The 10 Dos and Donts of Conducting Employee Background Checks
Most people might find it unseemly were you to run background checks on your potential dates prior to asking them out. But the same does not hold true when hiring a new employee. While taking a chance on a blind date might result in a bad evening, there’s absolutely no doubt that making a wrong hiring decision can haunt your company, your other employees and your client base.
The practice is so important that nearly seven out of 10 organizations (69 percent) claim they conduct criminal background checks on all job candidates, according to a 2012 background check survey from the Society for Human Resources Management. That survey shows another 18 percent conduct such checks on select job finalists and only 14 percent say they don’t research candidates for criminal records.
Do be broad and thorough. Look at an expansive spectrum of information, which includes consideration of an applicant’s education, employment, and criminal history, driving history, social media and so much more. Companies lose great candidates when they look at only one specific item. They may also be the target of an Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) investigation for excluding applicants who have a criminal records, no matter what the charge or how long ago the offense occurred.
Do follow the law. Based on the way the background check is conducted, you will be required to have a legal release form completed by the applicant, inform that person of his/her rights, and provide that applicant with a copy of the report, as well as adverse actions communications.
Don’t bend the laws. There are so many opportunities to conduct a background check the wrong way, which means as an employer, you must take great care to follow the rules. The rules concerning background checks vary based on federal, state, local and job-specific laws. Check with your company’s legal counsel if you’re unsure of how to proceed.
Do be consistent. Ensure that the process for all applicants is consistent. Two applicants applying for the same job should have the same searches and investigations run on them. Different job types may require different levels of investigation, but for the same job title, make sure you keep your process uniform to avoid charges of discrimination.
Don’t fail to communicate. If and when you find something on a background check that may impact the decision to hire an applicant, you should — at a minimum — engage in a conversation with the applicant. So many misconceptions, mistakes, and reporting errors can be resolved by conducting that face-to-face communication.
Do locate patterns. Positive and negative patterns are the best way to evaluate your applicant. A single good act or bad act should not be the defining measure of a person or of their job ability. Considering consistent patterns of behavior is a defensible way for employers to make hiring decisions.
Don’t seek out only the negative. Background checks are inherently viewed as a way to pinpoint negative information. Use a background check to also locate positives that will help you choose between two well-qualified candidates.
Do use a professional agency to process your background check. Great screening companies will do a far better job of locating the information you want. They have the experience and processes to be accurate and efficient. They also prevent you from viewing data that might be a violation of state or federal law.
Don’t run a limited search yourself. You can’t find everything on-line. So much of the concrete — legally obtained — data for a background check can only be conducted by a licensed background check firm.