One of the most vital steps in determining which applicant is the best person for the job is the background check. It can help employers ensure they don’t overlook any potential problems with an otherwise acceptable candidate—disruptions at past jobs, a significant criminal record, and so on. But the background check can also be a tricky thing to pull off correctly. Organizations that conduct this research improperly have more at stake than hiring the wrong person—it could lead to legal action and terrible public perception.
With that said, employers can still use background checks to great effect, and not just to weed out candidates with suspect history. A well-done background check will also reveal aspects of an applicant’s past that might not show up on a résumé but could still prove to be valuable assets for a given position.
Employers should also be aware the list of unacceptable screening practices is long, varies from state to state, and may be surprising. Before conducting any kind of background check, organizations should check with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and other institutions to be sure the screening methods are in line with policy.
“A single firing does not outweigh an otherwise strong employment history.”
Right way: Examine the body of work
Nearly every candidate will have a varied background that includes some positive and negative attributes. Rather than focusing on a single point, employers would be best served to locate patterns and trends, according to Forbes. A single firing, for example, does not outweigh an otherwise strong employment history. On the other hand, a candidate who consistently loses his or her job may be unreliable.
Wrong way: Place all the emphasis on a clean criminal record
By all means, employers should examine criminal records, within the confines of the law—those regulations differ by state, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. But the best candidates don’t always have spotless records. A single misdemeanor arrest shouldn’t derail an entire application. Even those with years of jail time may have turned over a new leaf and could become valuable members on a team. Some positions rule out any criminal history, but Forbes reported the EEOC and other institutions are working to ban pre-screen questions regarding criminal history.
Right way: Be fair, consistent, and proactive
Résumés, background checks, and pre-screens are all valuable tools, but they can’t tell the whole story of who a person is. Any glaring weakness in a background check might indicate an untrustworthy candidate—or it could just be the result of an isolated, poor decision. That’s why employers should communicate with their applicants, apply the same approach to all candidates, and judge any incidents with an unbiased eye. For that reason, professional agencies and recruiting software are great resources.
Wrong way: Use a background check to rule out an applicant completely
Pre-screen questions are an excellent way to eliminate unqualified applicants from your quest to fill a position, but background checks do not function in the same way. Not only are they too exhaustive and time-consuming to use on every candidate, they don’t tell the whole story, according to Small Business Trends. Determine whether or not a job seeker has the experience you need and then make a conditional offer based on a satisfactory background check.
Most of all, employers should educate themselves on all the laws regarding acceptable background check practices. Professional agencies may be the best source to use, as they will likely know these regulations already. An applicant tracking application can also prove valuable in organizing and distributing all the candidate’s important information as it becomes available. By following these tips and keeping up on the latest changes to the law, employers can leverage background checks to find that perfect applicant.
Recently, Berkshire Associates, along with Justifacts, a company offering background screening services, conducted a webinar covering topics such as:
- The importance of verifying applicant qualifications
- How to conduct a background check
- The impacts of a bad hire on your organization
View this webinar to learn more on the proper usage of background checks.