While employment screening is standard operating procedure for many companies today, some organizations haven’t revisited their policies in some time. Meanwhile, regulatory requirements and best practices have changed. As a result, many organizations unknowingly make common mistakes in employment background screening that can result in undue risks and security gaps.

Insufficient Criminal Record Checks

An effective criminal records check includes searches in the counties where the applicant has lived, worked and attended school, and a check of a national criminal database to find other potential records that may be housed outside of the obvious locations. Many organizations neglect to conduct one or both of these steps. Some employers only conduct searches at the county or state level and others only conduct national database searches. At the relatively low cost of performing both types of searches today, and the additional risk this practice helps to eliminate, there are few reasons not to take this approach. Since no national database is completely comprehensive and may include out-of-date information, ensure your screening procedure includes verifying any potential records found in a database at the source – usually a courthouse.

Not Verifying Resume or Application Info

Verifying employment history and education credentials is a critical step to ensure that the most qualified job candidate is hired, but this is a step that companies often neglect. The cost of a bad hire is not negligible – according to a survey conducted by Right Management, the cost of replacing a bad hire can be up to five times an individual’s salary. Employment history and education are the most common areas where the background check identifies adverse information.

There’s close to a 30 percent discrepancy rate in information provided by candidates regarding their educational qualifications. Some candidates will have attended classes but not graduated; some may have graduated but not with the degree that’s claimed; and others may list degrees purchased from diploma mills.

It’s also important to verify prior employment history as it’s common for applicants to exaggerate titles, job duties, accomplishments and salary history. Contacting previous employers to confirm titles and prior job duties can help ensure the applicant’s honesty, integrity and level of competence for the job.

Universal Credit Checks

A recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management shows that most employers who use credit checks in the employment screening process do so only for certain job titles where the information is important in determining risk or fit for the role. Employers need to be familiar with the laws that limit the use of credit information, which have been recently enacted in certain states. In most cases in these states, employers cannot use credit checks as part of the screening process for many positions, but are permitted to use them for positions that allow access to large amounts of cash or sensitive information (i.e., trade secrets). Regulations may also require notification to applicants identifying the basis for performing a credit check, and if the check impacts the hiring decision, employers must follow other prescribed steps. It’s important for employers to understand the relevant regulations and requirements to ensure their screening programs are compliant.

Ignoring the Extended Workforce

With temporary employees, vendors, and contractors increasingly becoming a regular part of the workforce, a security gap that’s always existed becomes more substantial. Many employers have expanded their screening programs to include the "extended workforce" recently, screening them in a similar way as their full-time staff. The risks mitigated in screening this workforce segment are similar to those of your permanent staff – workplace violence, theft, fraud, etc. – but this population goes unscreened in many organizations. Do you know more about the background of the new marketing administrator than the guy who cleans your CEO’s office each night?

Casual Social Media Screening

When social media checks are conducted informally, organizations can be open to liability for discrimination claims, such as protected class information that an employer may come across in the process. Also, since the source of social media information is not a trusted third party, its accuracy and credibility come into question. For example, employers are grappling with questions such as how to confirm the accuracy of data posted; the legitimacy of the source; and how to create a process whereby candidates can dispute information.

Employers must carefully consider whether to conduct social media screening, and if they do, it’s important to build a program on best practices that limits discrimination risk, stresses compliance with your policy and reduces liability risks.

Absence of Drug Testing

According to a recent SHRM study, 45 percent of companies don’t have a drug-free workplace program, which opens them up to safety risks and productivity lapses. The American Council for Drug Education reports that substance abusers are three times more likely to be involved in on-the-job accidents and 33 percent less productive than non-substance abusers6. Progressive employers make drug testing a standard part of the hiring process.

Employment screening is becoming ubiquitous for organizations today, but the legal and regulatory landscape continues to evolve, and employers may neglect updating screening processes to include important new steps and best practices. This could lead to critical risk and/or security gaps. By identifying common mistakes and pitfalls, security professionals can  improve the screening program to help ensure a safe, secure and high-quality workforce.