8 Steps Away from a Best Practices Employment Screening Program

employment screening practicesEmployment screening can seem like a straightforward task. Open an account, order the background check, and if it comes back clean you’re done. Check the box and move on. What you soon discover are the nuances, legal issues, societal trends, and other considerations that complicate a seemingly simple task.

Over the past few years much has been written on this blog and in the media at large about a number of trends affecting companies’ hiring practices:

  • Criminal records and credit reports as a barrier to hiring.
  • The great recession’s continued impact on the economy, including the role of the long term unemployed.
  • The macroeconomic trend of a global, talent-based economy.
  • The ubiquitous use of employment screening creating a significant target for legislators, regulators, and the Plaintiff’s bar.

As an employer, these trends and the attention surrounding your hiring and screening practices can leave you feeling overwhelmed. So much is written about what NOT to do. Not enough about what TO do. In this blog post we’ve compiled some top-recommended best practices for employment screening:

1. Clearly Define the Purpose & Scope of Your Employment Screening Program

Your background screening policy should explain the purpose of background screening and also define the scope of the program, or the types of positions that will be subject to background checks.

2. Designate Responsibility & Authority for the Process

Clearly designate who will be responsible for implementing and managing the employment screening program. Also define the types of employment decisions or “judgment calls” that can be made by each individual involved in administering the program.

3. Describe the Legal Parameters & Guidelines

Complex as it may be, a background screening policy must consider any federal, state, or local laws that affect how the organization will conduct screening. Often, these laws require specific background checks for certain positions. In creating your policy, you should specifically outline how your organization will adhere to Fair Credit Reporting Act requirements, EEOC guidelines, anti-discrimination laws, and any other related screening laws.

A qualified employment screening provider, paired with appropriate legal counsel, can help you effectively deal with the compliance environment and get the most out of your efforts.

4. Outline the Specific Process

Having a good policy is one thing. A process to implement it is something else. Your process should detail step by step how the policy will be implemented. It should help both the subject of the report and the hiring manager understand what happens and when.

5. Consistently apply the process across all applicants and employees.

In background screening the key to implementation is consistency. To avoid claims of discrimination, employers must never conduct background checks on a selective basis. Those applying or being retained for the same or similar positions must be subject to the same format of background check.

6. Establish congruency between the screening methodology, the position, and the risk.

Find balance between your “need to know” and an individual’s privacy rights by keeping the background check entirely job-related. In doing so, the risks of the position will guide the information required of a background check.

7. Obtain consultation and services from an experienced screening provider.

Most companies simply do not have the in-house experience to manage the logistics around data collection and use for employment purposes. A background screening company can help you create the clarity, consistency, and congruency mentioned in the steps above and in the end, the cost of outsourcing this service is seldom more than it would cost to run the program using your internal staff.

8. Follow the latest EEOC Guidance

In addition to the above practices, the EEOC’s 2012 Updated Guidance presents the following best practices for the use of criminal records in employment screening:

  • Eliminate policies or practices that exclude people from employment based on any criminal record;
  • Train managers, hiring officials, and decision-makers about Title VII and its prohibition on employment discrimination;
  • Develop a narrowly tailored written policy and procedure for use of criminal records;
  • Identify essential job requirements and the actual circumstances under which the jobs are performed;
  • Determine the specific offenses that may demonstrate unfitness for performing specific jobs;
  • Identify the criminal offenses based on all available evidence;
  • Determine the duration of position-specific exclusions for criminal conduct based on all available evidence;
  • Record the justification for the policy and procedures;
  • Note and keep a record of consultations and research considered in crafting the policy and procedures;
  • Train managers, hiring officials, and decision-makers on how to implement the policy and procedures consistent with Title VII;
  • When asking questions about criminal records, limit inquiries to records for which exclusion would be job related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity; and
  • Keep information about the criminal records of applicants and employees confidential (only use it for the purposes for which it was intended).

Need help crafting your employment screening policy? We can help you make better hiring decisions through a quality, cost-effective background screening program. Request a consultation to learn more.


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About MichaelGaul

Michael is a results-oriented marketing executive with over two decades of experience in employment screening, physical security, and business process management. Michael has deep experience in human capital risk management and a passion for educating business leaders and HR professionals on strategies that tangibly protect their interests. Michael serves on the Board of the Secure Cash and Transport Association (SCTA) and is a member of the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA), and the American Society of Industrial Security (ASIS).
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