Let’s Talk Turkey About Background Screening

By Sean Dryden

Once we roll into the fourth quarter, HR professionals know the holidays are just around the corner. Extra time off, good food, and time with family are all at the top of our year-end list of things to do.

The end of the year is also a time that businesses need to review their set business practices and make sure they have the best hiring system possible going into the New Year. Failing to do this puts the organization at risk because outdated or incomplete policies, or processes that are not in compliance with new legislation can pose costly risk. These oversights open companies up to missing the best job candidates, as well as costly litigation if their hiring process is faulty or unfair.
This should include reviewing and revamping your background screening policy.

HR professionals must evaluate these five questions for background screening to be effective:
1: Is our background screening policy telling us what we 
need to know?
2: Is the process structured to 
fit the job the applicant is being screened to fill?
3: Does the test 
provide protection against hires that may be unqualified, unfit, or violent?
4: Have we made sure it is fair and 
does not discriminate?

5: Do we have measures in place that follow the regulations the FCRA and our state and local laws demand?

So, let’s talk turkey about your background screening policy and procedures! Follow these guidelines to improve your pre-employment screening policy going into the new year:

A: Be consistent.

Haphazardly screening job candidates based of a “gut feeling” or how much time you have is not going to give you a clear picture of every applicant. It also sets your company up to be liable in discrimination lawsuits. Decide who you want to screen, what you need to know about each job applicant, and which tests or verifications you will order on each person. Develop a written policy that outlines this plan, and train every employee involved in your hiring process on the importance of using it consistently.

B. Be suspicious.

It’s a cold hard fact that about half of all resumes and job applications contain a mistruth. They can range from lying about a criminal history to fudging dates of employment to creating fictitious references.

Don’t assume you can sniff out exaggerations, or complete whoppers, just by interviewing the person. Look at resumes with a critical eye and verify all the information that that is relevant to the position.

Speaking of relevance…

C. Make it relevant.

Consistency is vital, but not every position in the company needs to be screened in the same manner. A person who is applying as a heavy machinery driver may not need a credit check, but he would need a Motor Vehicle Records check and a drug test. On the other hand, a top-level executive may very well need a credit check, along with an in-depth reference check and thorough employment verification. Setting definitive perimeters in place for each position in your company goes a long way toward maintaining practices that are not discriminatory and protecting the workplace.

D: Make it complete.

The cost of hiring the wrong person and then letting them go is conservatively estimated at 25% of their annual salary. This doesn’t even add in the damage an unqualified person could potentially do to your relationships with your customers and vendors, the morale of your top-performing employees, and your brand’s reputation. The bit of extra time it takes to conduct a comprehensive background check and verify all their information can be a big return on investment in protecting the company from a bad hire.


E. Make it accurate.

Screening a person’s background is not an exact science. Remember, the information retrieved on the candidate is only as accurate as the person who found it for you. Do not try to have someone in your office perform the background check.

Hiring an experienced background screening company to handle this for you should be a top priority in establishing an effective policy. Choose a company that has been in business a long time, that is accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), and that has licensed private investigators on staff.

F. Be compliant

Many states and cities are enacting individual laws and regulations that govern hiring. Make sure you are well-educated on your state’s laws. Follow any ban-the-box regulations and limitations on using salary history and credit reports as part of the hiring process.

Also know how to handle the situation if information is returned from the background check that causes you to not hire the potential candidate. Sending out a pre-adverse action letter, giving the applicant a chance to tell his or her side of the story, and then, after a decent period of time, following up with a final adverse action letter is crucial in maintaining a compliant, lawful hiring process. Follow this plan every single time.


The take away here is an effective pre-employment screening policy is an integral part of a safe and successful hiring process. It’s important to have a set standard in place, and revisit the policy periodically to maintain its positive impact on the workplace. A set background screening policy is a strong stepping-stone toward a safe and secure workplace. And THAT is a big reason to be thankful!

Gobble! Gobble!

Sean Dryden
National Account Executive
adryden@datafacts.com
www.datafacts.com