Background Check Strategies and Trends

May 4, 2016

Background Check Strategies and Trends

There’s a lot changing in the world of HR between technology advances and shifting regulations, and the fundamental details of the hiring process are changing, too. Included under that are new trends, capabilities, and laws regarding background checks and how to perform them.

Les Rosen, CEO, and Dawn Standerwick, Vice President of Strategic Growth, both with Employment Screening Resources, lent their expertise to Paycor’s March 10 Web Summit and gave a thorough rundown of things to keep an eye out for in the year ahead.

The importance of due diligence

Each hire you make carries with them a certain level of risk. Despite all your vetting and interviewing, as an employer, you must have faith that new employees will be a positive, productive, long-term member of your workforce.

The threat of hiring an applicant who ends up underwhelming you isn’t as bad as the danger of negligent hiring. If you fail to identify certain red flags before bringing someone in and that new hire causes serious harm (such as workplace violence, theft, or property damage), you as the employer are not only liable, but you could be sued. This type of litigation is something we’ve seen a lot more of in recent months.

There’s a big, scary list of bad outcomes that can result from failing to do your due diligence before hiring:

Workplace violence (not always the worst-case scenario, but assaults or physical altercations)

  • Time wasted in the process of recruiting, hiring, and training
  • Money wasted as a result of unnecessary employee turnover
  • Lawsuits for negligent hiring, retention, promotion, or supervision
  • Erosion or destruction of brand reputation, customer-brand relations, and positive corporate culture
  • Hiring someone with false credentials or qualifications (it’s estimated that a whopping 40 percent of résumés contain falsifications or important omissions regarding education or experience)

The danger of being too thorough

On the other hand, there’s some detriment to employers trying to gather too much information. Privacy laws and regulations are becoming more prominent grounds for lawsuits. If the background check or application process is too invasive, a company can be hit with litigation for violating the guidelines of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

FCRA lawsuits can really hurt because they can easily and quickly turn into a costly class action lawsuit. Commonly, these lawsuits draw around $1,000 in damages per plaintiff, with the company also having to pay for attorney’s fees and court costs. This has happened to a lot of notable and visible companies over the past year, including Whole Foods, Amazon, and Home Depot.
What’s an employer to do?

The critical action behind this treacherous tightrope walk is to protect the reputation of individuals while preventing discrimination. For employers and hiring managers, this puts greater pressure on them to perform background checks properly and respectfully.

Recent state legislation has led to 18 states passing “Ban the Box” laws, which prohibit companies from asking applicants about their past criminal record on applications with a simple check-yes-or-no question. The idea is that it can cause such an applicant to be removed from consideration without giving them a chance to provide details regarding convictions or their rehabilitation.

If they need to comply with new “Ban the Box” rules, employers should wait until they’ve decided to interview and/or hire a candidate before asking about their criminal history. At the same time, “Ban the Box” has become enough of a trend that employers should consider proactively removing this question from their job applications, even if their state hasn’t passed “Ban the Box” law yet. Instead, companies should use a credible consumer reporting agency further along in the hiring process, share their findings with applicants, and then allow for them to offer some explanation of their circumstances.

Rather than denying all applicants with a criminal past, employers should instead use a more detailed set of metrics to assess these applicants:

  • Analyze the nature of the crime, the harm caused, and the level of the offense
  • Consider the amount of time since the offense and conviction and whether the applicant has avoided problems in the time since
  • Factor in the nature and duties of the job for which the candidate is applying and whether it is likely to be affected by their criminal background

Evaluating candidates with some sort of criminal record requires assessing individual situations and respecting people’s efforts to improve after past mistakes. There are likely more important factors in hiring than whether a person has a conviction from their past hanging over their head. Hiring managers should make a concerted effort to hire candidates that will benefit the company, its existing employees, and the invididual.

This content came from a March 10 Paycor webinar. Missed Paycor’s Web Summit or want to hear this webinar as it happened live? Click over to our webinar recordings page. And, contact us if you need to refresh your background check strategies.


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