The background-screening industry is facing greater scrutiny over the accuracy of its reports, according to industry experts. In 2012 some job seekers claimed that inaccurate criminal background checks prevented them from finding employment.
Accuracy of background-check-report information and greater scrutiny of the screening industry are the No. 1 trend for 2013, said attorney and background-check expert Lester Rosen.
“One of the primary jobs of a professional background screener is to provide accurate and actionable information so that employers can make considered decisions on hiring issues,” said Rosen, author of "The Safe Hiring Manual," a comprehensive guide for employment screening.
Background screening is increasingly the subject of regulation, litigation and legislation, so it is important that employers use knowledgeable providers, Rosen told SHRM Online.
The increased attention in 2012 included the following:
In the HireRight case the FTC charged the company with failure to take reasonable steps to ensure that the information in its reports was current and reflected updates, such as the expunging of criminal records, and failure to follow reasonable procedures to prevent inaccurate consumer-report information from being provided to employers. HireRight also was charged with failing to give candidates copies of their reports, failing to reinvestigate consumer disputes and failing to sufficiently notify consumers when public-record information was used to determine hiring eligibility.
Rosen advises employers to be more diligent in hiring screening firms. “Although the overall accuracy rate for background checks is extremely high, it is still easy for the press to take one or two examples out of millions of reports done every year and create a sensationalistic story,” he said. “But employers need to kick the tires and make sure to ask enough questions about background-check firms they may want to use for employment screening.”
Asking the right questions
The most crucial action you can take to protect your company from providers who engage in questionable screening practices is to ask the right questions, according to a recent white paper published by EmployeeScreenIQ, a Cleveland-based employment-screening company.
A critical area to inquire about is a company’s demonstrated expertise, said EmployeeScreenIQ Executive Vice President Nick Fishman. “A criminal background check can mean anything from a comprehensive county courthouse criminal search to spidering various court sites to commercial database searches. It’s not enough to know that a company offers this service—you need to know how they conduct their research, how they authenticate the information and what they do, if anything, to ensure accuracy,” Fishman told SHRM Online.
Questions to ask that demonstrate expertise, according to Fishman, include:
To help you determine how well a provider is keeping abreast of changing litigation and legislation, ask questions such as:
Failing to secure the personal data of consumers and job candidates can be disastrous to a company’s reputation and bottom line. Learn about your potential provider’s practices by asking these critical questions:
It’s important that background checks be conducted accurately and with care. Protect your organization by asking potential providers about their practices related to both criminal records and resume verification with questions such as the following:
When comparing prices and determining the overall value of your options, be sure to ask:
Key technology questions include:
Evaluating your findings
After all this it’s time to evaluate the responses you’ve received. Companies should meet with potential partners and drill down further on their practices, Fishman said. Every organization will weigh its specific findings differently, according to its unique needs and concerns. EmployeeScreenIQ has three basic guidelines to help determine which providers potentially offer a good fit:
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him on Twitter @SHRMRoy.
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