A robust approach to verifications can help land top talent—and keep them happy, too.
By Debbie Bolla
Background screening plays a critical role in vetting top talent. With 78 percent of resumes containing false information, it’s pivotal that organizations enlist a robust approach in ensuring that candidate experience is valid. As the talent market continues to remain competitive and employee retention plays a greater role in impacting the bottom line, organizations can leverage background screening for improved hiring processes. In fact, HireRight’s 2014 Employee Screening Benchmark Report finds 93 percent of respondents report they receive benefits from conducting employment screening, and 56 percent say the top benefit is improved quality of hires.
“The days of HR performance based on time-to-hire metrics are gone,” says Ben Goldberg, president of background screening provider Aurico. “Success is now a function of quality of hire and employee retention.”
Paul Kulp, director of human resources for AdCare Administrative Services, can attest to that. He leverages background screening to find and verify high-quality candidates for patient-facing roles. AdCare manages nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and independent living facilities, and conducts approximately 2,000 screens per year through provider HireRight.
“Screening enables us to find the best employees, who in turn help us to ensure better care for our residents and patients,” says Kulp. “It also helps us to provide safety and security for our employees. Since day one, screening has played a significant role in our focus on outstanding patient care.”
But it’s not just about the employer—the candidate’s experience during the hiring process also plays a role.
Goldberg reports that talent acquisition’s new catchphrase is candidate relationship management. First impressions still matter, and a high-touch process makes all the difference.
“A candidate who has a positive experience during the screening process is more apt to stay with an employer long term and make significant contributions,” he says.
Twenty-eight percent of respondents to HireRight’s 2014 Employee Screening Benchmark Report have plans to improve the candidate experience in the next year. William Franck, executive vice president of client portfolio management and customer service for First Advantage, warns that a disjointed process will send qualified candidates elsewhere.
“Many companies are running fast and furiously and don’t take the time required to distinguish the foundational elements of success, such as uniform background screening regardless of job type and how engaging their screening process is for candidates,” says Franck.
How can a positive candidate experience be achieved? Aurico advises:
A collaborative effort between the organization, candidate, and screening provider;
Consistent screening processes;
Timely execution; and
Effective and frequent communication.
Technology can also play a role in improving the process. With the rise of SaaS-based
platforms, today’s innovations have the ability to improve consistency and outcomes. Franck recommends that technology be part of a well- defined plan supported by change management. It will not be a saving grace without executed effort. “Thanks to today’s technology, HR professionals can ensure their screening efforts are strategic versus strictly transactional and that the candidate experience is positive, not frustrating,” he says.
Becoming more and more common is integration between background screening and applicant tracking systems (ATS). “These systems are used by HR to manage and guide the background screening process, deliver ad hoc visibility into candidate status, and provide ways to maintain alignment through the sharing of information using both manual update and reporting functionality,” says Goldberg.
Improvements in ATS have benefited the screening process. Goldberg shares some advancements including:
- Electronic filing of candidate documents, improving hiring efficiency;
- Adjudication capabilities, helping to remove human bias; and
- Support of logging and tracking requirements of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, pivotal to maintaining compliance.
Rachel Trindade, vice president of marketing for HireRight, notes that integrating screening and an ATS can also cut down hiring time. “The integrated solution reduces steps for recruiters and applicants and speeds up the process to get candidates hired and onboarded more quickly,” she explains. Trindade also points out that the application of mobile technology allows hiring managers and candidates anytime access to data, which can reduce turnaround time as well.
A key attribute that technology delivers is automation and consistency of processes. A hot topic in recent years is the use of criminal searches in background screening. The ban the box movement has made organizations reconsider their approach to criminal searches; however, HireRight’s survey reports that 95 percent of respondents use them in their program.
Since 2012, the EEOC has taken action against employers that immediately remove candidates with criminal history, says Ken Monroe, director of operations for Background Investigation Bureau. Prior to that, no suit was ever filed, which speaks volumes.
