HR — Avoid the 10 Most Common Background Screening Gaffes



In human resources, all background checks are not equal.

“An organization that runs background checks on all of its incoming employees is already doing a lot of things right,” writes Michael Klazema. He is the lead author and editor for Backgroundchecks.com.

“However, simply requiring pre-employment background screenings is not enough to keep criminals, lawsuits, liars, and other unwelcome presences out of your organization,” he adds.   

ID-100233979 (1) stockimages“In fact, many companies with firmly established employee screening policies are still making a number of mistakes in the background check game,” he asserts.

He lists the 10 most-common background-screening errors:

1. Being inconsistent: Every company needs a standardized, uniform background check policy that is consistent across all company employees. This standard operating procedure should be outlined in writing and observed by every employee, applicant, and hiring manager to avoid potential discrimination and ensure across-the-board compliance. 

2. Not running nationwide background checks: Too many employers handicap the effectiveness of their background check policies by tethering them to in-state criminal screenings. Only nationwide criminal background checks and sex offender registry searches can ensure that you are doing everything you can to prevent unsavory workers from creeping into your pool of employees. No background check is foolproof, but with nationwide scope, you will catch more offenses and red flags than you ever will with state-only checks.

3. Not verifying past employment: While the primary focus of most background checks is criminal history – for obvious reasons – employers often make the mistake of not verifying their applicants’ past employment. By contacting references and running checks to make sure that the information your applicant provided on your resume was correct, you will be able to formulate a better and more trusting impression of that applicant.

Only nationwide criminal background checks and sex offender registry searches can ensure that you are doing everything you can to prevent unsavory workers from creeping into your pool of employees.

4. Not verifying education: Just as looking into an applicant’s past employment is an important background check step that many employees miss, double checking education should be a key step in the pre-employment process. Especially for younger applicants, where college education is one of the key factors of the resume, education verification checks are important to making sure the applicant is who they say they are. Run a check geared toward education history or ask the applicant to produce a transcript proving their attendance and performance.

5. Not verifying licenses and certifications: Licenses and professional certifications can make a person stand out in a crowded applicant pool and can completely change the dynamics of a hiring process. Whether the certification is in a medical field, an electrical or mechanical specialty, or simply CPR, running a background check to make sure the applicant is indeed properly licensed and certified can save you headaches – and even potential lawsuits – somewhere down the line.

6. Failing to adhere to EEOC standards: The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) has a laundry list of rules that companies must follow when hiring new employees. Before you run any background checks, make sure your screening policies are adhering completely to EEOC regulations.

7. Overusing social media: One thing the EEOC is very critical of is the use of social media in background checks. This is because a Facebook page or another social media profile can reveal personal information about an applicant (race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.) that the hiring manager is not permitted to know because it may lead to biased, discriminatory hiring decisions. If you are going to use social media in a background check, use it sparingly. Better yet, have someone other than the hiring manager do the social check and then compile a report that excludes sensitive information.

8. Forgetting to be transparent: Even the most effective background check policy can be hampered by an employer’s failure to be transparent about it. All background check policies should be outlined in writing for applicants to see. Furthermore, any hiring decisions made using background check information should be related to the appropriate applicants in writing to avoid discrimination lawsuits.

9. Only running background checks on full-time employees: This one is big for companies throughout the United States. An organization may have an extremely effective background screening policy for its full-time, but then fail to run any sort of check on part-time workers, contractors, temps, or volunteers. As a general rule, anyone given access to the systems, facilities, or assets of your company should be subject to some sort of background check.

10. Forgetting to institute a repeat background check policy: Another common mistake made by organizations in every industry is the failure to run repeat background checks. These businesses screen their applicants thoroughly prior to making hiring decisions, but let corruption, poor behavior, and even criminal activity slide with longtime employees. Running repeat background checks on all employees every year or two is a great way to ensure a safe, liability-free workplace. 

From the Coach’s Corner, more management tips: 

How to avoid EEOC Discrimination Suits –Here are six tips for micro-companies and 13 strategies for larger organizations to avoid EEOC migraines. 

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Hiring for a Small Operation? Conduct Behavioral InterviewsIn this economic environment, whether you run a small operation in a big company or you own a small business, you’re wearing many hats. So you need employees who can successfully wear multiple hats, too. What does that entail? It entails several things. To compete successfully, small businesses especially need people who are a good fit culturally. 

Management — 4 Mindsets for Leadership in Performance ReviewsAre you nervous at the thought of giving employee-performance reviews? You’re not alone. Your employees aren’t exactly thrilled, either. Typically, employees aren’t convinced they can get valid feedback. If they’ve experienced poor managers, they likely dread the performance-review process or are skeptical of the outcome.

Tips to Manage Fighting Employees Vying for Favorite TreatmentPersonality conflict isn’t the only reason workers fight among themselves. They also fight hoping for your approval to get favorite treatment. Whatever the cause, rivalries among employees hinder your workplace morale and productivity. This is a particularly difficult situation for new managers.

“Pretty much all the honest truth telling there is in the world is done by children.”

-Oliver Wendell Holmes 


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.





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Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.