Creating or Revising Your Company Background Check Policy

When running background checks on prospective employees, you will inevitably encounter that awkward moment when something turns up. In that moment, the decision of whether or not to take adverse action will need to made. In order to act on the decision conscientiously, you need to follow certain guidelines to protect yourself from liability and to treat the candidate respectfully and fairly.

It is important to have these guidelines listed in your company’s background check policy. Some factors to consider including are:

  • the nature and gravity of the offense of conduct
  • the time elapsed since the event
  • the nature of the job being applied for

It is also important to be well versed in the adverse action requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and EEOC. Additionally, you should consider and spell out under what circumstances exceptions the policy may be made, particularly in regards to current employees. Sometimes it may be prudent to run routine checks on existing employees, in which case this concern will be relevant.

Possible exceptions to the policy may be spelled out under an “Individualized Assessment” portion of the policy. Guidelines to consider in this section are:

  • informing the employee that his or her position in the company may be terminated based on past criminal conduct
  • allow the employee to defend their eligibility or prove their worthiness of an exception
  • conscientiously verify the info in regards to the position at stake to determine fairly if the policy does or does not apply to their situation

The key to a strong policy is thoroughness, so be as meticulous as possible with the details. Maintaining FCRA compliance as well as understanding when and how exceptions may be made will contribute to your longevity as a company.

How Verification Screening Saves Your Company the Expense of a Bad Hire

You’re a hiring manager and the resume in your hands is almost too perfect to be real. You know that statistically, as unemployment rates rise, so do the instances of falsified information on resumes. Your experience has given you a healthy dose of skepticism and you know what’s at stake if you make a bad hire:

  • The expense of training and on-boarding if it turns out your new hire was unqualified after all.
  • The liability of bringing someone on with a serious criminal record.
  • The chance that the new hire has damaging punctuality and productivity issues.

So how do you mitigate the risk of making a bad hire? You invest in verification screening to cross-check each of the candidate’s claims. Only that way will you know for sure if their resume is too good to be true, or the ideal find.

Just as the term suggests, “verification screening” is the process of systematically verifying the claims listed on a candidate’s resume. You’ll wonder why you don’t use this type of screening in your dating life. There is a verification process for each section of the resume:

  • Employment history
  • References
  • Education credentials
  • Professional certifications

So is it worth it? That depends on how much you value your time. For companies trying to thrive in today’s market, waste is not an option. In addition to the cost of onboarding a new hire (in the form of paperwork, issuing security badges, arranging workspace, etc.), you must also take into consideration the salary of your trainer and the investment of time in the new hire’s assimilation into the company. Imagine that after all this, you start seeing signs that they don’t actually have the knowledge and experience they claimed they had during the interview process. Don’t take that chance. Invest in verification screening.

Pre-Employment Background Screening for “Gig” Employees

First off, what exactly is a “gig” employee? From what I gather from the intrawebs, it’s the new trendy, hipster way of saying contingent employee. I must have missed that memo.

Gig employees have been around for quite a long time. However, since the “Great Recession”, the number of gig employees has exploded. According to Adam Almaida, President and CEO of CriminalBackgroundRecords.com, “Ultimately gig employees are no different than full-time, permanent employees and they should be treated the same especially during the pre-employment background screening process.”

Contingent or “gig” workers are one of the fasted growing classes of employees in the United States. This is a trend that will likely continue into the foreseeable future. The most well-known companies that utilize the “gig economy” are Uber, Lyft, Handy, Task Rabbit, and Deliveroo. If you don’t know who several of those companies are, you are not alone. I didn’t either. Google it.

Gig workers have completely changed the workplace, and the manner in which they have generally been screened in the past needs to change as well. According to Almeida, “It used to be that gig workers were not as rigorously screened as permanent workers due to the perception that gig workers being temporary in nature did not need the same level of scrutiny. That has changed. Now that gig workers are gaining stature it is time to screen them with the same vigorous standards as any other employee.”

According to a recent SHRM report discussing “gig” workers, it states, “Along with the growth of this industry we have witnessed a significant shift…with many [employers] initially avoiding or limiting the screening component based on the premise that the workers are not employees. Over the past couple of years, that philosophy has changed, with a realization that whether the individual is an employee, independent contractor, or otherwise, the worker represents the employer’s brand, and screening-particularly when access to people or sensitive material is involved-is a critical risk mitigation tool, regardless of the worker’s classification.”

