We all want to hire the best and most qualified applicants. And we want to keep our workforce filled with these great people. A quality workforce starts with quality hiring practices, of which background screening is one. When we check the backgrounds of our top candidates, before hiring them, and when we continue to ensure our workers uphold the standards we expect, our workforce productivity, safety, and overall job satisfaction goes up.
When we talk to employers about their background screening efforts and the role of background screening in their hiring processes, there are some core issues that tend to elicit wide-eyed reactions. Consider these facts:
1. 20% of applicants lie on their resumes.
In our work, we have found that more than 20% of the applicants we screen lie (or at least, stretch the truth) on their resumes. Some of these are exaggerations or omissions the applicant thinks might help boost their competitiveness, and others are 5-star fantasies. These big and little lies both indicate issues of character, and that will eventually affect your organization. If someone lies on a resume, they may very well lie under other circumstances as well.
The thing is that, even though you know that one in 5 applicants is stretching the facts, you cannot tell which one is the liar simply by eye-balling their resume. Intuition is not a good substitute for evidence, and that’s where background screening comes in. Every resume has to be bounded by a set of facts that can be researched and used to evaluate—or verify—the claims in the resume. As a flip on the old aphorism, if you verify, then you can trust.
2. One in 4 Americans has a criminal record.
It’s shocking that so many Americans are ex-offenders, but it’s a fact substantiated by the National Employment Law Project. It’s also a fact that there is an enormous push to make sure that employers do not discriminate against ex-offenders in the hiring process. In other words, employers have to learn enough about individual applicants to know when they should be excluded based on a job-related criminal offense, yet avoid exclusions that would discriminate against a protected class.
The two faces of this issue create a complicated environment for employers. A previous post on FTC and EEOC guidelines describes this terrain in more detail. Employers need to design screening processes that comply, yet flag the risky applicants effectively.
3. 2 million workers are victims of workplace violence.
Every employer knows that he or she has an obligation to provide a safe working environment. Unfortunately, the hiring process sometimes lets a risky person slip into the workforce—no workplace is perfectly secure.
Employers can exercise due diligence in protecting workers in two ways. One way is to have a thorough analysis of the risk profile of their workplace, and mitigate these risks. For example, if you provide financial services to the public, your workers may be exposed to violent encounters associated with theft, burglary, or robbery. Your efforts to identify and mitigate these risks can help to reduce workplace violence.
But the first line of defense is to exclude risky actors from the workforce both in hiring and in retention. An on-going background screening process plus periodic reviews of staff—especially when they make a work transition that provides a new set of opportunities—can help reduce the underlying risk of violence.
4. 70% of 14.8 million who use illegal drugs are employed.
Many drug users are workers, and that means they were once job applicants. By extension, many people in today’s applicant pool are drug users. Workers who are impaired by drugs or alcohol are more likely to be a danger to others or themselves, and pose a liability to employers. At the least, substance abuse reduces productivity and workplace harmony.
Drug testing may be required for positions that involve dangerous processes, machinery or situations, but should also be part of on-going employee reviews in these circumstances. More generally, employers should scan employment histories for clues about substance abuse or dependence, including frequent job changes, excessive absenteeism or tardiness, worker’s compensation claims, and an applicant’s involvement in workplace accidents or incidents.
5. Marijuana legalization is on the rise.
A final fact that is now impacting the way employers do background screening is that marijuana is being legalized for medical use, and even for recreational use, in many states. A recent report in the Economist on this trend argues that legalizing this drug may have fewer negative consequences than feared, but the fact is, when someone is high on marijuana they are intoxicated, and therefore impaired.
The regulatory framework for this drug is in flux, putting a burden on employers. Whether or not the drug is legalized in your jurisdiction—or perhaps especially IF it is—employers have the right and obligation to test for its use in the workplace. Employers should check with Department of Labor rules on when and how to use drug testing.
How are you coping with these workplace facts? If your screening program in need of a facelift to cope with the realities of today’s workforce?