10 Employment Screening Pitfalls to Avoid

Pre-employment background checks are one of the most important tools available to employers in the hiring process. Background checks can provide valuable information that can either reinforce a decision to hire a top candidate, or make you reconsider whether a candidate is the best person for the role.

However, if you are relying on background checks, be aware of the following pitfalls that could cause an employer to miss a record, mis-identify a candidate, or put an employer at risk of lawsuits or violations of federal, state or local laws:

1. Failing to search all jurisdictions

Request information from candidates about their addresses for a set period of time (7 years is common), and then use that information to search records for those jurisdictions. If you only check background based on a candidate’s current address, you may miss records for activity that occurred when a candidate lived elsewhere.

2. Not obtaining accurate and full identifiers for candidates

Failing to enter a middle initial or middle name, or transposing digits for a candidate’s date of birth can result in either missed information, or in “false positives” by returning information about someone other than your candidate. By obtaining and submitting accurate information about your candidate, you can be more confident that the information returned will be accurate, complete, and specific to your candidate.

3. Failing to obtain required FCRA consent form

Federal law says that before conducting a background check, an employer must both notify the applicant of their intention to run the background check, and obtain the employee’s consent before doing so. This permission cannot be part of the application form itself; it must be a separate, stand-alone authorization document that makes it very clear the employer may use the results of the background check in the hiring decision.

4. Conducting searches that don’t match the role you are filling

The purpose of running a background check is to help you, as the employer, identify whether or not a candidate will be a good fit for a specific role. So, make sure the specific searches included in your background check are applicable to that role and will help you with your decision. For example, if you are hiring a driver, you will want to make sure their driving history is included in the screen. When hiring someone to work with the elderly or with children, checking the sex offender registry will be important. When you choose to work with VerifyProtect.com, we will help you tailor your screening process to your employment needs.

5. Not screening consistently

If you have a candidate from another state but are tempted to skip that state’s background check because it is too expensive, think again. Skipping the check could be grounds for a candidate to bring a discrimination lawsuit against you claiming that you screened them but failed to screen the out-of-state candidate because you were discriminating on the basis of a protected characteristic. Even though cost may have been the actual reason you skipped the check for one candidate, you don’t want to have to defend yourself in court against such a suit. A best practice is to outline, in your internal policies and procedures, at what point you will run pre-employment background checks on candidates, and then run them on everyone when they get to that point in the hiring funnel.

6. Obtaining too much information

Yes, there is such a thing as TMI in the employment world. Some states restrict access to credit reports for employment purposes; even in a state that doesn’t restrict the use of credit reports, getting this information may be unnecessary for certain positions. Make sure the information you are receiving has a connection to the job. Consult with legal counsel about what is allowable within your state and industry.

7. Making decisions based on arrest records only

Remember that arrest records are just that; records of arrest. By themselves, they are not proof of illegal activity. Remember that the arrested person is innocent until proven guilty. Many arrest records are also incomplete or inaccurate. If using arrest records as a factor in a hiring decision, consider whether the conduct relates to the job and, if so, whether the conduct makes your candidate unsuitable for the job.

8. Failing to provide a pre-adverse action notice

While employers may use information obtained in background checks as part of the screening process, they are also required to provide notice to a candidate when information arises that could negatively affect the candidate’s chances for the job. The candidate then should be provided with a reasonable time to dispute the charges.

9. Failing to provide notice of adverse actions

When you make a decision not to hire a candidate because of information found during their background check, you must provide information to the applicant about your decision, including the applicant’s right to obtain a copy of the report.

10. Not using a reputable screener/service to conduct pre-employment background checks

One place to start with this is making sure the provider you are considering using is a member of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS.)

Please note that while we hope this information has provided some helpful guidance about things to avoid in the background check process, it is not intended as legal advice. Always consult with legal counsel when it comes to specific legalities of hiring and screening practices in your industry, and in your state.

To learn more, contact VerifyProtect.com today, and discover why we have been a leader in pre-employment screenings for companies large and small since 1988.

Kristina Taylor
In 1989, Kristina began her career as a customer service representative at the newly formed American Tenant Screen, Inc. Ten years later, she pioneered tenant background screening on the Internet. As a long-standing member of the National Multifamily Resident Information Council (formerly the National Association of Screening Agencies) Kristina gains insight into the trends of the tenant screening industry to better understand the current and future needs of their clients.

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