Stay informed and ready to meet both everyday challenges and long-term planning and policy-making goals, with focused news, practical information, and strategic insights on all HR-related developments.
Sept. 22 — Thorough and accurate background checks on job candidates take time to complete, but employers can take steps to make sure the process moves along as fast as possible, consultants agree.
Lots of factors can cause delays. “Just the date and time you place your order matters for education and employment verifications, more than for criminal records,” Chris Cassimus Sr., product management director at Seattle-based screening company Sterling Talent Solutions, said. For example, businesses on the East Coast may already be closed if an order is placed late in the afternoon Pacific time, adding 18 to 20 hours to turnaround time, he said, adding that there are also holiday delays, and if a candidate’s high school needs to be contacted, there may be reduced staffing during summer vacation.
Drug screenings take time too; if the candidate has a “non-negative screen,” Cassimus said, the result has to be checked against the person’s prescriptions.
Criminal background checks pose their own problems. To begin with, there are “over 3,300 county, state, federal criminal record databases” to be checked, Cassimus said.
One type of criminal background check engages the court system directly. “Primary source searches” return criminal record data directly from the municipal, county, state or federal courthouse, Deepesh Saini, Sterling’s vice president for automation and fulfillment systems, said.
Some courts have information available electronically, but to search those that make limited or no information available online, screening companies like Sterling must have someone do the research in person. A “runner” is “a researcher who is dispatched to a court’s physical location to retrieve criminal record data,” Cassimus said.
Database searches aggregate information from publicly available sources and are supposed to be “instant,” Saini said, but with drawbacks. Information gleaned in this way is “often incomplete, out-of-date and needs to be validated with primary source searches before being reported to an employer,” he said.
“Hits” that indicate someone has a criminal record typically take longer to research than “clears” that indicate that the candidate has none. This is because “to make a complete record, you have to visit the courthouse to get it,” Saini said. It may turn out that a criminal record that’s been found doesn’t actually pertain to the job candidate. Social Security numbers and middle names—the latter often not provided by candidates at the start of the application process—may be needed, he said. For similar reasons, checking people with common names can take longer than checking people with unique names, he said. Also, candidates who have frequently moved to different counties take longer to vet than those who have stayed in the same county, Saini said.
An additional complication is that court records may be missing key data, such as final disposition or sentencing information, Cassimus said. “Any missing or mismatched information there may require additional investigation,” he said.
“It’s always important to understand the scope of a criminal search—how many primary sources are involved,” he said. “Some customers want seven years of searches based on [the candidates'] addresses; some only want a search in the county of current residence.”
Criminal background checks may not even turn up candidates with a potential for committing fraud, John Warren, vice president and general counsel of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 22. According to the association, only 5.2 percent of fraud perpetrators had a prior conviction, and 8.3 percent had been terminated by a previous employer, which “doesn’t mean they haven’t done it before,” he said.
Prior employers wary of liability for defamation may be reluctant to warn potential employers about a former employee who is on the job market because he or she has been caught committing fraud, Warren said. “The most they may say is that the person is ‘not eligible for rehire,’ which is code for ‘they’ve done something bad but we’re not going to tell you what.’”
Ferreting out a potential fraudster takes time and money, “but you’re saving yourself a lot of money on the back end” by avoiding being defrauded, Warren said.
Checking a job candidate’s education and employment can take a long time because “there is just a lot greater reliance on a human than for criminal record searches,” Cassimus said. Someone has to pick up the phone, or respond to an email, to verify a candidate worked at each employer. And when it comes to educational achievements—people’s last names may have changed since they were awarded their degree, he said.
“Verifications that are conducted with employers or institutions outside of the U.S., similar to criminal records, often require additional documentation and will take longer to fulfill,” Cassimus said.
An additional factor is that while background checks on hourly workers are “pretty straightforward” such that vendors can often provide them within 48 hours, finding out what kind of an employee a candidate for a salaried position is can take more time, Tony Lee, vice president of editorial at the Society for Human Resource Management, told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 21.
Cassimus and Saini suggested that to speed up the background check process, employers should:
Cassimus and Saini were speaking Sept. 13 during a webinar sponsored by their company.
To contact the reporter on this story: Martin Berman-Gorvine in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tony Harris at email@example.com
Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)