New Member Promotion >>> Save $15 and get a SHRM tote!
Giving applicants with criminal backgrounds a fair chance at employment can be good for business.
Plus all the HR resources you need to be more efficient and effective this fall!
Apply for the SHRM Certification Exam and begin advancing your career.
Learn how to make the business case for diversity, October 25-27.
(This article is the second of a two-part series that looks at basic job descriptions from a risk assessment and benefits analysis standpoint. It will focus on what types of screening should be conducted across different job classifications.)
Companies can determine how extensive the level of background screening needs to be for any job candidate by taking a close look at job descriptions and assessing what types of background screening are most relevant and cost effective for a wide range of employee positions.
The first articleaddressed the analysis of keywords within a job description to determine the risk levels of certain environments and positions, plus the benefits of screening as they relate to vetting the qualifications and skills necessary for each position. Once the level of risk related to each position is determined, the next step is to match up the screening elements for maximum risk reduction.
The following charts provide definitions for each screening level equivalent, ranging from “Minimal Screening” to “Extensive Screening,” based on a risk factor classification system that addresses work environment, security, safety and financial risks. The baseline screening will always begin at the minimal screening level. As the risk level increases, additional and more extensive screening components should be considered.
Screening Equivalents for Work Environment, Security Risk Factors
Although “Work Environment Risks” and “Security Risks” are listed as separate sections, both sections can be addressed at the same time because the corresponding screening elements are identical.
Minimal screening should always begin by verifying a job applicant’s key “personal identifiable information,” or PII. This is information used to connect the dots of an individual’s identity by verifying elements such as name, address, Social Security number, date of birth and fingerprints, among others.
A thorough search of criminal records and governmental watch lists and sex offender registries will provide insight into criminal activity that could pose risks and even recidivism for like crimes. These resources are fairly quick to access and inexpensive; however, they should not be relied on as the sole source of screening for criminal history. In addition, companies should conduct a physical search of criminal records in the individual’s county or state of residence, which will enhance employer due diligence.
Screening Equivalent for Work Environment and
Security Risk Factors
Social Security Number Trace
National Criminal Database Search
State Sex Offender Registry Search
Terrorist Watch List and Excluded Parties Database Search (OFAC)
County Criminal Search – Current Residence
Multistate Sex Offender Registry Search
Multiple County of Residence Criminal Search or Statewide Equivalent (7 years’ coverage)
Fingerprinting (in accordance with state and federal statutes)
50 State Sex Offender Registry Search
Multiple Statewide or County of Residence Search
Multiple Federal Criminal Records Search
(7 years coverage-All Alias and Other Names)
National Criminal Database Search (ongoing yearly review)
50 State Sex Offender Registry Search (ongoing yearly review)
Terrorist Watch and Excluded Parties List (OFAC) (ongoing yearly review)
Multiple Statewide or County of Residence Search (at least 7 years or more coverage- including alias and other names)
Multiple Federal Criminal Records Search (at least 7 years or more)
Moving further down the list toward “Extensive Screening,” companies are just taking a harder and more thorough look into someone’s past by utilizing a wider span of searches based on residential history and movement patterns. The length of time searched should increase to provide more details into an individual’s history. Fingerprinting should be considered as an option depending on industry and equivalent government requirements.
Screening Equivalents for Safety Risk Factors
By the nature of the job description and workplace environment, many positions place individuals and others around them in precarious and even hazardous situations. Verifying that an individual is qualified to operate a particular piece of equipment through license verification and credentialing, for example, will help reduce safety factors no matter if the position requires driving a bulldozer, a commercial truck or even a car to transport clients or other employees to destinations. In addition, understanding physical and mental capacity through proper drug, alcohol and physical capability testing can further determine position suitability and eligibility. The level of drug testing might be mandated for specific industries that fall within federal and state guidelines.
As with work environment and security risks, the screening equivalents begin at the minimal screening level and build to extensive screening as the risk level increases.
