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The employee screening environment is rapidly evolving, making it hard for businesses to keep up. That's just one reason why businesses are either outsourcing background checks to a partner or are not conducting screenings at all.

For those not conducting pre-employment screening, the case for reconsidering is air tight. If you're working with an expert partner, it's important to stay on top of the changing nature of background checks to be sure you're working with the best partner for your business.

There's a laundry list of questions to ask your current vendor – or potential vendors if you're shopping – that will confirm that you have a good screening partner. But three critical questions will help ensure that you stay ahead of the employment screening curve:

1) Will you notify me of changes in employment laws?

Tracking employment screening legislation is no easy task, but if your business is found in violation you could be looking at fees, penalties or even lawsuits.

At least seven states have banned the use of credit checks in employment screening and 20 more are considering legislation. Disagreement over E-Verify continues, with some states lending heavy support to the approach while others have passed legislation attempting to nullify the practice. And some states are considering a "Ban the Box" approach that prohibits employers from asking about criminal backgrounds.

It's an employment screening vendor's job to stay on top of this legal landscape and to certify that the practices it follows are compliant. Businesses need to be abreast of changes in regulations that impact areas such as what information can be requested and how to handle finding potentially sensitive information. Your screening partner has the knowledge, and it should share it as a part of your relationship. If not, you may need to consider a break up.

2) What is your approach to social media screening?

According to Social Intelligence, a social media screening and research company, 79 percent of U.S. hiring managers and recruiters have reviewed online information about job applicants and 69 percent have rejected applicants after reviewing their social media presence.

A fundamental concern with social media screening is how to avoid seeing information related to race, religion, disability status, etc. – information not allowed to be considered as part of an employment screening – when social media outlets don't filter out this information. For example, think about the amount of information that could be derived from a simple Facebook profile photo – information that's off limits when it comes to employment decisions.

Effective June 2011, social media is subject to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which requires "reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy." With no verification process and open season to post just about anything, information on social media sites is far from guaranteed accurate, which means what seems like a harmless research can get your business into hot water.

If social media will be included in your employment screening process, it's best to use a third party. But it's critical to know if your employment screening partner can certify compliance with FCRA, how it will extract "protected class" information, and if it will mine for both positive and negative behaviors.

You must understand your screening partner's approach to social media in order to protect your business from a slippery legal slope. And if you don't have a policy, you should probably get one.

3) Can you integrate into my online hiring process?

Businesses are embracing the efficiencies that an online hiring process can provide and are looking toward fully integrated solutions that span the hiring process from recruitment and application to background screening and onboarding.

The automated shift is producing two results: the hiring process has become more efficient for managers and tech savvy applicants are coming to expect a streamlined and expedited process. The latter result has a bigger impact on your bottom line than you may realize.

If your process is burdensome or takes too long, it could repel top talent, leading to bad hires, high turnover and lost profits. The best candidates are snapped up quickly. Hourly employees have the most client interaction, and according to Harris Interactive, 86 percent of people say they've written off a business after just one bad customer service experience. You can't afford to lose great brand ambassadors because of a cumbersome, time-consuming application process. Find out if your screening partner's process can be integrated into your hiring solution and to what extent. Ideally, applicants will only have to provide pertinent information once and your hiring managers can get all the information needed to assess and screen candidates within one system. It's that whole two birds, one stone concept.

Employment screening is a complex process with serious legal implications that continues to evolve faster than most of us can follow. A screening partner can keep you compliant, but asking the right questions can help you find a partner that will keep you two steps ahead.

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User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • Les Rosen
    71198283
    Good article. There are a number of other considerations as well, since background checks is an area that is highly legally regulated, and complex. First, is a firm accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS). That is the highest industry standard and your assurance that an outside auditor has reviewed compliance with the best industry practices. Next, does a screening firm take shortcuts that put you at risk, such as sending work to be preformed offshore beyond US privacy law, or using cheap home workers, or substituting databases for real background checks. For a quick list of 23 points to use to audit your current provider, see: http://www.esrcheck.com/diligence-audit-current-provider.php For tips on what to look for in a screening firm, see: http://www.esrcheck.com/ESRadvantage.php
  • John McTighe
    70911680
    As a tenured professing in the screening industry, I applaud this article. We find that many screening firms have a favorite method of conducting checks, and that is usually based on their botton line and not necessarily your best interest. To learn more about the different checks available and for best practices, visit http://www.backgrounddecision.com
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Latest posts by Amanda Richardson
Amanda Richardson
As SVP of Product and Marketing, Amanda manages product development of Snagajob's business solutions making it easier for hourly employers to source, hire, manage and train workers. She is also responsible for business development efforts. Oh, and she loves brunch.
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