in compliance with all company, industry, state and federal regulations. It also avoids any appearance of discrimination.
Error 2. Failing to verify employment and education
Sometimes the desire to quickly secure a seemingly good candidate can lead a company to accept résumé data at face value. This can be a big mistake. Roughly one-third of all résumés contain some kind of misrepresentation in terms of employment history, education or experience. In addition, “diploma mills” have grown to a $200 million industry and continue to expand. Even for jobs where education or experience is not critical to success, a purposeful misrepresentation can signal problems of character in a potential hire.
Error 3. Failing to check vendors, contractors and temporary employees
One director of a large multi-national company commented that it was illogical that he had to have a background check and an escort to see his CEO but the man who cared for the office plants could walk into the CEO’s office any time unchecked and unescorted. One of the greatest vulnerabilities of companies today is among the large number of unchecked suppliers and temporary employees. The sad fact is that people with questionable backgrounds will eventually gravitate to industries where background checks are seldom performed on employees. Making background screening for temporary, contract and vendor-employed workers a standard should be part of every company’s policy.
Error 4. Failing to conduct international checks when required
Today’s talent pool is global. Even candidates who are U.S. citizens may have some portion of their education or experience that has occurred outside the country. It is just as important to verify international backgrounds as that which occurred locally. International background checking, however, is more complex and governed by many different local statutes, policies and procedures. HR professionals should seek out a reputable partner that’s competent in international background screening to leverage their country-specific knowledge and expertise and to ensure a quality, compliant process.
Error 5. Failing to protect against negligent retention
If an employee causes damage or harm in the workplace, and recent criminal activity, driving infringements or drug abuse could have been discovered by the employer prior to the workplace incident, the employer may be found liable for negligent hiring and retention. The average suit for negligent hiring and retention today exceeds $1 million. Conducting checks on all new hires, prior to duty, is essential. Keep in mind, also, that a lot can happen in the years after a new hire comes aboard. Organizations should consider protecting themselves with periodic post-hire criminal checks and drug testing.
Error 6. Relying on manual internal processes
The more times a candidate’s background information is hand-entered into different forms or systems, the greater the chance for human error. In addition, unscrupulous candidates may put different information on their résumé, employment application and background checking form, relying on the fact that the company won’t notice the discrepancy among the pile of papers. Today’s companies can overcome these problems by seeking out a background screening process that is integrated into their e-recruiting software. Data from the employee application can automatically populate the background screening request form of your screening provider and checks can be ordered seamlessly, with no need for faxing or duplicate data entry.
While background screening becomes more and more technology-based, it is important to note that effective background screening requires human intervention and intuition on the screening provider’s side of the fence (criminal checks, for example, often require manual checks of court records and files). Be wary of fully automated systems that provide instant checks. Finding solutions that combine the best of automation and human investigation gives optimum return on investment.
Performing effective background checks while simultaneously respecting the rights and privacy of all individuals concerned is a balancing act for HR professionals. Avoiding these common errors can help standardize policies, reduce the risk of litigation and assure a safe, productive, honest workforce.
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