Five Steps for Employers to Enhance Background Checks for Employees

April 18 2024
7 min read

We are undoubtedly living in a time of instant gratification. To that end, a continuous stream of new technology is available to speed processes up and make them more accessible and convenient for all involved. This ease of information is what today’s job applicants are not only accustomed to, but also expect regarding background checks, interviews, and onboarding.

At the same time, a significant shift in the mindsets of job applicants and employees has occurred. They have higher expectations for their workplaces, starting from the recruiting process and including background screening. They may expect a fast process, mobile availability, customization, and technology-driven solutions, but they also expect some fundamental principles underlying them all; namely, transparency, privacy, expediency, and to be treated with respect.

Ready to work with a background screening provider who can help you elevate your job applicant experience? Speak with our team to get started today.

Information, convenience, and accessibility are what applicants and employees are expecting … and what employers must provide. They want to work for employers that value them and their time throughout the hiring process and long after. To them, those initial stages are what set the bar for the company’s culture and work environment. For employers, the key is making the background check process, as well as the entire hiring and onboarding processes critical components of the overall applicant/employee experience to meet those expectations from the outset.

Five Steps Employers Can Take to Enhance the Applicant Experience

These increased expectations of applicants should not be viewed as a challenge, but rather, as an opportunity. To provide the best background screening experience to job applicants, employers can take several proactive steps to help ensure transparency, efficiency, and respect throughout the process.

Here are the top five steps you can take today to enhance the applicant experience and help ensure expectations are being met and exceeded:

1. Communicate Clearly

Provide applicants with clear information about the background screening process at the outset of the hiring process. Explain what types of checks will be conducted, how long it typically takes, and what information will be collected. Then, provide clear updates throughout the entire process. Keeping applicants informed about the status of their background check and any additional information or documentation that may be required will go a long way. This can be done through proactive updates and timely responses to their inquiries.

How to Maintain Clear Communication

Utilize an Applicant Portal: Implementing an online applicant portal allows candidates to track the status of their background check and any pending actions on their part. This portal can be updated in real-time, providing a transparent view into the process.

Automated Email Updates: Set up an automated email system that notifies applicants at critical stages of the background screening process. For example, send a confirmation email once the screening is initiated, another when additional information is required, and finally, an email upon completion. Each email should be clear, concise, and informative.

FAQ Section on Website: Create a detailed FAQ section on your company website dedicated to the hiring and background check process. Include answers to common questions, what applicants can expect, how to prepare, and steps they can take if they have concerns or problems. Ensure this section is easy to find and regularly updated with relevant information.

2. Maintain Compliance

Conduct background checks in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations, including the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Ensure that your background screening practices are fair, non-discriminatory, and consistent with best practices in the industry. Additionally, ensure you obtain explicit consent from applicants prior to initiating any background checks. Clearly explain what information will be gathered and how it will be used in the hiring decision.

Ideas to Maintain Compliance

Regularly Update Compliance Knowledge: Stay informed about changes in employment law and regulations related to background checks at the federal, state, and local levels. This may involve attending seminars, subscribing to legal updates, and consulting with legal experts to ensure your background screening practices remain in compliance. Periodic audits of your screening processes can also help identify and rectify any compliance gaps.

Implement Consistent Background Screening Policies: Ensure that your background screening process is applied uniformly to all applicants to avoid discrimination. This includes conducting the same types of checks for all candidates applying for similar positions and evaluating the results of these checks according to pre-established criteria. Document these policies and criteria clearly, and train your HR team to apply them consistently to support fair hiring practices.

3. Respect Privacy

Just as our online presence has drastically increased over the past several years, so have privacy concerns over that presence. Make sure to handle applicants’ personal information with care and respect their privacy throughout the background screening process. Safeguard sensitive information through secure management, so that it is only shared with individuals who have a legitimate need to know.

Good Privacy Practices

Transparent Data Usage Policies: Clearly communicate to applicants how their information will be used and who will have access to it. This involves providing a straightforward privacy policy that outlines the scope of data collection, storage, and sharing. Make sure applicants have easy access to this policy and understand their rights regarding their personal information.

