Explore the power of integrating background screening with HR technology.
By Debbie Bolla
What HR executive doesn’t want to streamline the hiring process, maintain regulatory compliance, and elevate the candidate experience? All do, of course, but it’s a tall order. One way to move toward those goals is to integrate the background screening process with an applicant tracking system (ATS) or human resources information system.
But not an overwhelming amount of organizations have made the move to integration—only about one-third. EmployeeScreenIQ’s 2013 Survey Report finds that more than half of respondents have an ATS, but only 21 percent integrate it with their screening program. HireRight’s 2013 Employment Screening Benchmarking Report found that percent to be a bit more at 35. Both surveys indicate that respondents planning to integrate are between 12 percent (EmployeeScreenIQ) and 16 percent (HireRight).
This is pretty surprising since the value proposition is there. Background screening is a critical step in the hiring process, with more than 70 percent of organizations conducting criminal checks, according to the Society of Human Resources Management. Leveraging technology, like an ATS, which houses candidate data, to eliminate steps, save time and money, and ensure accuracy almost seems like a no brainer.
“Clients are increasingly viewing the integration between background check vendors and their ATS as a must-have, rather than a nice-to-have,” reports Tom Boyle, director
of product strategy and talent acquisition for SilkRoad, a provider of end-to-end HR solutions. “Having an integrated solution is critical for the candidate experience.
“Without integration, candidates may be asked to provide their information multiple times, which can increase their frustration and lower their perception of the talent brand, potentially causing them to drop off the application process. Integrating background screening into an ATS makes for a seamless candidate experience, where candidates can authorize data collection within the ATS, which is then passed directly to the background check vendor.”
The Benefits
Improves accuracy. Integration improves the accuracy of information that is delivered. Let’s not forget just a few years ago the only option for collecting data for background screening was on handwritten forms that were sent via fax. This can be completely eliminated. “This technology means that we get good reliable data the first time around, resulting [in] faster start and fewer requests back to the applicant to confirm data and provide additional information,” explains Heidi Seaton, vice president of operations and compliance for background screening provider Orange Tree.
Human error has a greater impact than one might imagine. “Completing screening manually introduces opportunities for human error and can cause lengthy delays, which can postpone a candidates’ start time or lead to hiring an unqualified candidate, putting businesses and customers at risk,” Boyle warns.
Todd Owens, president and COO of technology company TalentWise, reports that technology allows HR executives to collect key documents—like disclosure and authorization forms—in one place and at one time, eliminating the rekeying of information and protecting sensitive data. “Information is validated at the time of entry, ensuring that the data collected is accurate and meets company standards. This results in a better candidate experience and less room for error,” he says.
Streamlines processes. The integration of background screening with an ATS eliminates the need to collect data from multiple systems and essentially pools all the information in one spot. “This seamless transition from system to system minimizes a recruiter’s need to manage multiple systems or set up reminders to check on or import/export records,” explains Susan Vitale, chief marketing officer for SaaS talent acquisition software company iCIMS.
Orange Tree’s Seaton agrees: “For employers that leverage the technical capabilities of their ATS and background screening partners, we’ve seen significant automation of the initiation of the screening process. Our ATS partners have also been able to leverage information coming back into their systems from us, too, like information about the status of a background check and high-level-result information that allows employers to do all or most of their work without having to leave the ATS interface.”
Seaton also notes that some ATSs have the ability to translate the steps of screening by importance, for example, conducting a drug test first before moving further in the process. Also, the technology can be set to make follow-up requests in instances of annual re-checks or to initiate the pre-adverse action process.
Donna Ronayne, vice president of marketing for cloud employee performance management software provider Halogen Software, also notes that integration makes analyzing and storing results within the talent acquisition system easier.
Saves time and money. As with many process efficiencies, automation helps save time and money by eliminating unnecessary steps. Boyles says, “Integration with ATSs ensures that the background checking process is initiated and completed in a timely fashion, while also allowing recruiters to save time by providing real-time results within the daily workflow of a single system.”
Owens reports that a key recruiting metric—overall time to hire—can be improved through integration. “Employers are tracking the time from requisition to day one. While there is benefit in tracking the time to complete a specific screening or onboarding task, data can be used more strategically to correlate background information with overall success at the company, including performance and tenure.”
Greg Dubecky, president of background screening provider Corporate Screening Services, agrees that integrated screening can truly elevate measuring program metrics. He says that with traditional screening, the time-to-delivery metric was measured from the time the order was placed to when the report was delivered—with lots of possible delays in between. With integrated screening, everything becomes more transparent.
“What integrated screening can do is measure each part of the process so employers can truly understand the efficiency of their workflow,” Dubecky explains. “For example, a background check may be initiated by a customer, but if additional information is required from the candidate in order for the screening firm to complete the check, integrated screening using a candidate interface can measure and report on the
time it takes the candidate to respond with that additional information.”
Some Considerations
Unfortunately a thorn in the side of HR and technology has always been integration. iCIMS’ Vitale advises to have a hard look at the integration steps—is custom work necessary? What are the costs?—to determine if it’s the right path to take.
“Usually the benefit to integrating technologies is that the customer receives best-of-breed solutions that ‘talk’ to each other,” she reports. “However, if those solutions are not backed up by a true best-of-breed focus or strong customer service, integrations can be difficult to troubleshoot and manage.”
SilkRoad’s Boyle warns that vendors should be properly vetted in order to forecast success post integration. “If a vendor is unprepared, doesn’t have the proper infrastructure to integrate, or doesn’t have the resources to support and scale the project, the integration will be weak,” he says. “Companies looking to integrate their systems should do thorough reference checks with vendors and their customers, asking which partners they recommend, along with how many successful integrations they’ve completed to date.”
The decision to integrate screening and HR technology should be made with consideration of the candidate’s experience— that talent you want to engage throughout your entire hiring process. “There is nothing worse for candidates than submitting an application and never hearing back about where it is within an organization’s application process. By having the technology in place to take in the application, send the applicant’s information directly to the background checking provider, and receive the results back within the ATS, HR professionals can communicate to candidates sooner about whether they passed that part of the process or not,” concludes Vitale.
Keys to the Candidate Experience

