Growing Need for Pre-Employment Screening around the World

April 15, 2020
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pre-employment screening

Employee verification has become essential as part of the pre-employment due-diligence process. The need to safeguard the company’s confidential data and to verify a candidate’s background information has given rise to employment screening processes. While it may seem to be very complicated, it is a simple process which looks into the applicant’s history, thereby:

  • Enabling the employer to narrow down the list of potential candidates
  • Discarding people with false references and rewarding the deserving talent

A person joining the company with glowing references is considered to be an asset and they further justify their selection by providing a good return on investment.

Need for pre-employment screening

Today, workplaces are increasingly facing problems, every passing day, related to employee behaviour.  In some cases, they are mild enough to be overlooked, but there are instances where the behaviour can lead to dangerous repercussions, like offensive employee behaviour, and even criminal activities during the employment. Certain problems which companies are increasingly facing today are:

  • Falsification of resume information: Desperation to get jobs in a highly competitive market forces many to opt for shortcuts and even forgery. The information that is generally falsified include:
    • Technical ability,
    • University education,
    • Reasons for leaving former employment,
    • Exaggeration of achievements and accolades,
    • Omissions and puffery etc.
  • Illegal drug abuse: This is a common nuisance faced in workplaces today. It results in bad workplace behavior, loss of productivity, increased work absences, traffic accidents, injuries etc.
  • White-collar frauds and crimes: A global increase in the occurrence of white-collar crimes has resulted in financial business loss with employees getting involved in:
    • Selling company information to competitors, 
    • Embezzling company money, 
    • Using their position to offer jobs in lieu of personal services or money etc.
  • Workplace violence: Pressure to perform, family responsibilities, rivalry and other such negative influences have severely affected employee psyche. These have resulted in acts of aggression, workplace violence etc., to vent out the frustration that an employee feels. 

Most of these have a detrimental effect on the productivity and goodwill of the company. The occurrences and experiences have resulted in the formulation of pre-employment screening policies by most companies. The need for the same was felt because of four critical factors. They include:

  • Protection of the organization: A company is only as good as the people it employs. Conversely, the presence of bad employees tends to tarnish the hard-earned reputation of the company, leading to disastrous consequences for the company. Thus an in-depth employment screening or verification becomes a necessity.
  • Economically viable proposition: A bad hire is a drain on the company finances as well as a waste of good time. The cases are increasing, where a candidate is hired, trained and inducted, then only to be realized that he or she is unfit for the job at hand. These cases are economically unviable and are the worst case scenarios.  Bad hires can also result in damaged reputation and litigations in court cases, where the negative impact is even higher for the companies. 
  • Good due diligence: A company has a responsibility towards both its employees and customers. Hiring people with a bad history of temper issues, physical violence, verbal abuse etc., can put the rest of the employees in grave danger. If other employees get victimized due to the abusive behavior of a newly employed person , the company may be sued for compensation.
  • Detail confirmation: Looking perfect on the resume and being tailor-made for the job are two different things. Statistically, it has been seen that about 40% of resumes tend to stretch the truth. Conducting background checks of potential candidates helps companies verify such details about the candidates like educational credentials, employment history, technical certificates, licenses etc. The screening gains greater importance in industries related to healthcare, transportation etc. that have specific requirements with regards to licensing.

Types of pre-employment screening

Basically designed to verify whether the information provided by the candidate is accurate, pre-employment screening also helps companies to uncover any flaws, vices or criminal tendencies that a potential candidate might possess. Thus pre-employment screening helps to:

  • Protect the reputation and brand image of the company,
  • Guarantee the safety of other staff and 
  •  Ensure that the candidate’s usefulness does not get limited by any means.

Some of the different types of pre-employment verification processes that are carried out include:

  • Screening for criminal history: There are certain government agencies like the FBI that are  known to provide this service. There are online databases that can help companies get a clear picture of the candidate that are being employed.  However, the use of criminal information in the evaluation of the potential candidates is governed by certain rules that need to be explicitly followed.
  • Drug testing: This is another pre-employment background checking process which is quite widespread in the global job markets. It is used to:
    • Ascertain the trustworthiness of the candidates, 
    • Prevent workplace injuries and
    • Ensure work effectiveness and productivity of the candidate chosen.

