In 2003, the Society of Human Resources Management reported that 53% of all job applications include inaccurate information. In 2008, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that more than 75% of people who use drugs on a regular, consistent basis are employed. In 2014, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners reported that the average organization loses 5% of its annual revenue to occupational fraud. The Bureau of Justice Statistics says that workplace violence accounts for a mind—blowing 18% of all violent crime that occurs in the United States each year. And Fortune Magazine has reported that employers lose an astounding 80% of all negligent hiring lawsuits.
If these statistics are scary to you as an employer, a Human Resources manager, or a recruiter, rest assured that you are not alone. On the contrary, facts and figures like the ones provided above are a big part of the reason pre-employment background checks are a growing, near—universal trend in the hiring sector. Businesses are learning more and more that they can’t always trust their applicants or employees. Background checks, then, can help to expose dishonest resumes, root out drug use, highlight behavior that might predict occupational fraud or embezzlement, cut down on workplace violence, and avoid negligent hiring lawsuits—among other things.
How Background Checks Can Help Employment Specialists and HR Professionals
Now that we’ve handled the “why?” of the growing employment background check trend, we can move on to addressing what it means for the people on the defensive side of the table. And if you are a recruiter, a hiring manager, or an HR professional, then you are playing defense, whether you like it or not. You are defending your company against potential threats or costly bad hires.
The good news is that background checks can help you to do your job more effectively. For instance, by hiring a background check firm to run verification checks on a promising applicant, you can find out whether or not said applicant lied about anything in their work or educational history. Verification checks for professional licenses and certifications are also incredibly helpful for distinguishing a genuine candidate from a fraud.
Bottom line, for hiring managers or Human Resources directors looking to make more educated hiring decisions, background checks are something of a godsend. No longer do you have to make a dozen phone calls to find out whether or not an applicant actually graduated from the school they listed on their resume or digging around local court files for a specific person’s criminal records. With the help of a reputable background check company, you can farm all of this work out to trained professionals who know precisely what to look for and where to find it. HiringThing has integrated background checks within their system to easily run checks on applicants with just a few clicks.
The Dangers and Pitfalls of Background Checks
Background checks are a powerful tool to learn more about the people you are considering for hire. However, as the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility, and using background checks begets a long list of responsibilities.
Among hiring specialists, the use of background checks is perhaps the murkiest for recruiters or headhunters. If you are in charge of finding and reaching out to viable candidates for a specific company or job opening, then you will probably see the benefits of using background checks as part of your process. Headhunters, for instance, get paid when a company hires one of their recruits. As a result, specialists in charge of hiring recruitment could benefit greatly from knowing more about who their recruits really are.
However, there are a number of pitfalls related to using background checks if you are a recruiter. First and foremost, you need a person’s express written permission to go digging around in their background legally. Some recruiters get around this pitfall by doing so—called “social media background checks,” but even those have their issues. Applicants often reveal information on Facebook or Instagram that they wouldn’t to an employer—including religion, sexual orientation, political affiliation, and more. In fact, employers are advised never to ask about these hot—button topics in interviews or on applications, simply because the answers can create biases and prejudices that morph into employment discrimination.
Recruiters can, of course, use LinkedIn—the “professional social network” where many users post profiles with the goal of attracting recruiter or employment attention. However, everyone in the employment sector—from recruiters to hiring managers to HR professionals—should think long and hard before looking at other social profiles. Careless use of “social media background checks” can lead to uncomfortable to downright catastrophic accusations of discrimination and bias.
A Note about Background Check Regulation
Since hiring managers and Human Resources workers usually do have written permission to conduct formal background checks, they face less obvious obstacles to learning more about job applicants. However, the act of running background checks introduces its own slew of pitfalls into the equation, as well. Through the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) and the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), the government regulates how employers can utilize background checks.
These regulations work in several ways, from establishing steps the employer must follow when using background checks, to instructing the employer on how background check findings can be used to making hiring decisions. An example of the former would be that if you decide to disqualify and applicant based on background check findings, you must provide that person with a copy of the background check report. An example of the latter, meanwhile, would be that a past conviction should only be used to disqualify an applicant if the conviction is relevant to their ability to perform the job. So a DUI conviction would be a reason to disqualify an applicant from a job that involves driving but not necessarily from a desk job. Employers, HR workers, hiring managers, and even recruiters would be wise to familiarize themselves with the regulations laid forth by the FCRA and EEOC .
Realizing the growing importance and presence of employment background checks can help hiring experts do their jobs more effectively. However, background checks also introduce a number of complications into the mix for HR, hiring, or recruitment staff, and understanding these pitfalls and complications is also important. Ideally, your goal should be to balance a working knowledge of what background checks can do for you with an awareness of their established do’s and don’ts.
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