Background filtering was once a manual and time-consuming process performed primarily by large organizations. However, with the advent of affordable, user-friendly, and compliance driven on-demand screening solutions, more and more small businesses are able to effectively leverage background screening to reduce hiring risk and improve hiring quality.
To better understand how and why small businesses conduct background checks, Firewatch surveyed more than 600 small businesses across all major industries. The resulting 2011 Small Business Focus reveals four basic best practices that small businesses can use to help reduce risk and improve hiring quality:
A written background screening policy is the backbone of a successful screening program. According to Small Business Focus, 29 percent of small business employers plan to develop an employment screening policy in 2012, and another 19 percent plan to draft a policy specifically targeting drug, alcohol and health screening.
Background check policies help protect your organization against discrimination claims or regulatory audits. The policy should also establish clear background screening procedures for human resources personnel.
In the policy, your organization may describe the employee background checks that may be conducted for different positions and how the screening results will be evaluated to make hiring decisions. To help reduce the risk of potential discrimination claims, it is best practice to specify which roles or positions may require additional background checks.
For example, positions involving financial responsibility may require credit checks, while administrative roles may not. To help ensure compliance, always have your background screening policy reviewed by an attorney.
2. Help reduce risk through criminal background checks
According to the 2011 Small Business Focus Report, 88 percent of small businesses require criminal background checks as part of the background screening process. But employers can still be at risk, depending on the type of criminal background check conducted.
While organizations that check the national crime database have access to a wide range of crime record histories, the data is not comprehensive and may not be up to date because of the time lag between crimes occurring at the county or state level and when they are reported to the national database.
To help ensure more comprehensive coverage of criminal records, in addition to national background checks, organizations may consider conducting criminal background checks at courts in and around the county where the applicant lives, works and educates.
It is also recommended that both pre-employment background checks and ongoing criminal record checks be organized for regular and temporary workers.
3. Verify the most common forged information
It's not uncommon to find applications that contain outright lies about experience, education, and ability to perform basic job functions. Without verifying an applicant's employment and education history, motor vehicle history, or even credit history, organizations can turn a blind eye to key red flags or misinformation that can have a significant impact on hiring decisions.
Checking work and education history can help ensure that the applicant really meets your job requirements. For positions involving driving or the operation of equipment, motor vehicle inspections may help improve workplace safety and reduce liability risks.
4. Reevaluate regularly
According to Small Business Focus, 44% of small business respondents plan to review their employee screening criteria in 2012, and another 15% plan to review their non-employee screening criteria. This means that more than half of small businesses do not regularly review their screening criteria for employees, and more than three-quarters do not review their screening criteria for temporary workers.
As industry, state and federal regulations continue to change, organizations that do not re-evaluate screening practices may face greater compliance and legal risks.
The best practice for small businesses is to self-review their background screening policies and programs at least annually. Organizations should also monitor changes in industry regulations and worker qualification legislation that may affect their recruitment processes.
By reviewing these four best background check practices, small businesses can help reduce risk and improve the overall quality of hiring.