Background screening is an essential part of the hiring process, and most organizations already see the value of it. A study by the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA) found that 96 percent of employers conduct some kind of background screening. 

To realize the many benefits of background screening—including better-informed hiring decisions and reduced hiring and compliance risk—takes a combination of the right resources, technology, and partners. Establishing a relationship with a reputable background screening partner can help you design a screening program that fits your organization and job types. It also helps you avoid a range of mistakes that open your organization to hiring and compliance risk. 

Here are six background screening mistakes to avoid before they negatively impact your organization.

Lack of Consistent and Standardized Practices 

Standardized and consistent processes allow people to take required actions without letting important details fall through the cracks. Standardization also prevents your people from having to reinvent the wheel each time they begin a process. 

The same is true for the background screening process. When conducting background checks, all the necessary steps must be followed in the right order to facilitate thorough and complete results. Standardization by role is especially important because it supports consistency across an entire job type, and it helps your organization avoid errors associated with having a different background check process for each candidate.

While different kinds of background checks can be applied throughout the organization, it’s a mistake to allow the screening process to vary within the same job type. For example, a healthcare organization hiring nurses should apply the same standardized background screening for each candidate, which likely includes a criminal history search, employment and license verifications, and a search of employment exclusion and debarment lists, among other things. Without a standardized background screening process for nursing hires, it’s possible to mistakenly leave out certain kinds of searches, which could lead to hiring a nurse who isn’t authorized to work in a healthcare environment or one who possesses an expired or revoked license. 

Another reason to avoid screening inconsistencies within the same job type: It could lead to potential claims of discrimination. If you perform different kinds of background screening on individuals being considered for the same job, one or more of them may claim they were subjected to background searches that weren’t consistently applied to others.

Lastly, a lack of standardization in the background screening process can cause recordkeeping mistakes. Having manual or inconsistent practices for managing and storing background screening reports can lead to lost information, double-entry, and ultimately may hinder efforts to analyze data. 

Not Screening Every Employee Level

Hiring risk exists at every level of the organization, which is one key reason hires at every level should undergo thorough background screening. This doesn’t mean the same background search should be conducted at every level or for every position. For example, candidates for hire into delivery or transportation roles would need a driver history search included in their background screening, whereas candidates for executive positions would not.

Screening employees at every level should also include temps, contractors, interns, and other non-employees. Those individuals have access to customers, patients, and other personnel, and they could pose a risk if brought into the workplace without a background check conducted to the same standard as employees.

Not screening at every level can lead to financial or reputational losses and open the organization to potential risks such as:

  • Hiring individuals into accounting positions who may have committed theft or financial fraud
  • Hiring individuals at any level who possess a degree from a diploma mill or who lack the employment experiences listed on their resume


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Screening Employees Only Once 

Conducting background screening for job candidates establishes a solid baseline of their criminal, employment, educational, and license history. However, if your background screening process stops at the moment of hire, you could make the mistake of continuing to employ individuals who go on to commit acts that make their presence in the workplace risky. On the other hand, if you have a process for screening employees after hire, you’ll keep abreast of post-employment behavior that constitutes a violation of company policy. 

Continuous monitoring can uncover instances of employee criminal convictions, illegal drug abuse, as well as expired or revoked licenses. By periodically screening existing employees, you can become better-informed about individuals whose employment may be a violation of company policies or industry-specific licensing requirements.

Not Keeping up with Compliance Changes 

Given the rate at which new legislation affects background screening, it’s a mistake not to stay abreast of the compliance changes impacting hiring and screening processes. For example, pay equity laws, marijuana legalization, and “ban the box” laws frequently change from state-to-state and city-to-city, and employers can’t ignore them. Failing to comply with changing employment laws can lead to reputational damage, lawsuits, and costly fines at the state and federal level.

Keeping up with compliance changes also means following any updates to Fair Credit and Reporting Act (FCRA) disclosure and authorization rules. By using outdated disclosure documents, organizations fall out of FCRA compliance and risk sizable fines and penalties. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which enforces the FCRA, notes some common mistakes employers make with the use of improper disclosure documents, for example:

  • Including language that releases the employer from any liability related to conducting or using a background screening report
  • Requiring individuals to agree hiring decisions are based on legitimate non-discriminatory reasons
  • Asking individuals to authorize the collection of information prohibited by the FCRA, such as bankruptcies more than 10 years old

Relying on Technology Too Little (or Too Much)

In our digital age, it would be a mistake not to incorporate technology where it can improve efficiency or enable a better customer experience. The use of technology in the background screening process is no exception. 

Background screening technology automates many aspects of the background screening process, simplifying workflows related to requesting background checks, getting results, and communicating updates on the status of in-progress reports. Screening technology also integrates with the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) , saving time for recruiters by eliminating double-entry and organizing candidate data as individuals move through the interview and hiring process.

While background screening processes lend themselves very well to automation, it’s important not to make the mistake of relying on technology to do too much. Technology enhances human effort but can’t replace it. A support team of analysts forms the backbone of any successful background screening process. Each analyst should possess the knowledge, judgment, and attention to detail to deliver a quality background check report. In addition, a partnership with your background screening provider is further enhanced by people who offer creativity, education, and expert insights to craft a background screening program that meets your needs 

Incomplete or Inaccurate Screening Reports

If you’re not getting complete and accurate background screening reports, you can’t make well-informed hiring decisions. That’s why choosing a background screening partner solely on price doesn’t pay. 

If you’re paying less but getting inaccurate background check results, in the end you’re open to more hiring risk, more compliance risk, and possible lawsuits. Moreover, by making a hiring decision based on inaccurate information, you could unknowingly hire an individual who might do far more harm than good in the workplace. For example, a background screening report with missing verification details from past employers, employment sanctions, or the full story about an individual’s criminal history puts employees, customers, and other important stakeholders at risk.

The importance of accuracy in background screening further highlights the need to balance human judgment and technology. A background screening provider integrating the best of human effort and technology can collect, verify, and deliver accurate background check information more effectively than a provider who relies on people or technology alone. 

Reduce Mistakes in Your Background Screening Process

Like any important business process, background screening works best with consistent application and regular enhancements to keep it in compliance. A balance of dedicated support team and automated technology will also keep your background screening process healthy and aligned with overall organizational and hiring goals. Sometimes mistakes happen, but when you know the possible mistakes that can occur in the background screening process, you can take steps to avoid them. 


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