Some Best Practices with Background Checks | DCR Workforce Blog

Some Best Practices with Background Checks

It is very easy to say that the cost of background checks forms a part of doing business for employers.  How many are aware that the total cost of such checks across the USA comes to nearly 2 billion dollars and being offered for information which is actually available on digitized public databases across the country? It is this pot at the end of the rainbow that is making private operators get into the business of providing such background checks for a fee. This is why there is no reliability in the kind of information obtained as most databases do not get updated and there is a possibility of information being kept alive beyond its permissible limit – which is 7 years for most records. This state of affairs makes it even more difficult for employers to avoid charges of discrimination.

A survey by Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) indicated that 82% of corporate America is currently doing background checks, up from 50% in 1996.  This comes as no surprise when we look at what some reports about falseness of records and criminal background say:

  • 8.4% of people, who unhesitatingly authorized background checks, were found to have past criminal convictions.
  • The hit rates in a background checks can vary from 7% to 25%. A study found that 8.5% of staffing industry applicants had a criminal record, while 5.7% of healthcare applicants and 12.4% of food service applicants had a criminal record.
  • 18% of non-graduates falsify their education and skill records by 18% while 13% of graduates falsify theirs.
  • Some colleges and universities claim that 60% of all records they get asked to verify turn out false.
  • After 9/11 the awareness for the need to know employees has led to 50% growth rates with quite a few employers considering global screenings.
  • The Department of Justice reports that one out of every 32 adults has a criminal background. Two of three criminals are rearrested within three years of being released.
  • Workplace violence lawsuits result in an average out-of-court settlement of over $500,000 with jury verdicts averaging about $3 million.

Caution with D-I-Y methods:

Nowadays, companies are running their own verifications without ordering any investigation through an external agency. To illustrate, a reverse telephone search using Google (or a look up directory) shows who the registered owner of the telephone line, listed by the candidate, is and their full name and address. Check the person out, free, on the local county recorder’s office website – to trace public records and registrations – home purchase, marriage, divorce or other legal issues – involving the individual.

  • Running a social media check before ordering a full background investigation. This approach could throw up inaccurate results and expose the managers to charges of discrimination, or failure to hire. Some have been sued for taking adverse action after ascertaining – from their pictures on the Facebook account or posts – an employee’s age, race, religious preference or sexual orientation. According to a survey, 44% of employers use social networking sites to examine the profiles of job candidates. This is a pitfall that is best avoided as the information revealed is hardly the type which an employer really needs to or wants to know or has any relevance to what the person needs to deliver on the job.
  • Re-assigning or offering temp-to-perm conversion only those candidates who have already been screened and cleared – without further screening. It would be smart to review the existing risk assessments and screening policies along with the results of EEOC meetings and any pending legal actions for discrimination before taking this route.

Cost-cutting processes:

Setting the background check process with attention to a few of the following policies could help to contain the overall cost of background checks without vitiating any of its quality standards.

  • Lower the costs of screening by awarding the contract to one or two firms.
  • Money can be saved by interviewing the candidates before asking for a background check.
  • Do not ask for all checks at one time. Order the critical reports first – like driving record – and the rest can be ordered only if these are clean.
  • Running a social security check uncovers attempts to omit information, identity theft, undisclosed convictions, all previous addresses and aliases and the death index for that number.
  • Run a check of the federal criminal records and sex offenders’ registry before checking the county records if any harmful information is unearthed. (A word of caution though: Federal information may cover data from only half the states. Also, some of the information may be outdated.)
  • Reduce data entry errors and manage overhead costs by automating the exchange of candidate data from internal systems with the verification effort and integrate status updates and background check.

When staffing company candidates work for several clients, each of who follows a different background checking criteria, they must be managed consistently the various placements if the staffing company itself is to avoid discrimination lawsuits. Finally, keeping track of who was checked, what was checked, when they were checked and if the latest check is still valid poses a record-keeping and logistical challenge – which must be taken up and handled effectively to keep costs contained.

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.