Regular Privacy Training for Staff: Provide ongoing training for all staff involved in the background screening process on the latest privacy laws, data protection strategies, and the importance of confidentiality. This ensures everyone understands how to handle sensitive applicant information properly.

Minimize Data Collection: Only request and collect information that is absolutely necessary for the background check and relevant to the job application. Avoid collecting excessive personal details that do not contribute to the hiring decision.

4. Ensure Accuracy

Take steps to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information gathered during the background screening process. Use reputable background screening vendors who have achieved accreditation with the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA). Additionally, be sure to verify information from multiple sources to minimize the risk of errors or inaccuracies.

Steps to Improve Accuracy

Seek Applicant Clarification When Necessary: If discrepancies or unclear information arise during the background screening process, seek clarification from the applicant directly. This can help resolve misunderstandings or provide context to certain entries in the report.

Regular Training for Screeners: Ensure that staff involved in the background screening process receive regular training on how to accurately collect, analyze, and report information. This training should include updates on legal compliance, data verification techniques, and ethical considerations.

Employ the Services of Accredited Vendors: Choose background screening vendors that have been accredited by the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA). Accredited vendors are evaluated against rigorous standards, ensuring that their processes and products meet high levels of accuracy and professionalism. These vendors are more likely to provide accurate and reliable background screening services.

5. Be Transparent about Results

 If adverse information is uncovered during the background check, be transparent with the applicant about the findings and give them an opportunity to provide context or explanation. Follow all legal requirements for providing applicants with a copy of their background check report and informing them of their rights under the FCRA and other applicable laws.

Improving Transparency

Pre-Adverse Action Communications: When adverse information that could impact the hiring decision is found, initiate a pre-adverse action process by sending the applicant a notice. This notice should contain a copy of the background check report and a summary of the applicant's rights under the FCRA. Give applicants a reasonable amount of time to review the findings and respond before making any final employment decisions.

Provide a Clear Explanation of Findings: Offer the applicant an opportunity to discuss the background check findings in detail. This involves setting up a meeting or a call where the applicant can provide context or correct any inaccuracies. Ensure that this process is handled with sensitivity and respect, recognizing that this conversation may be challenging for the applicant.

Open Doors for Disputes or Corrections: Inform the applicant about the procedure for disputing inaccuracies in the background check report. Provide them with contact information for the background screening provider and guide them through the process of challenging or correcting any false or mistaken information. Ensuring applicants understand their rights to dispute and correct information promotes fairness and transparency in the hiring process.

The Power of Supportive and Transparent Hiring Processes

By implementing these practices, employers can demonstrate their commitment to providing a fair, respectful, and transparent background screening experience to job applicants, inherently building trust and goodwill into the relationship from the start. Throughout the entire process, it’s crucial to provide support to job applicants by being available to answer their questions and providing assistance as needed. You can also offer guidance on how applicants can address any discrepancies or issues that may arise during the screening process. Job applicants, just like current employees, want to feel as if they matter to their employers, and providing this support is one effective way of doing just that.

For employers, this is an opportunity for a strong competitive advantage in a crowded marketplace. With a well-developed and expedient hiring process, including transparent and well-communicated background checks, employers can provide the experience applicants want. By making the hiring and onboarding processes essential components of the overall applicant/employee experience, employers will not only meet, but exceed those increased expectations.

About Orange Tree Employment Screening

For more than 30 years, Orange Tree has provided technology-enabled background screening, drug testing, and occupational health services that are fast, easy to use, and can be tailored to the unique needs of each employer. Orange Tree streamlines hiring decisions, integrates with HCM and ATS platforms, and empowers employers in Healthcare, Manufacturing, Hospitality, Retail, Staffing, and other major industries to quickly fill open positions while delivering an engaging candidate experience. To get started with a background or drug screening program tailored to your needs, you can schedule time to Speak with Our Team.

The foregoing is not legal advice, either expressed or implied. We recommend you seek the advice of your own legal counsel for all aspects of employment law.