Adam Almeida goes on to say,”The benefits far outweigh the cost of pre-employment background checks. Protecting the public, existing employees, and property are key elements of background screening. It is critical that companies get in front of the trend of gig employees, a trend which will only get bigger, and understand the laws governing background screening. And that best practice is to work with a well-qualified third-party background screening agency.”

Here at VICTIG Screening Solutions, we have the solutions to help you respond to the growing number of gig employees.

 

How to Spot a Bad Background Check

The search for the perfect candidate is never easy. You go through applicant after applicant and nobody seems to quite fit the bill — until finally, the right person comes along. You’ve been impressed by their interview, their resume, and their overall demeanor, but there’s still one more bridge to cross: the background check. Proper background checks minimize liabilities for your company by ensuring that you don’t hire an unreliable, risky, or otherwise problematic person. 

Some employers take it upon themselves to run a background check by calling references, checking public sex offender registries, scanning social media accounts, and trusting their own intuition. These verifications can be faulty if done the wrong way, with the potential to come back to bite you. Unfortunately, even third-party background checkers sometimes take shortcuts and jeopardize the integrity of the process. 

So, how do you spot a failed background check? What criteria should a background-screening vendor meet in order to be reliable? We’re here to make sure you know what shoddy background checking looks like so you can save yourself the hassle of a bad hire and even litigation.

 

What Is a Bad Background Check and What Are the Associated Risks?

A bad background check can be one you’ve done yourself or one you’ve commissioned a third party to run for you. While it might seem tempting to do your own screening or to hire a third party without doing your research on them, investing in good background checks (i.e. comprehensive and FCRA- and EEO-compliant vendors) is an investment in the security and longevity of your organization.

If your organization is found to be noncompliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) or Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws (or if you are sloppy with a criminal background report), you could face expensive class-action lawsuits. These laws ensure that, when a company or employer uses public records in the hiring process, the individuals involved are notified promptly and given the chance to respond to red flags and correct any inaccuracies that may arise. 

Take Starbucks, for example. The company was recently sued for violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act by a Colorado man who was denied employment because of inaccuracies on his background check. 

The main takeaway here is to be careful, understand what’s expected of you under the FCRA, and do your due diligence in finding reliable vendors who can help you avoid these legal battles.

Warning Signs to Look For When Choosing a Vendor

When investigating vendors, it’s important to find out their processes and methodologies for running criminal background checks. These checks are only as good as the questions asked and the places searched. Do they utilize multiple resources or stick to a single registry? Errors commonly occur when background screeners employ poor practices, lack knowledge and skills, or simply take shortcuts. But what looks bad on a background check? Here are some examples:

  • The use of outdated matching criteria
  • The failure to update databases regularly when getting information from bulk dissemination of state/federal databases
  • The failure to prevent false positive matches by not using all available information
  • The failure to understand procedures for state-specific criminal background checks
  • Not verifying information from subcontractors

When choosing a third-party vendor to conduct your background checks (the highly recommended way to go), you should be aware of specific red flags during your research so you can choose the right service. Below, we’ll go more into depth about important warning signs to be aware of.

 

Promotion of Instant Criminal Background Checks

Instant reporting products are notorious for false positives, and they’re known to produce incorrect/outdated data. They rarely give you an accurate or complete look into a person’s history, as they utilize unreliable search parameters that could turn up the wrong person or fail to give you important details about a case, such as an arrest not leading to a conviction. You should be very wary of companies that advertise instant results.

 

Failure to Obtain Sufficient Applicant Information 

Some background-checking companies use only an applicant’s first and last name and birthday to conduct a screening. In reality, there’s not much you can obtain with such little information. State criminal record databases usually use biometric information (such as fingerprints) to match an individual to records, which means a screening company couldn’t get criminal history with only a name and DOB. Look for a vendor that elicits more applicant information so you can get a clearer picture of the person’s history.