Screening Equivalent for Safety Risk Factors
Motor Vehicle Records Search (driving on behalf of the company is a secondary function)
Drug Testing (pre-employment)
Motor Vehicle Records Search (driving on behalf of the company is primary function; includes ongoing and yearly review)
Drug Testing (pre-employment and random)
CDLS – (if commercial driver’s license is required)
Pre-Employment and Random Drug/Alcohol Testing
Pre-Employment Physical Ability Testing
Workers’ Compensation Records Check (post-hire)
Pre-Employment Hair Testing
Random Drug/Alcohol Testing (ongoing)
Physical Ability Testing (ongoing)
Screening Equivalents for Financial Risk Factors
Fraud, theft and embezzlement by individuals with access to corporate financial data can be the most costly risk to any firm. Further screening on individuals with check cashing authority and access to credit card information and even petty cash can have a direct impact on the bottom line. Understanding how an individual handles their personal finances can aid in the knowledge of how they might handle business finances and even the propensity to commit financial fraud or theft. Credit reports, bankruptcy records, tax liens and even documents regarding civil suits can provide additional information before giving someone the keys to the cash box or even the company store. More extensive screening should be conducted as the authority and the financial risk increase (e.g., individuals at the CFO level).
Screening Equivalent for Financial Risk Factors
Credit History Check
Bankruptcy Records Search
Credit History Check (ongoing)
County Civil Litigation Search
Federal Civil Litigation Search
Bankruptcy Records Search (ongoing)
Multiple County Civil Litigation Search
Multiple Federal Civil Litigation Search
Once the screening equivalents with each risk factor are examined, walk through each category and add the risk numbers for each section. Chances are that a company will have varying levels of risk noted from “Not Applicable” to as high as “Extreme Risk.” Therefore, it makes the most sense to take the average number of the complete section to determine the company’s “screening equivalent.”
For example, if a company has marked 0, 1, 2 and 4 for the four risk components under Safety Risks, adding the numbers together (total equals 7) and dividing by 4 will equal 1.7, which can be rounded up to 2. So “2” is the Screening Equivalent or the Safety Risk section. Of course, companies might decide to make a judgment call to select the “screening equivalent” desired or choose to default to the screening equivalent that corresponds to its highest level of risk checked.
Remember that each screening element is different for each section and that the company’s entire screening program for each job description (i.e., position) is a compilation of all sections. Think of each as a building block to determine all the elements of screening necessary for a particular position. As work environment and security risks have the same screening equivalents, using the higher rating to create the screening program is recommended.
Benefits of Screening To Verify Qualifications, Skill Level
Using the same methodology as for the risk assessment, companies can complete the “Benefits” section. The purpose of this section is to obtain a better understanding of applicants’ true qualifications and skills as they relate to the company’s expectations of the position and their place/fit within the organization.
The following charts provide definitions for each screening equivalent ranging from “Minimal Screening” to “Extensive Screening,” based on the benefit levels of vetting Qualification and Skill Levels, Supervisory and Management Responsibility and Executive and Corporate Director. As the Benefit Level matching the job description criteria moves up, the number of screening equivalents increases and/or broadens.
At a minimum, every individual should have confirmation that they have the “eligibility to work” in the United States.
Furthermore, even an entry-level employee should be vetted to confirm their level of education. Be hesitant to trust the word of an applicant when it comes to basic credentials or skill level, as overstated qualifications are common on resumes. If the position requires post-secondary education or a special license, screen accordingly. Always remember that past performance is a great indicator of future performance, and verifying one’s past employment provides a better indication of performance and skill level as it pertains to positions held.
How far to go back and how many employers to contact really depends on the level of due diligence needed for the specific position. Skill testing and behavioral assessments are great ways to understand what a job candidate is capable of producing. Conduct a basic typing, spelling and math test at a minimum, or move up to a full battery of multi-dimensional psychological testing for a better understanding of your potential employee.
