There is a general consensus amongst employers about the importance of conducting pre-employment background screening. But, the one thing that most of the employers struggle with is determining whether they are at a stage where they really need a formal background screening policy for conducting checks on candidates. The fact of the matter is, irrespective of the size of your organization, whether big or small it is important to have some sort of policy in place. The reason being, no matter the type of employer you are, background screening needs to be done in a lawful and consistent manner and background screening policies can go a long way in ensuring that.
Having lawful, consistent background checks is one of the most significant objectives of a background screening policy. A consistent approach is equally important as it can kill two birds with a single stone: having an effective process of vetting and being fair to all the candidates involved.
The background screening policy sets the standard around multiple aspects of background screening that is followed and understood by everyone in the organization. By formalizing the policy, you can work towards achievement of all important goal of achieving consistency in the screening process.
If you do not have a written policy in place, it can easily lead to inconsistency which is not only unfair but also can get you into legal troubles. This makes it all the more important to devise a background screening policy that takes into account all the applicable privacy and human rights laws.
So how do you design an effective background screening policy? Let us try to answer this question with the help of a few steps enumerated below.
1. Define the types of positions that will be subject to pre-employment background checks
The very first step to designing an effective background screening policy is to understand the information that you need to collect for each position. There are different roles in your organization and there is no one-size-fits-all background check package. Every position or type of position has a different risk profile. Have a written policy defining the different types of positions that will be subject to background screening. This will reassure the candidates that by conducting the background check on them you are not invading their privacy in an undue manner.
It is all the more necessary to perform background checks on all potential new employees from janitorial staff to C-suite officers. You may even consider performing recurring checks on existing employees. Candidates also have every right to question your screening process this makes it very important to have all the things in black & white while conducting background checks.
2. Select the type of background screening checks that will be needed for a position
Once you have defined the types of position that will be subject to pre-employment background checks, the next step is to determine the type of background screening checks that will be needed for a position. There are different types of background checks that can be conducted on an individual like driving records check, criminal history check, education check and employment check.
The type of background screening checks that you opt for will depend on certain criteria like the requirement of the organization, the type of industry you are part of, relevant laws or regulations applicable to your industry and the relevancy to the job in question. For example; driving records check will be relevant for those individuals who are required to drive on duties during the job. While it may not be applicable for those who have a desk job.
Consistency is definitely the goal, but not necessarily in terms of running the same check on everyone in your organization. If you are hiring an individual who will be handling the financial responsibilities in your organization like an accounts manager then a credit history of the candidate in question is more relevant than a driver record check.
3. Decide on the criteria that might disqualify a candidate
The next step is to determine the circumstances that can result in automatic disqualification of a candidate for the vacant position. Some of the criteria that you need to deliberate before rejecting a candidate for the job include:
- The nature of any criminal offense committed in the past by the candidate;
- Any pertinent risks faced by the organization as per the results of the screening process;
- The nature of the position being applied for;
- The requirements of your business;
- The time duration lapsed since the crime has been committed.
Note: Never create blanket policies that cannot be customized according to the nature of a particular crime and the requirements of your business.
4. Assign a person who will be responsible for completing the screening process
Once you have determined the criteria that might disqualify a candidate the next step is to clearly define the person who will be responsible for completing the screening process. The person appointed needs to define the types of hiring decisions that the person would be taking while handling the administration of the screening policy. He/she also needs to take a judgment call by properly defining the role in detail by writing it down.
The person assigned should have:
- Essential hard skills required to be successful in the role;
- Soft skills that can assist the person to grow in the role;
- Inculcating positive culture in the organization;
- Educational and training credentials;
- Multitasking skills to oversee each and every step of the screening process.
5. Consider the legal implications that may affect the screening process
Once you have assigned a person who will be responsible for completing the screening process, the next step is to consider all the laws and regulations that may have an adverse effect on the screening process. In India, there is no such law governing the background screening of candidates. But, in the US, you need to follow the FCRA requirements, EEOC guidelines, Ban the Box laws, anti-discriminatory laws and other related screening laws.
Always try to be consistent and equitable to all the candidates and employees during the screening process. Follow the laws and regulations affecting background checks to the “t” by having uniform processes in place. Finally, take the assistance from a professional legal counselor to remain compliant while formulating the background screening policy and getting the most from it.
6. Select the type of service you will use to conduct pre-employment background screening of candidates
The final step to designing an effective background screening policy is to decide whether you would like to conduct in-house or outsource it to a professional third party. If you decide to opt for the in house choice, then you will have to select online screening services which is best suited for small businesses that need quick results. But, the problem with this option is that the results cannot always be reliable.
In case if you feel dissatisfied with the in-house results obtained from online screening services there is one other option of hiring an experienced background screening vendor. The great thing about this option is that you can always rely on accurate results and the cost of outsourcing this service is seldom more than running the program in-house. The decision that you take can have an adverse effect on the final outcome of the background check reports so take the call wisely.