 

 Failure to Explain Background Checking Methods

A reliable and trustworthy third-party screening company is transparent. They not only disclose their sources and methods of screening, but they’re proud of the way they do things and are excited to share what they do. You’ll know if you’ve found a good one when they’re happy to tell you about the sources they used, the way they gathered data, and how regularly the databases are updated. 

 

Subcontracting of Background Screening

Sometimes, background-checking subcontractors do subcontract their work — and in some cases, your subcontractor’s subcontractor might even subcontract the background check to someone else! It may sound outlandish, but this isn’t unheard of in the industry — and it’s problematic for you as an employer. This practice further removes you from the process and means less accountability, visibility, and transparency.  

Surface-Level Investigation Into Multi-State and Federal Records

Another red flag is the failure to thoroughly search a person’s state and federal criminal records during a background check. A good background check means taking an in-depth look at these records, so make sure that your vendor does this. Below are some real-life examples of what happens when an employer or third-party screening company fails to obtain this information from local and national databases.

  • In New Mexico, a Los Alamos minister was discovered to have been a convicted sex offender, but the shallow background check that was run on him didn’t turn up this information. Similarly, a Texas pastor was found after the fact to have been charged with capital murder, kidnapping, and armed robbery.
  • In one instance, a home care aide was hired and later discovered to have a prior drug conviction, several prison terms, and a court-issued restraining order on her criminal record. Despite the fact that the home care agency ran a form of employee background check, her criminal history was only discovered after she had swindled a 92-year-old woman out of $30K. The lack of a thorough criminal background check was highly costly for the employer. 
  • In another scenario, the Charlotte police department hired a new police officer despite the fact that he had a protective order against him, levied by a former girlfriend for domestic violence. Even law enforcement can fail to run thorough investigations into criminal history.

 

Reliance on Single-Issue or Non-Comprehensive Background Checks

When choosing a vendor, be sure they conduct comprehensive background checks rather than ones that rely on a single issue. For instance, the Cook County state office had a close call when they nearly hired a man who had been sued by a former employer for theft. He was under investigation by the FBI for fraud (as well as other deviances), all of which had slipped under the radar during a background check that failed to take a comprehensive look at his employment history.

Get More Screening Tips From VICTIG

While the screening portion of the hiring process is only one step, it’s arguably the most important of all. To get more advice on what to look for in a background check vendor or to learn how VICTIG can help you conduct reliable background checks and make smart hires, give us a call today.

What You Need to Know About the FCRA

While ensuring compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act might seem like a hassle for employers and hiring managers alike, it’s important to consider that the FCRA exists to protect us.

History and Purpose

The law, passed in the 70s, regulates the use of consumer information with the goal of promoting accuracy, fairness, and privacy, and preventing abuse. Otherwise, Credit Reporting Agencies could release credit information indefinitely and indiscriminately. The FCRA allows for one free credit report per year and limits the amount of time negative information can remain on consumer reports. This way, bankruptcies, late payments, and tax liens from decades past can’t continue to impair consumers’ ability to qualify for jobs, loans, and credit.

The FCRA additional prohibits creditors from basing financial decisions on non-pertinent or biased information, like:

  • sexual orientation
  • marital status
  • drinking habits
  • hygiene

Who the FCRA Affects

Everyone with a credit rating who wishes to be employed is under the purview and protection of the FCRA. And employers seeking out consumer credit information to inform their hiring decisions must maintain compliance with the FCRA in order to protect themselves from liability.

Additionally, employers, creditors, and others are affected by the FCRA in the requirement that consumers are provided with the name of the company filing the report and whether negative action is taken based on the results of the report. Consumers must also provide written consent before a report is run.

Penalties of Non-compliance

Creditors and employers can be sued if found not to be in compliance with FCRA regulations. The importance of maintain compliance cannot be stressed enough. To make sure your organization maintains compliance, contact Victig and learn more about how your organization’s employee screening policies measure up.

Background Checks: Employer and Applicant Rights

When conducting and agreeing to background checks, both employer and potential employee have rights that should be understood by both parties before the process begins. Business owners have a right to protect their interests just as employees have a right to know what information is being pulled on them and why—and to give their consent.

A Few Ground Rules

Before you begin, here are a few of the ground rules.

