Background Checks: How Compliant is Your Compliance?
by Angie Rupp
As an employee, you comprise a piece of one of the biggest financial investments your organization has made to aid its growth. Take a moment to sit with that idea and let it truly sink in. Think about how much your boss or whomever conducted the hire really knew about you. How much did you know about them? If anything, employees are at an advantage when it comes to uncovering truths surrounding how a company operates. A quick Google search usually tells you all you need to know, and now, sites like Glassdoor take this process to the next level. Unfortunately for HR professionals, the skeletons in applicants’ closets are a little more covert. They’re also heavily regulated, so treading lightly is not simply a preferred approach, it’s absolutely mandatory.
Treading lightly is not simply a preferred approach, it’s absolutely mandatory.
What procedures are in place to ensure that you’ve done your due diligence as the hirer? Enter background checks. Background checks allow a glimpse into a potential employee’s history and is the closest thing HR representatives have to ROI insurance. It helps answer a few of the never-ending list of questions we have when we meet a potential employee for the first time. But, employers should never rely on background checks alone to make hiring decisions. It’s imperative that you have an understanding of the process before pledging your undying love to a particular background check company. I think it’s safe to assume you have no desire to see the world from the perspective of the legal hot seat, so if you’re new to the background check realm, here are a few tips to help ease you in.
1. National Criminal Databases Don’t Exist
Wouldn’t it be nice if when conducting a background check, you simply logged onto a streamlined national criminal repository and could trust that all of the information contained therein was not only accurate, but consistent? We might as well throw in a bow and Ferrari with your purchase since that’s about the extent of that premise’s reality. This information isn’t stored in one place, and the places you go to access it have various limitations in terms of what and how much they can store. If you choose a background check company that only uses one system or another instead of a combination of what’s available, then not only are you not getting the whole story, you run the risk of discriminatory repercussions later on. Especially if you only rely on the background check to give you the green light to hire. The good news is that there are background check platforms out there like ApplicantPro that access multiple databases to provide you with the most thorough overview possible for your applicants. And it’s affordable.
2. Regulatory Bodies Aren’t Consistent Either
Since we had so much fun pretending that the criminal databases in this country were uniform, we might as well throw in some mental requests for a unified agency governing the process while we’re at it. Alas, these efforts are futile. The EEOC tends to garner a familiar nod to most people, but things get a little more convoluted when we throw in acronyms like FTC and FCRA. I know you’re probably thinking: I’m an HR person, not a lawyer, so why should I care? Well, simply put, if you aren’t familiar (and I mean really familiar) with the legal boundaries spurred by each one, you’re putting yourself and your company at risk. So, get educated. Every month we offer free HRCI approved webinars on this very subject to help you navigate your way through some of the murkiest regulatory waters. Click on our HRCI approved webinars page to find out when the next one will be held and to register.
“Employers should never rely on background checks alone to make hiring decisions”
3. Compliance Isn’t Everything
While compliance is usually your default setting in HR, it’s not something that’s of particular interest to your executive team. Most of your C-suite are going to roll their eyes at you if you try to promote a service (like background checks) based on compliance alone. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that you might as well be speaking Greek to them. So, how do you avoid your needs falling on very deaf ears? Speak in the only language they truly understand – money. Like I said in the beginning, employees are an investment, so as the hirer, you want to be doing everything you can to safeguard your investment. Dust your math hat off and present a figure based on cost and profit loss for failed new hires. If your turnover (including profit loss) is in the thousands and a background check costs you a fraction of that and helps eliminate 40% percent risk, then you might as well sit back and prop your feet up because you’ve just managed to skyrocket your credibility into dangerous levels of strategic know-how. Oh, and while you’re at it, you might as well practice your surprised face for when your boss walks in and announces your raise.
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