The Value of a Background Screening Policy

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It is the responsibility of every organization to provide a safe and secure environment for its employees and extended workforce. One critical step in this process is a written employment screening policy which outlines the organization’s standard background screening procedures. This policy may reside within your corporate security policy or stand alone.

If you do not already have one, sitting down to construct a written policy can provide your organization with much needed value. In fact, one could argue that you really don’t have a “screening program” until it is in writing. Without a written policy, adequately sharing the breadth, depth, standard procedures, department responsibilities and adjudication criteria of your program can be challenging. Without a policy in place, organizations leave themselves vulnerable to organization-wide misunderstanding, spotty checking habits, inconsistent adjudication procedures, expectedly poorer results and legal liability.

With a written policy in place, individuals in other departments or locations across your organization can access, read and adopt standard screening procedures as you have intended them to. The policy will provide the organization with a central document which dictates to all hiring staff the procedures they must follow in order to comply with company standards.

An effective screening policy articulates the responsibilities of the employer and individual initiating the check, describes the process for background and drug screening, and provides for the confidentiality of information gathered and the protection of privacy of individuals undergoing the background check. The policy will ensure consistency in the type of checks conducted and that the information gathered in the process is used appropriately when making an employment decision. It also protects your organization by ensuring company-wide compliance to the legal requirements set out by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and other federal, state and industry governing bodies.

As a best practice, employers should consider stipulating in their corporate screening policy that no employee – either permanent full-time or temporary – can be placed without a thorough background check. Keep in mind, however, that different job titles may require different checks. For example, the standard set of checks done on all general business managers may differ somewhat from the standard checks done on all finance department employees, which may include credit checks or other financial-related searches. It is critical, however, that the policy is clear for each department or employee type.

It should be noted that a screening policy itself is no guarantee of screening consistency and compliance. Rather, it is the very foundation of your program. Once your policy is finalized and approved, it is up to you to make sure that the relevant people receive, understand and comply with your policy. Build it, and they will not come. Build it, communicate it, effectively implement it and control it and you’ll be on your way to screening program success!

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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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