Screening Equivalent Qualifications,
Eligibility To Work Confirmation (federal E-Verify)
Basic Skill Testing
High School Diploma or GED Verification
Past Employment Verification
Basic Assessment Testing
Secondary Education Verification
Past Employment Verification (last two employers)
Advanced Assessment Testing
Secondary Education Verification (multiple if necessary)
License or Credential Verification (if applicable)
Past Employment Verification (last three employers)
In-Depth Assessment Testing
Education Verification (all listed)
Past Employment Verification (all listed and developed)
Benefits of Screening for Supervisory and Management Responsibilities
In conjunction with screening for eligibility to work and conducting skills and assessments testing, education and past employment verifications, understanding how a candidate will perform within a supervisory or management role is a must. Great insight can be gained by talking to past supervisors, peers and colleagues to ascertain a candidate’s management style and experience. Have a questionnaire of 10 to 20 questions on hand that address the specific duties and responsibilities of the position. If one has not been crafted by the company, consult a professional background screening provider for assistance. As the benefit level increases, dig deeper when conducting “Extensive Screening,” and interview as many sources as possible to get a broad and concrete knowledge of candidates.
Supervisory and Management Responsibilities
Past Supervisor Interview (basic interview)
Professional Reference Interview (basic reference)
Past Supervisor Interview (last two supervisors)
Professional Reference Interviews (two total)
Past Supervisor Interview (last three supervisors – position specific questions )
Professional Reference Interviews (three total – position specific questions)
Past Supervisor Interview (all listed supervisors – position specific questions )
Professional Reference Interviews (all listed – position specific references)
Benefits of Screening for Executives, Corporate Directors
Screening of decision-makers, directors and industry experts might make the company and its background screening provider think outside of the standard screening elements and guidelines. Performing overwhelming due diligence just makes sense when putting a person in a position that could make or break the company. Having a better understanding of what this individual did to contribute to the bottom line or help their past company grow can speak volumes.
Many executives and board of directors shy away from screening at this level, as they feel like they are spying or gaining intelligence on a peer. To the contrary, screening should be even more intense and should look at resources outside of traditional screening.
For example, how this individual is perceived by competitors, the public and even the media might affect the company’s bottom line, especially for publically held firms where shareholder and public confidence could be boosted by a well known public figure taking over the reins of a firm. On the other hand, scandals and negative information, including credential fraud, could truly hurt investor confidence.
Executive or Corporate Director
Interview with Past Corporate Executive
Assessment of Previous Employers’ Current Performance
Interview with Past Corporate Executives (two)
Assessment of Previous Employers’ Current Performance (include supporting material)
Interview with Past Corporate Executives (three)
Assessment of Previous Employers’ Current Performance (include additional supporting material)
Copies of White Papers and Publications
Conduct a Media Search
Interview with Past Corporate Executives (All)
Interviews with Colleagues within the Same Industry
Assessment of Previous Employers’ Current Performance (detailed impact and contribution to organization)
Conduct an In-Depth Media Search
Information on Speaking Engagements and Presentations
Information on how Public Views the Individual
Once the company has examined the screening equivalents with each Benefit Level, add the ratings for each section. Following the risk assessment methodology, take the average number of the complete section to determine the “Screening Equivalent,” or decide to use your judgment or even default to the screening equivalent that corresponds to the company’s highest rated benefit level checked.
The completion of the benefits level section finishes the building blocks of risk assessment for the entire screening program when accounting for risk and vetting qualifications.
Taking a closer look at a job description can aid in assessing the duties, responsibilities and functions of an individual as they relate to critical elements such as work environment, security, safety and financial risk factors in a company. When rating each of these, companies are able to conduct a thorough evaluation that will assist them in creating a screening program with the optimal amount of components. This assessment, coupled with a benefit analysis of background screening components that are needed to fulfill the company’s expectations of the position, can help develop a background screening program that is both well balanced and cost effective.
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 ofEmployment Background Investigations Inc., and past chair of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners’ (NAPBS) Board of Directors.
You have successfully saved this page as a bookmark.
Please confirm that you want to proceed with deleting bookmark.
You have successfully removed bookmark.
Please log in as a SHRM member before saving bookmarks.
Your session has expired. Please log in again before saving bookmarks.
Please purchase a SHRM membership before saving bookmarks.
An error has occurred
Recommended for you
CA Resources at Your Fingertips
SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 3,200 companies