Does Your Application Add Value to Your Employment Background Checks?

employment background checksToo often I think we focus on a criminal background check as the stand-alone component for a quality employment background check.  The truth is, an effective employment background screening program begins with a great application. Catch that?  I said a great application, not a decent one.  I have seen thousands of decent applications.  Typically they are the results of a legal review where an attorney is focused on the risk mitigation of asking the wrong questions that might violate the ADA, EEOC , FCRA and the lists goes on.

Where is the risk mitigation of making a bad hire because we are not asking enough of the right questions? If it is an employee who uses violence, we could be talking millions.  However, if it is just a bad hire, we could be out $30,000 or more.  I have seen estimates as high as 2 or 3 times the employee’s salary.

So we absolutely need to make sure our applications are legally compliant but we also need to make sure we are asking all the right questions.  More information is always better.

Here are 5 important ways to make sure your application adds value to your employment background checks:

#1 Prominent Disclosure of Background Checks

Make it absolutely clear that your organization is concerned with workplace violence, employee theft and creating a drug-free workplace and that you conduct comprehensive background checks on all applicants for employment.  This should be prominent on the application and may provide a deterrent for some applicants with an unsuitable background.

#2 Detail, Detail, Detail

If your application is one page, you are in trouble.  I just filled out an application as part of a process to become a volunteer board member for an agency serving homeless youth.  It took me over an hour and was close to 10 pages.  There is no way you can collect enough detail on an applicant in 1 or 2 pages.

#3 FCRA Disclosure & Authorization Forms Separate

The Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that your Disclosure & Authorization Form be a separate, stand-alone document.  Why?  The FCRA wants applicants to know exactly what they are signing.  An authorization buried in an application may not provide an applicant a clear understanding of what they are authorizing.

#4 Ask Specific Questions About Criminal Convictions and Pending Criminal Cases

First, it is important to let the applicant know that they should not disclose a criminal record which has been sealed or expunged by the court.  Furthermore, we should let them know that no applicant will be denied employment solely on the grounds they have been charged, committed or convicted (pleaded guilty or no contest) to a crime.  Here is where you ask specific questions:

  • Have you ever, under your name or another name, been convicted of (or pleaded guilty or no contest to) a felony or misdemeanor?
  • Have you ever, under your name or another name, been convicted of a crime which resulted in your being in prison and/or jail and released from prison and/or jail or paroled?
  • Are you currently under arrest, or released on bond on your own recognizance, pending trial for a criminal offense?
  • Have you used illegal drugs in the last six months?
  • Do you take any illegal drugs or medications which have not been prescribed for you?
  • Have you ever been convicted of driving under the influence (DUI)?
  • Do you use alcohol to the extent that it would impair your job performance?

#5 Have the Applicant Sign the Application

Require the applicant to sign the application and by signing they are declaring they completed the application, that the information provided is true and correct and that they understand that any false information or significant omissions may disqualify them from consideration for employment AND may be grounds for dismissal from employment if discovered at a later date.  And that any job offer is conditional on successfully completing a background check.

Do you have a balanced application that compliments your employment background checks?