Background checks: What’s your policy?

Background checks: What’s your policy?

Background checks are an important step in the hiring process and one that can help your company choose the best candidate for the position. The ability to verify a candidate’s claims, experience, education and social media activity helps in determining if that is the right person for the job. While your company must comply with the federal and state laws regarding discrimination such as those specific to race, national origin, color, sex, religion, disability, genetic information or age, your company can still find information that will offer insight into the person your company is considering.

Your company will be able to handle background checks more effectively if it understands what they are, how they’ve used and the impact they might have on the hiring decision.

truck-driver-shortage-recruitment-1200x800What Does a Background Check Include?

Background checks can include work history, education, criminal records, financial history, professional licensing, motor vehicle reports and social media data. The use of social media is a newer area, but one that can reveal aspects of a person’s attitude and personality that is valuable in the decision-making process.

The applicant is informed in writing that a background check will be conducted, and they sign a release acknowledging it. Applicants have the right to a copy of the report that results from the investigation and are given the opportunity to contest any information they feel is inaccurate.

How Are They Used?

There are local, state and federal laws that regulate how a background check should be conducted to ensure fairness. For example, they should be applied equally to all candidates for a specific position so there can be no question of bias or discrimination.

Since your company is responsible for the safety of its customers and employees, knowing if the job candidate has a criminal background or financial problems can aid your company in deciding if they would be the best match for the position’s requirements.

How should your company answer candidate phone calls regarding criminal background policy?

NAA/NMHC’s new white paper, “Criminal Conviction Screening Policies: Best Practices to Avoid Disparate Impact Liability,” provides a detailed analysis of HUD’s recent fair housing guidance on criminal screening. HUD’s new policy seeks to extend protections for individuals with criminal histories by ending blanket exclusions of prospective residents based on criminal history for a more individualized approach that is more narrowly tailored to achieve property safety and security goals. So The Liberty Group has adopted the following telephone screening policies”

Regular education and training will help your company minimize mistakes and ensure consistency.  Anyone who will be doing a background check should be thoroughly trained in corporate policies and process relating to background screening before ever starting the process.

If at any point your company does not feel comfortable with how the conversation is going or are unsure of how to answer a question, place the caller on hold and pass the call to the most senior person in the office who feels comfortable with the question or ask if a representative can call the person back.

How Do the Results Affect Hiring?

While it’s the job of the investigative company to do the research and the management team will be making the final decision, everyone in between who may have contact with the candidate needs to maintain a professional, neutral attitude. The results of a background check, whether positive or negative, do not determine the suitability of a job-seeker.

An adverse report is not a basis for excluding the person from a job. Other factors come into play, and each applicant is considered as an individual. Background checks are meant to bring facts to light so informed decisions can be made.

Face-to-face conversations with a potential hire can clarify or correct misconceptions based on a report and resolve issues for the benefit of the company and the candidate. That’s why statements made by company employees before, during and after a person is selected should always be carefully expressed to reflect no conclusion or judgment.

In-House or Third Party?

Running a background check using your company’s resources might seem cost-effective, but there are numerous compliance issues that could trip your company up. That’s the reason third party investigation companies exist. Since it’s their business to conduct background checks a reputable company will be current on the rules and regulations, keeping the procedure on track and protecting the employer from pitfalls.

Is it worth the cost? The expense involved in starting the interview process again, training another new hire, or dealing with the fallout from a serious problem caused by a dishonest or unethical employee eclipses the minimal amount invested in through screening before hiring.

For more information, click on the National Apartment Association “White Paper on Ex-Offenders.”

This article is based on general business information and the common sense observation that getting the right person into the right position saves a company time and money. We are not a law firm, nor do we dispense legal advice. 

For any further questions, please contact Matthew Smith, Senior Vice Pressident