How to Dispel Candidates’ Worries and Myths Surrounding Background Checks

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Your job candidates may be consumed with any number of fears about undergoing an employment background check that can make the entire process unpleasant or even downright terrifying.

Talent acquisition professionals can actually help address these fears by understanding the common concerns many candidates have regarding an employment background check, the misconceptions that often underlie these concerns, and the best way to address them to better ensure a calmer, more positive hiring experience for everyone.

1. “I’m toast. The background check will uncover every problem I’ve had with the law.”

Worrying what will turn up during the course of a criminal background check can very well be the most nerve-wracking thing for job candidates.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be.

There are a number of factors that affect what exactly a criminal background check will report, as well as how a prospective employer like you might choose to use that information as part of your hiring process.

The EEOC has provided guidance to employers that includes evaluating how long ago the crime occurred, its severity, the nature of the crime and its applicability to the job in question, what the final disposition (that is, ruling) in the case was.

Your particular industry may also be subject to regulations that affect your evaluation of a Candidate’s criminal history.

Many times, that small run-in with the police that happened decades ago may not have an impact on whether a candidate gets the job in question…but ultimately that’s for you to decide.

The Federal Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) protects job candidates during the background check process and provides explicit direction to employers requesting background reports on their candidates and to consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) such as HireRight that must be followed when they perform a background check.

There are also state-specific laws that could affect what information is uncovered or considered as part of an employment background check

2. “If something negative does shows up, I won’t have a chance to contest or explain it.”

Not true. Under the FCRA, the candidate must have an opportunity to correct or clarify incomplete or inaccurate information.

Employers are obligated to send what’s known as a “pre-adverse action” letter to candidates letting them know that they may take action on the candidate’s background report that may result in a decision not to hire the candidate, and give the candidate an opportunity to dispute the accuracy or completeness of the background report with the CRA before the employer makes their final employment decision.

3. “How are they going to confirm all the right information in just a day, when all they’re really doing is accessing that central database I see on TV?”

If only a thorough background check were that easy.

In real life completing a comprehensive background check takes a few more steps.

You may want to tell your candidates up front that a typical background check is usually completed in a few business days, but completion time depends not only on the CRA’s expediency but also on the speed with which courts, schools, references and other sources of data take to respond to a CRA’s requests for information.

The number of places the candidate has lived, number of schools attended, and other variables may lengthen the time a thorough background check takes.

4. “They’re going to go over everything I’ve posted on Facebook, Twitter and other social media.”

Not so fast. Even with social media’s integration into our professional and personal lives, many employers remain quite wary about using it as part of an employment background check.

According to HireRight’s 2015 Employment Screening Benchmarking Report, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of respondents answered that social media is not used in their organization’s screening process.

This may be because government regulations prohibit hiring discrimination based on federally protected information like religion, race, age, or disability.

Using social media to uncover information may unwittingly uncover sensitive information that could leave organizations vulnerable to claims of discrimination.

As a result, some organizations have policies that discourage the use of social media for candidate screening.

5. “The organization I want to work for is going to entirely base their decision on this background check.”

While a background check is a very important component of any careful hiring process, you may want to let them know that it is not the only criteria upon which you’re basing a hiring decision.

Each organization is different, and prospective employees may be hired or declined based on many other criteria beyond the background check, including suitability to the position, experience, professional aspirations, personality, ability to fit within a corporate culture, and a great many other factors.

Many of the fears candidates have regarding the background check process stem from misconceptions lots of people have about how a check works.

After dispelling these common misconceptions on the front end with a more accurate depiction of a background check, you can also go a long way in building trust with your candidate by letting them know that a properly performed check is simply a step in helping your candidate get hired.

The most effective advice to give your candidate is to be as honest and forthright during the application and interview process, so that the background check functions just to verify what’s been voluntarily provided.

Remember that a background check is there to help create a more positive experience for your future employee.

After all, we all want to work with people who are qualified for the jobs they’re doing, are honest about their backgrounds, and will contribute to the employer’s success over time.

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Lewis Lustman

Lewis Lustman is a content marketer who enjoys developing materials that engage, inform, challenge, and hopefully entertain my audience. Lewis is a former journalist for Los Angeles Magazine and the Los Angeles Times, and has worked for a number of leading advertising, marketing, technology, and PR firms over the years. Interested in a topic that he hasn't yet tackled? Drop him a line in the comments section!

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