Conducting Pre-Employment

Hiring for open roles should not be the singular goal when it comes to recruitment. Sustainable talent acquisition strategies enable organizations to hire sustainable talent that adds value to their roles and minimizes the risk of employee turnover. While a candidate’s academic and professional qualifications are undoubtedly important, they are not the only factors to consider.

Among these, whether or not the candidate is a liability relative to other workers should always be a consideration. The importance of employee motivation is such that any risky hires, even ones that may simply prove a bad fit for the team or the overall culture, may prove disastrous. This is where background checks come into play.

Conducting Pre-Employment Background Checks

Most legislation (and company policies) requires candidates and/or new hires to disclose information that could pertain to a crime in their past. However, it is optimistic to rely on every candidate to abide by this obligation.

Candidates can and do hide incidents like DUIs, misdemeanors, and even criminal charges, from their past. The potential threat to workplace safety necessitates employers to conduct pre-employment background checks on their workers.

When building a team of workers, most employers seek to establish a dynamic that is built on trust and safety. Inadvertently hiring a criminal, for example, or someone who has been charged/convicted for sexual harassment in the past can undermine this dynamic, potentially creating an unsafe or toxic work environment for other employees.

However, pre-employment background checks frequently walk the fine line between due diligence and invading privacy. Therefore, employers need to be extremely careful about conducting these investigations. A general guide that limits exposure and offers a foundation to base more specific investigations may look like this:

Obtain Advice from Legal Experts

Unless an employer already has experience with background checks, legal consultations should be the first step. Legal professionals can help employers with:

  • Identifying activities that qualify as crimes or undesirable behavior
  • Legal statutes or frameworks that prohibit hiring people with a criminal history
  • The potential litigation and/or damages that could result from hiring without background checks

Discuss Liability Plans with Insurance Carrier

Consulting insurance carriers should be the next step on the list. Corporate insurance providers offer valuable information and clarity on things like:

  • The extent of the insurance coverage protecting against hiring without proper background checks
  • The extent of the exposure the employer’s liability plan covers in negligent hiring
  • Whether additional liability coverage is possible and under what circumstances

Create a Formal Policy for Background Checks

If a formal policy for background checks does not already exist, employers must create one before they consider background checks. Such policy also acts as a safeguard and is usually good practice in most states.

Some states even make it mandatory for corporations to have formalized pre-employment background check policies. A well-reviewed policy for such instances will offer direction for:

  • The nature and extent of each pre-employment background check
  • How applicants or candidates are informed of such checks
  • What causes may trigger further checks past the pre-employment stage
  • What avenues the employer can explore for these checks

Use Services Compliant With the FCRA

In most cases, employers don’t have direct experience with conducting background checks. Therefore, engaging or retaining the services of a professional agency is usually the best course of action. However, it is very important to choose agencies that are FCRA compliant. This allows employers to ensure:

  • The agency follows methods that are strictly above-board
  • The agency documents its findings with clarity
  • The employer can ask for the documentation to support future claims

Explicitly Notify Applicants About Background Checks

Applicants need to know what they are getting into. As such, employers must explicitly inform them of the formal background check policy and what it may include. This allows applicants fair warning to prepare themselves for investigations concerning:

  • Drug testing
  • Criminal history
  • Prior employment relationships

Such policy also enables employers to screen out candidates who will ultimately be disqualified without too much effort. This reduces the cost of hiring and the time spent on filling open roles. Sometimes, specialized recruiters, for example, an agency helping an employer with its Pittsburgh staffing needs may conduct its own background checks as well.

 All Job Offers Must Be Contingent to the Investigation

While all states work differently, some states (namely, Colorado, Connecticut, California, Minnesota, and New Jersey) require background checks to be only conducted after an offer has been made to a candidate. This means most employers in these states cannot directly ask about things like criminal history on the application, during the interview, and sometimes even after making an offer.

The best course of action, therefore, is to make an offer that is contingent on the candidate passing a pre-employment background check successfully.

Review the Findings With Care

While pre-employment checks only take between two and four days, employers need to consider the findings very carefully. Laws apply differently in different states. Moreover, certain undesirable behaviors may not be prohibited under any law, whether at the federal or the state level. Employers, therefore, should not only consider the legal and professional implications but moral implications as well.

Maintain Records for Follow-Ups

Maintaining meticulous records is crucial for the entire process to be successful. Employers need to follow up with candidates at each stage of the investigation. This obviously involves transparency and honesty. However, the records can prove an important supporting document in case a candidate chooses to portray failing an investigation as bias, which in turn protects the employer brand from unnecessary harm.

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