Push to Reduce Time-to-Hire May Impede Background Check Process

Or does quality trump delay?

By Roy Maurer Feb 26, 2016
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Pre-employment screening may be getting short shrift as organizations emphasize a speedier time-to-hire in an increasingly competitive labor market.

That’s according to the 2016 HireRight Employment Screening Benchmark Report, which surveyed 3,459 HR professionals in October and November 2015.

The survey also found that the pre-employment screening that employers most often use is criminal background checks, urine testing remains the most utilized drug screen, and the trend toward screening contingent and international workers is holding steady.

Balancing Recruiting, Screening Concerns

Forty-three percent of respondents said that reducing delays in the hiring process is their top screening challenge. Trying to get the candidate in the door is more important than ever in a tight labor market, and the efficiency of an employer’s screening program can determine how fast candidates can move through the process.

“It’s important to establish a balance between speeding up time-to-hire and [having a positive] candidate experience,” said Mary O’Loughlin, vice president of global customer experience for HireRight, a background screening firm based in Irvine, Calif. “One thing that recruiters can do is help better prepare candidates about the background verification process. If candidates know what to expect and are better informed, it can reduce apprehension about the process. It’s also helpful to ensure that the hiring managers understand the process so that they can set appropriate expectations.”

Organizations can also integrate background screening into their applicant tracking system to improve the hiring and onboarding workflow, she said. One-third of employers have already done this, according to the HireRight report. “This reduces the amount of time a candidate or recruiter has to spend keying in the same information in multiple systems,” O’Loughlin said.

“The need for speed unfortunately can often run contrary to the need for accuracy and due diligence, so there can be a trade-off involved,” said Les Rosen, an attorney and the CEO of Employment Screening Resources, a background screening firm based in the San Francisco area.

Sometimes hiring for speed makes business sense, Rosen explained, citing staffing firms’ incentive to place candidates as soon as possible and the service industry’s need to deal with constant turnover.

But employers will sacrifice accuracy and depth when choosing a screening solution based upon turnaround time, Rosen said. “The bottom line is that there is no such thing as an ‘instant’ background check because of the structural nature of available information about applicants in the United States,” he said.

After delays in the hiring process, the most frustrating issues for HR when screening candidates are verifying information (32 percent) and getting quality information (24 percent).

“There have been significant technology advances to speed up the screening process, but some of these have arguably been abused and employers are not really getting the protection they think they are,” Rosen said. “This is especially true in the area of court records, where automation can lead to shortcuts that are not in the employer’s best interest.”

Rosen explained that many screening firms have attempted to speed up the process by “screen scraping” or other methods to electronically extract data from courthouses. “The big problem, however, is the integrity of the electronic data. If the data pulled remotely is not the functional equivalent of going to the courthouse, an employer is in danger of not receiving an up-to-date and accurate report. An employer needs to ensure the screening firm has properly vetted each and every county being searched in that fashion.”

Does Quality Trump Delay?

While conducting an employment screen may delay bringing on needed talent, over half (52 percent) of respondents to the HireRight survey indicated that screening ultimately produced a better quality of hire. HR professionals also cited safer and more secure workplaces (46 percent) and improved regulatory compliance (40 percent) as benefits of employment screening.

“A background verification program is a way to gain confidence that the people you’re thinking about hiring really do have all the qualifications they claim to have,” O’Loughlin said.

Other highlights of the report include:

  • 89 percent of respondents conduct either criminal or other public record searches, the most frequently performed background screen. After criminal records checks, employers mostly conducted screens of previous employment (64 percent), motor vehicle records (55 percent), education verification (50 percent) and credit checks (32 percent).
  • 17 percent of respondents periodically rescreen their workforce. “Re-screening employees on an ongoing basis post-hire can be an important step, as changes in an employee’s record can leave an organization vulnerable to risks that may include negligent retention claims,” O’Loughlin said.
  • 92 percent of organizations cite urine testing as their preferred drug screen method, followed by testing breath (24 percent), hair (8 percent), blood (8 percent) and saliva (7 percent).
  • 55 percent of HR practitioners either use or plan to use an electronic chain-of-custody process, which eliminates paper forms from the drug-testing process. “Since being used for nearly a decade by private companies, the technology has been advanced and refined,” said Laura Shelton, executive director of the Drug & Alcohol Testing Industry Association, based in Washington, D.C. “Creating a seamless process that helps to minimize collection errors, increases efficiencies in reporting and provides for quicker results can only benefit employers.”
  • 65 percent of respondents have global screening policies.
  • 81 percent of contingent, contract and temporary workers are subjected to screening. “When working with a staffing or placement company, it’s important that organizations have verification requirements defined in the services agreement,” O’Loughlin said. “Details clearly describing what the search depth of the verification should be, what kinds of screens should be conducted, and how results may be applied in adjudicating or assessing the hiring decision are things an employer may want to consider.”

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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