Job Descriptions Help Determine Level of Screening: Part One

By Robert Capwell Aug 12, 2008
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(This article is the first of a two-part series that looks at basic job descriptions from a risk assessment and benefits analysis standpoint. The second in the series will focus on what types of screening should be conducted across different job classifications.)

Determining how much background screening should be incorporated into a company’s hiring strategy can take much thought, especially under the constraints of a tight budget. The key to a successful background screening strategy is to match the correct screening components with the applicable job description.

Just as each job requires varying skill sets and qualifications, each poses a different set of risks within a company. The first step in analyzing job descriptions is for human resource or staffing professionals to look for key phrases or words that help guide their screening assessments of different positions. When analyzing keywords, consider the following factors:

    • Work environment.

    • Job functions and duties.

    • Applicant qualifications and skills.

    • Supervisory and management responsibilities.

    • Any other position specifics that directly affect the company.

The goal is to look at each area and identify hot items to be considered for screening.

By assessing the risk levels associated with each job and the benefits of vetting certain skill sets for each position, companies can get a truer picture of the job categories they need to match up with the appropriate screening level.

Assessing Job-Related Risk Factors

There are various levels of risk that come into play for each job as it relates to the overall working environment of a business. A close look at work environment, security, safety and financial risk will help identify some of these risk factors as they relate specifically to each job.

Work Environment Risks. Work environment will help set the stage for many job risk factors. Workplace violence is always a risk factor as it has a direct impact on an employee’s disposition and stress level. High stress situations, such as working in the emergency room of a hospital and positions that require quick thinking and tight deadlines, also can increase risk levels. Other factors to consider relate to the contact an employee will have with others. Will the employee work one on one with other employees, have intimate contact with customers or the public, and/or be required to work directly with children, the elderly or vulnerable classes? It is important to gauge the appropriate risk level to be able to conduct true due diligence against workplace violence and other incidents.

Security Risks. Any level of security access can increase risk factors for some jobs. Jobs requiring employees to have keys to the office, access to high security areas or intellectual property can pose high levels of risk. The requirement for an employee to have access to technology platforms and/or electronic systems can open the door for disaster if not properly screened.

Safety Risks. Working with hazardous materials or in an unsafe work area can be a cause of great concern and pose higher risks for employees and others. Working with heavy machinery, hazardous chemicals and within construction zones poses much higher risk to individuals and their co-workers, and each should be analyzed closely to help mitigate such potential risk factors.

Financial Risks. When it comes down to money and financial knowledge of the company, the risk factors skyrocket. Financial risks entail more than just those associated with employees’ direct access to cash. Jobs requiring employees to have access to employee records, payroll information and customer information, such as credit card and banking data, pose very high levels of risk, as do jobs that grant employees check-writing authority and that require involvement in corporate funding.

Rating each job’s risk level on a scale ranging from “Not Applicable” to “Extreme Risk” gives companies a better idea of the amount of risk associated with each job and the level of background screening that should be conducted to help mitigate the risk (see chart below). The most “truthful” risk level rating will help to create the best screening package for the position.

Rating

Risk Level

Screening Equivalent

0

Not Applicable

Not Applicable

1

Low Risk

Minimal Screening

2

Medium Risk

Basic Screening

3

High Risk

Advanced Screening

4

Extreme Risk

Extensive Screening

The chart below can be used to analyze the level of risk associated with each job description.

Risk Factors

(0)=Not Applicable (1)=Low Risk to (4)=Extreme Risk

Position:

0

1

2

3

4

Work Environment Risks

High Stress

Working in Groups or with One on One Employee Contact

High Contact with Customers or the Public

Working with Vulnerable Classes

Security Risks

Keys or Access to Secured Areas

Access to Trade or Proprietary Information

Access to Technology or System Platforms

National Security Risks

Safety Risks

Driving on Behalf of the Company

Working in Risky Areas

Working with Heavy Equipment

Working with Hazardous Materials

Financial Risks

Handling Cash and Credit Cards

Ability to Write Checks or Approve Purchases

Access to Company Financial Information

Access to Client Records


Assessing Need To Vet Job Requirements

Each job description lists certain qualifications, experience and skill levels required to meet the daily duties and responsibilities of the position. Like risk factors, the benefit to the company in vetting each of these qualifications and skill sets should be rated.

Again, “Not Applicable” would apply to positions that do not carry the weight of that specific category. At the other end of the spectrum, assessments rated as “Extreme Benefit” would cover categories of great need to the company and would indicate a high level of benefit for vetting or verifying the information provided on a job candidate’s resume or application.

Following are the job description requirements for which companies should conduct benefit-level assessments.

Qualification and Skill Level. Qualifications can be as basic as the legal eligibility to work within the United States or the ability to work certain days or hours to fulfill required job functions. Even the requirement to have the proper physical or mental capacity could come into play for many positions. In addition, qualifications could require a minimum level of education, a specific license or work experience within a particular field. Vetting those types of qualifications and skills should always be considered at each position level required.

Supervisory and Management Responsibility. Putting someone in charge of a division or an entire enterprise with little industry knowledge or only a certain level of proven management performance could make for a very unproductive and unbeneficial working relationship for all parties. Finding the right manager to properly organize, motivate and manage other employees is a critical aspect to a company’s well-being, and managers can possess several different skill levels and qualifications to maximize effectiveness to the organization and the bottom line. The key is to find the correct manager to suit the company’s specific needs.

Executive or Corporate Director. The skill set required for the position of a corporate officer or director is another major decision for a company, as the person in that position makes high-level decisions on a daily basis and truly guides the fate of an entire organization. Without the proper level of experience and expertise, these high-level “brand ambassadors” could easily put an organization in extreme jeopardy.

The following chart can be used to analyze each job position’s requirements to help determine how important it is to verify the various qualifications and expertise required for these positions.

Rating

Benefit Level

Screening Equivalent

0

Not Applicable

Not Applicable

1

Low Benefit

Minimal Screening

2

Medium Benefit

Basic Screening

3

High Benefit

Advanced Screening

4

Extreme Benefit

Extensive Screening

Qualifications and Skill Level

(0)=Not Applicable (1)=Low Benefit to (4)=Extreme Benefit

Position:

0

1

2

3

4

Qualification and Skill Level

Requires Eligibility to Work within the United States

Eligibility to Work is Always Required

Requires Certain Level of Work Experience

Requires Certain Level of Education

Requires Certain Skill Level

Requires Certain Physical Requirements

Supervisory and Management Responsibility

The Ability to Hire and Fire

Supervise Other Team Members

Manage Process or Specific Areas of the Company

Executive or Corporate Director

Corporate Decision Maker or Leader

Individual Access to End-Product or Service

Constantly Under the Public Eye or Scrutiny

Viewed as an Ambassador of the Company

A proper analysis of a job description to assess the risk factors and to reap the benefits of vetting the most qualified candidates is the first step in reviewing the overall impact and performance of a screening program. Keep an open mind and walk through the process carefully as it will help you match up the most beneficial screening components to create the correct screening packages for your company.

The levels of risk and the benefit to screening will vary depending on the industry and specific positions being analyzed. Always consult legal counsel for specific screening requirements as they apply to your state and particular industry.

Robert Capwell is the chief knowledge officer of Employment Background Investigations Inc., and past chair of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners’ (NAPBS) Board of Directors.

Editor’s Note: This article should not be construed as legal advice.

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