Background Screening

Background Screening in Our Changed World

By Francisco Mateo, CPP, CFE

Almost all workplace risk mitigation plans recommend background screening.  Talent recruiters and human capital professionals know all too well how difficult it is to strike the right balance between candidates that on paper and perhaps in person look like the right fit for the organization and those that don’t.  Today deciding on employment candidate is even more crucial; there are fewer resources dedicated to the recruiting phase. Many positions are opened out of sheer necessity despite organization-wide hiring freezes.  The volume of qualified candidates keeps growing bigger. Lastly all hiring managers are looking for a guaranteed winner candidate.  How do you get it right the first time?

I would describe the latest buzz in background screening methods and procedures.  First, I would set the tone by listing basic guidelines:

      Residence Address History often used to conduct county criminal record checks and to cross check against other information provided in the application.

      Driver’s License Number and State (if conducting Motor Vehicle Check). If special licenses are required, list the type of license.

      Employment History should include name, address, and phone number of employer, position, department and job responsibilities, salary, supervisor’s name and title, start and end dates, reason for leaving, and permission to contact the employer

      Prior criminal history

      Prior credit history

      Educational History should include name, address, and phone numbers of the educational institutions, start and end dates, major or course of study, and completion status.

Now that you have the basic pillars we can begin to discuss new trends. The current state of the global economy has had mostly positive effects on the methods and measures of background screening.

Most organizations are cutting cost and seeking efficiencies in their investments, but they are not given up on screening practices. To the contrary, some are even reinforcing their program because of the aforementioned overabundance of candidates. There are also good signs in terms of expanding the scope of criminal records searches by including more counties or a national and even international criminal record search. There is also more efforts related to employment verifications and references. While the reality is that these measures increase the cost of a background check, it lets organizations evaluate more information, which leads to an informed hiring decision.

Some disturbing trends have begun to emerge regarding screening results.  Criminal hit rates have soared since the economy went south.  The statistics show that 19% of all applicants screened have some form of criminal record.  Below is a breakdown:

Felony Record 15%
Misdemeanor Record 67%
Ordinance Violations 18%

On the employment history portion, statistic show a 50% discrepancy rate between what job candidates’ represent on their resumes and job applications and what employers and academic institutions confirmed. Here is how it breaks down:

Discrepancy in Dates of Employment 31%
Discrepancy in Salary 36%
Discrepancy in Job Title 33%
Misrepresentation of Academic Credentials Approx. 10%

Moving on to credit history it is obvious that there would be a rise in trend of applicants with adverse information on their credit reports. This is one area where considerable flexibility should be applied.  If you review credit reports on a regular basis you would know that even in a good economy, those with impeccable credit are hard to find. These days, finding those with good credit is nearly impossible. As a result, there are a number of organizations that have relaxed their standards when evaluating credit. Failing to do so would significantly impede their ability to hire anyone.


The days of flexible hiring standards are now simply over.  There has been a considerable readjusting of hiring standards evenly across wide industries, aided, no doubt, by the abundance of sometimes overqualified candidates. White lies about past employment and qualifications are no longer acceptable, nor are borderline criminal convictions that might have slipped through the crack before.

Of late organizations are increasingly turning to applicant tracking and talent management platforms to help them process applicants and to save money, while expediting the entire procedure. Integrating your screening solution with your recruiting platform is more efficient and helps accomplish the same goals. All the data needed to perform the background screening on an applicant is already there. Rather than wasting the time and money of having someone re-enter the information, integration allows the data to flow seamlessly and securely to your screening provider.

Incidents of workplace violence, fraud and IP theft are on the rise again. Despite considerable decline over last few years due in part to awareness, aggressive prevention programs and background screening; the number of incidents have began to creep up again.  Most experts forecast a rise in criminal activity directly attributed to a poor economy, which means that the effective countermeasures that were applied in years past should be increased twice fold to maintain organizational harmony.

Taking stock of the how background screening practices fit into the changed world at most organizations today indicate a path towards reevaluating the entire screening process. This would allow organizations to optimize what has worked well in the past, as well as adopt new methods that can help streamline cost and efficiency, while better aligning the organization’s risk management and the recruiting process.


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