  1. A company’s screening policies must be in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
  2. Anything considered public record is open for investigation, including social security number, criminal record, bankruptcy filings, property ownership, and court documents.
  3. To look up information regarding the applicant’s medical records, education, military service, and credit report, the applicant must provide written consent.

Criminal Records

When looking into an applicant’s criminal records, it’s important to keep a few things in mind:

  1. Most states keep records on file indefinitely.
  2. The FBI’s National Crime Information Center keeps nationwide records, but they can only be accessed by law enforcement agencies. Often these records are not as reliable as those on a state level.
  3. Some states, like California, have placed time limits (about 7 years) on how long a person’s criminal records may affect their employment eligibility or be reported.

The Importance of Background Checks and Current Events

The recent and current economic climate has instigated a rash of credential fabrication on resumes. According to research conducted by EctoHR, the number of falsified info on resumes doubled in 2009, with a discrepancy popping up on at least 13.5 percent of all the background checks conducted by the organization.

In an ideal world, employers could take an applicant’s claims at face value, but the reality is that doing so is simply unfeasible. Employers take a risk with every new hire, but there’s no reason not to make a calculated one by investing in a verification process. Doing so will protect the employer’s interest while bringing on eligible, trust-worthy team members who are prepared to do the job. So whether you’re seeking peace of mind or fulfilling industry requirements, running a background check is the safe way to grow your personnel.

Importance of Maintaining a Company Background Check Policy

Across the country, it is standard regulation that employers provide detailed information to potential employees regarding whether or not they will be subjected to a background check and the types of details that will be investigated.

Background checks protect employers as well as the potentially employed and it is particularly important that employers who screen the majority of their staff adopt and make available a company background check policy. For government-funded agencies, said policy will need to be made publicly available.

A complete background check policy will do all of several things, including:

  • provide answers to employee questions about the process
  • inform candidates of what types of information will be investigated
  • protect the company from liability by creating traceable proof that candidates were informed that a background check would be performed
  • provide a schedule for routine checks, if applicable
  • list roles within the company that require background checks
  • provide info on the vendor performing the background checks
  • detail state and federal regulations
  • provide procedural instructions for HR staff

Whenever changes or updates are made to the company background check policy, each employee should be informed of the changes. Additionally, the policy may also establish, for HR purposes and to further inform candidates of the position’s requirements, what background check results are deemed permissible and what are not. For example, some companies may not consider anyone with a credit score below 650 as eligible for hire, while others may not run credit checks at all.

Ultimately, your process for running background checks should be transparent, structured, and fair—not to mention thoroughly compliant with state and federal laws. To make sure your policy is up to scratch, Victig is available to answer any questions you may have.

4 Must-Have Verifications of a Comprehensive Background Check

When it comes to protecting your organization from internal and external liability, it’s never an option to do the bare minimum. Running a comprehensive background check on your potential hires is essential to ensuring the longevity of your business.

What Does a Comprehensive Background Check Include?

In order to qualify as “comprehensive,” a background check must leave no stone unturned. Corners must never be cut. Comprehensive background checks take time, persistence, and innovation, and include these four crucial component verifications:

  1. Employment Verification and History
  2. Supervisor Reference
  3. Education Verification and Credentials
  4. Professional Licensing

Employment Verification and History

Dates of employment, position, and salary claims are verified. Reasons for leaving are established or confirmed and recommendations are acquired where applicable. This type of verification typically takes between 1 and 3 days.

Supervisor Reference

Past or current supervisors are interviewed to attain information on attendance, performance, and your previously specified criteria. Completion time is 1 to 3 days.

Education Verification and Credentials

Statistically, education credentials are among the most falsified (1/3 of all applicants will falsify this information). Luckily, there’s a process for verifying these claims too. Verifiers must contact the indicated registrar’s office and confirm dates of attendance, disciplines studied, and degrees obtained. This too takes about 1 to 3 days.

Professional Licenses

Governing bodies are contacted and the issuance of applicable state or federal licenses are confirmed. Completion time: 1 to 3 days.

It’s important to note that these four verifications are conducted simultaneously, so that all together, a comprehensive background check containing all four critical pieces should take between 1 to 3 days to complete. With this type of turnaround, you can make hiring decisions as efficiently as possible.