How to Optimize Your Background Screening Process for Post-Pandemic Hiring

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Employees are quitting their jobs at record rates as part of a “turnover tsunami” spurred by the pandemic. And the numbers are expected to climb as employees who stayed in mediocre jobs during the pandemic spend the latter half of the year looking for better opportunities.

This is terrific news if you’re hiring. With more candidates to choose from, you have more opportunities to hit a home run by hiring the right person for the right role. But this crowded labor market also highlights the importance of streamlining your screening and selection processes to move as effectively — and accurately — as possible.

In particular, it’s beneficial to have a sound preemployment background check strategy in place. With so many new candidates flooding the market, it is critical that businesses ensure they’re maximizing their talent acquisition investments and mitigating any risk.

As you consider your post-pandemic background screening plan, keep these things in mind:

Background Check Basics

Background screening helps employers build safe workplaces and ensures employees are the right fit for an organization. There are two basic components of any comprehensive screening process:

1. A background screening program comprises the methods you use to collect an applicant’s information.

2. A background screening policy is a blanket set of instructions, guidelines, and rules governing how background checks are carried out as part of the talent acquisition process.

An employer’s backgrounds screening program and policy is often the product of collaboration between company leaders, hiring managers, HR departments, and a third-party background screening firm. By ensuring that employers request specific information required for their unique candidates, a clearly defined policy brings consistency, accuracy, and efficiency to the background screening process.

What Does a Background Check Show?

Most background checks consist of criminal history, education, previous employment verifications, and reference checks. Drug testing results may also be included in background check reports.

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) compliance is required of any employer using a third party, like a screening firm, to conduct background checks. Non-conviction records can only be reported for seven years. Under the FCRA, there is no limitation on reporting a criminal conviction, but many states have passed laws that say consumer reporting agencies cannot report anything beyond seven years.

Types of Background Checks

Many kinds of background checks can be run on job applicants. The contents of your background checks will vary depending on your industry, type of job, and screening policy. Here are some of the most common checks:

1. Social Security Number Trace: A Social Security number trace reveals where a potential employee has lived and worked and provides other names or aliases connected with this person, which can then be checked during a criminal screening.

2. Statewide Criminal Records Check: This uncovers any felonies or misdemeanors committed by an applicant by gathering information from courts, correctional agencies, and law enforcement officials across the state.

3. County Criminal Records Check:One of the most common searches, this check homes in on any criminal activity an applicant may have committed in the exact areas where they have lived and worked.

4. National Criminal Records Database Search:This reveals whether an applicant has committed a crime outside the state or county where they live and work.

5. FBI Fingerprint Database Check: A fingerprint background check can show Criminal History Record Information (CHRI) if a match is found. This CHRI can include arrests, but it may also include information about military service records, records of federal employment, and naturalization.

6. Sex Offender Registry Check: This shows whether an applicant is a registered sex offender.

7. Healthcare Sanctions Report (HSR):Specifically used for healthcare roles, this verifies whether a physician, nurse, or other high-level practitioner has been excluded from participating in federally funded programs like Medicare and Medicaid because of an infraction.

8. Terrorist Watch List Search: This check cross-references the list, maintained by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, of people who are known or are reasonably suspected of being involved in terrorist activity.

9. Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) Search: This search determines if a candidate is considered a threat to national security. The relevant database is maintained by a division of the US Treasury Department.

10. Driver’s License Verification and Driving Records Check: This check compiles an applicant’s driving history, including violations, suspensions, accidents, convictions, and other disciplinary actions.

11. Department of Transportation (DOT) Employment Verifications: When researching a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), federal law only allows to look at the last three years of records. However, there is no such restriction on work history. For this check, the DOT requires that HR ask very specific questions, and the entire process can take up to 30 days to complete.

12. Credit Report Check: Applicants for financial positions or those who are trusted with personally identifiable information (PII) might be subject to a credit check. This shows current debts, bankruptcies, financial judgments, and payment histories.

13. Education Verification: This check ensures applicants are not lying about earning a high school, college, or advanced degree and confirms certifications.

14. Employment Verification: This confirms an applicant’s previous employment details, including dates, salary, reason for leaving, and rehire eligibility.

15. Professional Reference Check: This check involves calling previous employers to discuss an applicant’s job performance.

16. Professional Qualification Verification: This search verifies professional licenses for industries like medicine, accounting, engineering, law, and real estate. It also surfaces disciplinary actions filings.

Your Background Screening Blueprint

As you evaluate your existing background screening measures and how your program and policy may need to change for the post-pandemic labor force, there are four key factors to consider:

1. Safety Vision:Does your background screening policy effectively protect your employees, guests, culture, and brand?

2. Strategic Vision: Is your background screening strategy aligned with your immediate talent acquisition needs and long-term hiring objectives?

3. Hiring Vision:Does your existing background screening strategy consistently deliver the results you need to meet your hiring goals?

4. Compliance Vision: Are your background check program and policy in compliance with local, state, and federal laws?

Recent studies show that most job hunters expect the recruiting process to be more challenging and stressful than before the pandemic. Swift, accurate, and comprehensive preemployment background checks are critical for organizations that need a competitive edge in the talent market as the turnover tsunami rolls on for the rest of 2021.

RJ Frasca is vice president of product and marketing at EBI Inc. 

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By RJ Frasca