Todd Owens, president and COO of TalentWise, explains that integrating screening with HR technology can dramatically improve the candidate experience in several ways. Here’s how:
INCREASES VISIBILITY. Candidates want to know where they are
in the process. An easy- to-use candidate portal gives them insight into the process, gives clear direction on next steps, and makes their data available to them later on.
TAILORS THE EXPERIENCE. Different employee types need to be addressed differently. The hiring experience an hourly employee receives should be different than one an executive receives; likewise, a contractor should have a different experience from a full-time employee. Companies are starting to build these targeted experiences that are more satisfying for all.
ASSISTS CANDIDATE SERVICE. This is critical. Candidate service must be a focus throughout the hiring process, and extend beyond the HR group or hiring manager. Companies that are successful can use technology as a point of service delivery. Millennials and other groups have a high service expectation.
Improving Compliance

Heidi Seaton, vice president of operations and compliance for Orange Tree, breaks down why improving processes around data collection via an ATS helps maintain compliance when screening candidates.
• BACKGROUND AUTHORIZATION AND DISCLOSURE. Employers generally don’t conduct a background check on every applicant they consider for a position; only the applicants that they actually intend to hire. ATSs are helping employers make the required disclosures and get the authorization of only those applicants that they actually intend to do checks on.
• CRIMINAL HISTORY DISCLOSURE. Some states, including Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Minnesota, now limit when and how an employer can ask applicants about their criminal history. New EEOC guidance also encourages employers
to not ask an applicant about their criminal history on the employment application. This sort of process-change allows an employer to more objectively assess the relevance of an applicant’s criminal history, since it becomes known only after the employer is already knowledgeable about the applicant’s qualifications and experiences.
• SENSITIVE INFORMATION. There is information that is required for a background report that does not make sense to ask on an employment application—an applicant’s date of birth, education history, or references. An ATS allows employers to still collect the information they need to do the background check by only doing it when the time is right. This protects employers from allegations of age discrimination and it assures an applicant is comfortable with providing the information they are being asked to provide, based on where they are in the hiring process. For instance, an applicant understandably may not consent to having a potential employer contact their current employer at the time that they fill out their application, but most will consent to that later in the process, for instance, after a job offer has been made.

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