“The EEOC says they want to help those with a criminal history be able to rejoin the workforce,” he explains. “And employers can understand the need to rehabilitate offenders and give them an opportunity to find gainful employment, but employers should still have the right to conduct screens and preclude those that would not be a good fit based on past crimes and nature of the job.”
The EEOC’s recommendation? Individualized assessments that take into account the severity of the crime, how long ago it happened, and the nature of the job. The challenge is executing these assessments effectively, efficiently, and to scale. This is where technology steps in.
“Technology conducts individualized assessments though electronic notifications, collects and stores responses, scores the assessment, and makes it easy to review,” says Monroe. “Plus, it tracks every attempt to conduct the individualized assessment ensuring employers can demonstrate to the EEOC exactly how they are complying with the new EEOC guidelines.”
At the heart of it, background screening will always be about mitigating risks and ensuring organizations have the most valid and valuable employees. As the talent acquisition process matures, so will screening with programs that include pre- and post-hire assessments.
Ken Monroe, director of operations for Background Investigation Bureau, reports that background screening can reduce several line items on the HR budget. One of the largest employers in the Southeast outsourced their verifications and reference checks. They had a time-to-hire rate around 30 days and it was reduced by 75 percent, which also drove down overall HR costs.
HireRight’s 2014 Employee Screening Benchmark Report finds that 45 percent of respondents execute education checks—but that number might be on the rise, Ken Monroe, director of operations for Background Investigation Bureau, recalls a case where a candidate seeking a healthcare position claimed he had a degree from a university in California. The initial screen reported he was not a graduate—but that didn’t stop him. The applicant brought in a diploma and transcripts, Monroe explains. But his team had a keen eye and declared the diploma fake. It had a false signature: The governor at the time of graduation in California was Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the signature on the counterfeit was of the current governor.
Background screening helps drive recruiting practices to be standardized, which in turn reduces risk. Having uniform practices will ensure all candidates are treated equally and fairly during the hiring process. This benefits the entire workforce.
“The adherence to a consistent screening practice across the enterprise is also a good thing for existing employees. Applicants with false credentials or inflated qualifications won’t advance in the recruiting process; therefore, employees are assured that they’re working with trusted like-minded professionals who have been properly vetted,” says William Franck, executive vice president of client portfolio management and customer service for First Advantage.
Paul Kulp, director of human resources for AdCare Administrative Services, issues nearly 2,000 annual background screens as a long-term care provider. He says AdCare’s screens run the gamut depending on position: criminal checks for felony and misdemeanor; Social Security Number validation; Social Security Number trace; pre-employment and post-accident drug screening; national sex offender registry; E-Verify; motor vehicle records checks if applicable; healthcare sanctions checks and FACIS (Fraud and Abuse Control Information System); and license and credentials verification.
He offers this advice to HR executives considering a program:
- Understand the regulations for screening that pertain to their industry. There may be specific screening requirements for the types of services an organization provides.
- Make employment screening an inherent part of the overall hiring process. Checking references, ensuring applications are complete and accurate, and conducting drug screening and any appropriate licensure checks will give a better view of a candidate as a whole.
“A solid background screening program aligns with business strategies and supports operations by providing the most suitable candidates for hire,” he says.
Meeting Regulatory Requirements
Regulatory requirements can be a minefield for HR executives: They are often shifting with high penalties for any missteps.
Rachel Trindade, vice president of marketing for HireRight, shares some best practices to help ensure that employers maintains compliance:
- Maintain a relationship with a key employment-law attorney to stay up-to-date on changing requirements that are pertinent.
- Work with a reputable screening firm that offers built-in compliance tools in their system.
- Be mindful of your unique industry needs and requirements.
- Understand not only local, state, and federal requirements, but also guidance as it relates to those laws (e.g., EEOC guidance on the usage of the criminal history in employment).