Last updated: November 23, 2020
Pre-employment screening is an important part of the hiring process for all businesses. For some industries and positions, this screening is required by law; for most businesses, however, it’s just a good practice. The laws about what information an employer can use to screen prospective employees varies by state and the nature of the position. Consulting an outside firm might be wise.
Most of the burdens associated with trying to install an “in-house” testing program gets shifted to an outside source when you find the right pre-screening company. Knowing what kinds of services are typically available can help an employer avoid the less prepared providers. If money is being spent up front to save later, a provider who not only sets up the system, but maintains it, upgrades it as needed, and limits legal troubles by minimizing screening risks is needed. A full-service outfit will also help tailor eleven or more pre-employment screening to a company’s needs.
The most common types of screening are common for a reason. Depending on the nature of the work, employees should expect to encounter some or all of them.
Credit History—Credit history verification is often subject to state laws, and it may not be allowed for certain positions. If an employee is handling cash or sensitive customer information, they may be excluded from the restriction on a credit history check.
Social Security—Social Security number tracing is not the same as a credit check. It will return all the names, aliases, dates of birth and addresses that have been associated with that social security number.
Motor Vehicle Records—If an employee may be required to travel or drive company vehicles, a motor vehicle records check might be a good idea. Employees with a bad driving record may cost the company in insurance premiums or pose a liability risk.
Drug Testing—Drugs can have a negative impact on the safety of a workplace. Drug use has been shown to correlate to instances of absenteeism and theft, and may expose a company to a higher number of worker’s compensation claims.
Another group of testing procedures concerns verifying the kinds of information provided to the employer by the prospective employee.
Employment Verification—Experience is a huge factor in hiring decisions, and while lying on an application or resume can be grounds for immediate dismissal, it’s better to not make that hiring decision in the first place. Additionally, previous employers can make recommendations and provide insight on potential employees, so calling to verify comes with extra benefits.
Education Verification—Falsifying education has been a trend in positions from football coaches to government employees. Independently verifying these claims is necessary to protect business interests.
Professional Licenses—Some positions require professional licensing as a legal requirement, and for some it’s an important job qualification. Regardless, verifying licensure is as important as verifying previous employment and education for many of the same reasons.
Professional References—Former co-workers are valuable sources of information about a candidate. What did they notice about working with that person? How well did they get along in the workplace, and what were their strengths and weaknesses? This information can be used to determine whether the candidate will be a good fit for the new work environment.
“In-house” programs are often only set-up to deal with general and perhaps some basic verification services. For those employers with special concerns, a few additional measures are available.
Federal Criminal Records—Federal offenses may not appear in a background check executed by a state government, and some of these offenses are serious enough to disqualify a candidate for specific positions. Be wary that some states limit how criminal history can be used in hiring decisions.
Sex Offender Registry—Many sex offenders don’t self-report that they’re included in their state’s registry. Again, it’s important to keep in mind what criminal history is allowed in hiring decisions, as many states consider inclusion on the sex offender registry a protected status.
International Criminal History—When considering a candidate from overseas, consider whether they have any history or associations that might present a safety risk or open the company to legal liability.
Employees have resources available to help them navigate screening processes, but so do employers. It’s legal and in some cases, necessary to check up on potential employees, but new methods of screening sometimes reach ahead of established law. Relying on an outside source can make the process less costly to a company in both time and money.