Screening & SelectionTalent Acquisition

New Workforce, New Tools

Screening is no longer a rote funciton—it’s strategic.

By Madeline Laurano
Background screening is a critical component of any talent acquisition strategy. Without a standard and efficient approach to compiling and authenticating candidate information, organizations will lose their best talent and become vulnerable to risk and compliance issues. Yet, according to Aberdeen’s talent acquisition research, only 4 percent of organizations cited background screening as the top talent acquisition priority in 2012. In today’s highly competitive market, HR leaders need to think more strategically about background screening—particularly around their technology investments.
Given the number of inaccurate tools and solutions available in the market, selecting the right background screening technology is a daunting challenge. Many organizations are only investing in screening at specific job levels, while others fail to invest in credible providers that provide accurate information on candidates. With a new set of regulations and an increasing number of dubious providers offering inaccurate information on potential candidates, organizations can no longer afford a haphazard approach to screening. Recent public scandals such as the one at Penn State involving Jerry Sandusky illustrates this point. By failing to consistently screen all employees (not just faculty), Penn State permanently damaged its reputation, incurred unexpected costs, and opened itself up to significant legal ramifications.
As the background screening market continues to evolve, what should organizations consider when selecting the right provider, and how can they avoid inaccurate providers? The top criteria used to select a provider include accuracy, turn-around time, compliance and customer service. Additional criteria that organizations should consider include globalization, social media, a positive candidate experience, and total talent acquisition.
Globalization. As organizations expand globally, background screening becomes complicated and requires a deep understanding of local regulations, culture, and hiring practices. Since background screening becomes harder to standardize when various regions have unique requirements, leading organizations are looking for providers with expertise in both domestic screening and international criminal screening, international work eligibility, and watch lists. Some of the more common watch lists or exclusion lists include Denied Persons, Global Terrorists and the Office of Foreign Asset Control’s Specially Designated Nations (SDN’s).
Social media. Although social media has transformed talent acquisition practices, background screening is one area where organizations need to proceed with caution. Federal and state legislators have been cracking down on organizations that require candidates to provide usernames and passwords to sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Although these sites can help organizations get a feel for organizational or personality fit, they do not serve as a replacement to a viable background screening process. They also present risks to any organization that might be perceived as making hiring decisions based on political views, race, background, or even health conditions of candidates. Only 12 percent of organizations are currently using social media for background screening.
Candidate experience. In order to attract top talent, organizations (no surprise here) need to provide a positive candidate experience. One way to achieve this goal is by linking screening and onboarding in order to strengthen candidate engagement early on in the hiring process. Yet, according to data that Aberdeen collected in June 2012, only 12 percent of organizations are merging these processes. By socializing candidates in the company culture before they become new hires, onboarding processes will run much smoother. In fact, 55 percent of organizations begin engaging candidates during the interview phase. This socialization can include information on the history of the company, invitations to peer networking events, company events, or an introduction to a future mentor.

Total talent acquisition. Background screening programs are successful when they include every employee—including temporary workers. The contingent workforce is growing as both employers and job seekers recognize the totality of benefits, which include greater diversity and lower costs. According to Aberdeen’s 2011 Contingent Labor Management report, 22.5 percent of the average organization’s workforce is considered contingent, and 25 percent is expected to be contingent in 2012. Leading organizations are more likely to include a range of job levels as well as contingent workers in their background screening processes. Although the demand for contingent labor is clearly on the rise, recruiting and hiring contingent workers can present a myriad of legal issues and require organizations to be prepared to handle the likes of staffing contracts and compliance requirements.
In the race for top talent in a globalizing economy, HR leaders who do not invest both intellectually and financially in technology screening risk obsolescence.

Madeline Laurano is Aberdeen Group’s research director for talent acquisition solutions. She can be reached at

Tags: HRO Today Forum North America, Screening Selection, Talent Acquisition

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