  • Lie-detector tests: This is a very specific type of pre-employment verification. It can only be legally done by only companies having businesses pertaining to the provisioning of armored cars, security services and pharmaceuticals. All other private companies are prohibited from using the Polygraph test to screen candidates.
  • Credit history: This is an indication of the financial behavior of a candidate.  To do a credit history screening, it is important for the companies to obtain the permission of the potential candidates as well as apprise them about the results in case the companies decide not to hire the candidate because of bad credit history.
  • Sex offender registry: Companies can check the sex offender registry for offenses  conducted, aliases used, conviction statements, prior to employing the candidates. With workplace safety, an important point of consideration, pre-employment sex offender screening has become extremely important.
  • Screening of Motor vehicle records: This is generally done by companies who require their employees to drive a vehicle to carry out crucial company responsibilities like delivery, trucking, sales etc.
  • Personality assessment: This is a very common assessment carried out by companies to understand if a particular candidate has the required personality and skill set to carry out specified tasks. Tests are carried out in the form of multiple-choice instruments and assessments to evaluate the manual dexterity, technical skills, people management, crisis management etc., of a potential candidate.
  • Employment verification: This pre-employment verification pertains to checking out all the information that is provided in the resume as well as the employment application form of the candidate. The accuracy of the data provided is checked to understand if the candidate is speaking the truth.
  • Reference interviews: Many employers ask for references for previous work experience. These are then cross-checked to understand the working psyche of the candidate. Most companies generally seek the permission of the candidates before calling up references mentioned.
  • Educational qualification verification: The educational qualification and academic achievements declared by the candidates are also verified to check for their

Several other types of pre-employment background checks are also carried out. The type of screening required depends on the type of work that a potential candidate is expected to do during their tenure. It usually takes anything between 2 to 3 weeks to get a thorough background check conducted and the costs depend upon the different services or pre-employment verification procedures that are undertaken. 

Also, it is pertinent to mention here that the cost of a lawsuit filed due to pre-employment verification negligence far outweighs the money the company needs to spend on conducting a background check on a candidate. This further increases the utility and functionality of the same.

Pre-employment screening current scenario

Currently, it has been felt that merely conducting a pre-employment screening is not enough. With the expansion of the “gig economy” and easy availability of top talent globally, a need to ramp up the screening process is the flavour of the season. Thus today, companies are insisting on certain additional employment screening procedures along with a thorough background check being conducted. when on-boarding employees. These include:

  • Continuous monitoring: Employee behavior evolution has resulted in the company’s opting for constant monitoring of their backgrounds. Thus checks are regularly held to look for changes in employee background like driving violations, new criminal records, credit history etc., and employee workplace behavior. Continuous monitoring of employee background also enables companies to keep their commitment to workplace safety.
  • Social screening: Today, social media has become very powerful. What people post, like and share on these platforms helps identify the type of persons they are. There have been instances when the digital persona of a person was found to be widely different from their workplace persona. Thus social screening has become an important part of the pre-employment background screening process today. 
  • Gig economy: This is a very important and relatively new term which is being currently used. People involved in the gig economy form a relatively robust portion of the current workforce. Screening gig workers becomes extremely important since there is a trust factor involved. 
  • OnDemand screening: This pertains to the creation of customized packages based on the needs and demands of the concerned client company. Pre-employment background screening service agencies come up with packages which cover all potential employees, permanent and seasonal. This enables a company to get value for money.
  • Tech screening: Emerging technologies like machine learning and algorithms, AI or artificial intelligence, face recognition technology etc., are being increasingly used to screen potential candidates. Thus there is a huge demand for such services as AI-powered assessments, hiring platforms which are algorithm-based and automated resume parsing. Machine learning is also being increasingly used to conduct background checks with increased efficiency and to analyze large pools of data to pinpoint on reportable cases. 

However, despite such advancements, companies still need to have an effective pre-employment screening policy in place to ensure the effectiveness of the whole process. 

Elements of a pre-employment screening policy

Some of the important elements of a pre-employment screening policy include:

  • Scope of the screening: This defines the positions for which pre-employment background screening becomes a necessary criterion for employment. While it is important to get all potential employees screened during the on-boarding process, there may be instances wherein the company might not feel the need to screen certain candidates.
  • Type of checks required: This depends totally on the type of work involved. Some positions for which candidates are being selected might require more specific background checks with wider coverage. Others might not require anything more than a preliminary check. Thus the background checks to be conducted need to be tailored to the relevant job.
  • Criteria for disqualification: This is a very important point that needs to be defined in the pre-employment verification policy. Two things which need to be kept in mind when framing the disqualification criteria are:
    • The hiring criteria are generally different and hence the screening process should be adjusted accordingly, and,
    • Blanket policies that do not define the needs of the job or nature of crimes committed should be actively avoided.
  •  Responsibility: The department responsible for the conduction and completion of the pre-employment screening process needs to be specifically defined. They are also the ones who need to ensure candidate’s information confidentiality and security.
  • Local laws and regulations: The local statutory laws and regulations pertaining to pre-employment background screening need to be taken into consideration for formulating the policies. If they are not in sync with the statutory requirements, then the company becomes liable to face legal proceedings.
  • Screening service selection: They are the people who will enforce the whole process. These agencies need to be selected after careful deliberation and proper research. 

The increasing prominence of the pre-employment screening process during employee on-boarding has resulted in all companies opting for the same. This has also led to better workplace environs, thereby ensuring better productivity and generation of good revenues.