How Can I Improve My Background Checking Process? – Whiteboard [VIDEO]

There are many things to consider when it comes to trying to improve the background checking process for your organization. In this video, Jeff Hallam discusses items such as the source of background check record data; the difference in court record reporting at the county vs. state level; the importance of having good legal counsel; having an awareness of EEOC guidelines; and, how to automate the background check process to improve the candidate experience and shorten the time involved with collecting candidate information.

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Video Transcript:

Hi, my name is Jeff Hallam, and we’re here today to talk about how you can improve your background check process. And, again, just a very quick disclosure up front…ExactHire…we are not a background check firm. Nor do we claim to be experts in this field, but because it is part of the hiring cycle, this does come up with pretty good frequency with clients and potential clients and it’s something that over the years, there have been changes to it, different things are happening out there…and so it does become something where people are asking about it frequently. And that’s kind of what led us to want to do this video.

One of the first things to understand about background checking is the data that’s out there is going to be pulled from the same sources predominantly by most all background check providers. At least those who are reputable. So, in other words, Background Checking Company A…vs. B vs. C…very rarely is going to have access to any proprietary data that the other two couldn’t. So really in most cases, unless there’s something very unusual going on, what you’re getting in terms of data should be the same from one provider to another. And that’s a nice transition into local data.

What a lot of folks don’t realize is things that are happening out there most often are recorded and kept for permanent record at the local level, usually at the county level. And roughly about 50% of counties out there nationwide are automated. So that means there’s about a 50/50 shot if I have an infraction of some sort in a neighboring state or a county where I don’t live, as to whether it’s ever going to be recorded and reported up reliably to the state level database. So where that becomes pertinent is, again if everybody’s checking the same data, and I as an employer only go down to the state level as far as my searches, because it’s a less expensive background check to do, I may potentially miss some things that are happening at the local level completely or there may be enough of a time lag in there where those things just aren’t made aware to me as somebody who would care about them as a potential employer.

So, that’s something to consider, and likewise that’s a good segue into this notion of having a counsel that you can go to. And typically that’s going to be a labor and employment law attorney, somebody who doesn’t necessarily have any opinion, in terms of making dollars, as to what type of background check you have performed. So, ExactHire, your background check provider, etc. probably, while we might be able to weigh in a little bit…it’s always going to be much more reliable to go to a labor and employment attorney and make sure you understand from their perspective, legally, what are your minimums that you need to be doing and what things should you perhaps be made aware of that you don’t need to necessarily have done in those checks. That also ties in with the EEOC.

EEOC has come out with some guidelines over the last couple of years that are really designed to make sure that discrimination is not happening out there in the workforce from a hiring perspective. And, a lot of that is happening around the background check arena. So, there are times now today, as opposed to a few years ago, where actually doing a deeper check…believe it or not…can actually be punitive from your end. So, to avoid that, one of the things you’d want to do is make sure you’re getting good advice from your counsel as to, is this relevant to the job for which I’m hiring, is it going overboard, is it going deep enough, and then balancing that with cost.

And then finally, the notion of trying to automate. The background check process for many people is still very much a manual one. I have the person sign their FCRA notice, I get all their information on the form, I then take that form and I either key it in or I fax it to the background check provider…in either event there could be some lags in time there, and/or there’s a lot of effort wasted just in terms of getting that to the provider. So, anything you can do to inject automation into that, whether you embed it in your applicant tracking tool, or you set up an online process with your provider…any things where technology can be brought into  it to make that more of a streamlined process are certainly going to help

So, just remember…same data, might be necessary to go down to the local level to avoid any potential issues or missing things; make sure you’ve got a good legal counsel that you can go to for assistance; be aware of some of the things that are changing out there, which again can come from your attorneys; and then try to automate as much as you can. Following just these handful of simple tips should hopefully help make your process not only better, but also more efficient.

Test Your Application Through The Applicant’s Eyes

Finding the right employees can be daunting. Have you ever thought about how equally disheartening it can be to find the right job? I strongly encourage our clients to play the role of job-seeker by searching and applying for open positions at their organization. What they find is often times surprising, but it almost always leads to improvements in their recruiting and hiring processes.

Hiring managers usually do a great job of developing the job description, but they often overlook the application process itself. Having a few applicants who start an application, but then abandon it, is common. But when this trend increases, an organization can benefit from taking a few minutes to go through the application process as a job-seeker would.

With an Applicant Tracking System like HireCentric, you can create a ‘dummy’ account to serve as your test applicant. Some of my co-workers create pseudo-profiles using names of celebrities that include quirky and funny answers to education and employment history questions. You can do the same, or keep it boring, and name your test applicant ‘Company TestAccount’, holding applicant answers to a similar standard.

Concerns may arise about reporting criteria or skewing your data for REAL applicants. It is important that you develop a standard for answering those EEOC and source questions. We suggest choosing the option “I do not wish to answer” for the EEOC and VEVRAA questions; and we always choose the company website as the source. As a best-practice, we also put a note in the applicant record identifying it as a test account, change the status to not qualified, and archive our mock application when testing for clients.

Testing your application process is a best practice, and it can have a huge impact on improving the quality of your new hires. You want the job-seekers to find your open position, apply for it, and be excited about the prospect of working at your company.

Test Your Application – 3 Considerations

Now that you have the basics, and you are ready to test your application, here are a few of the top things to consider when testing the process as a job seeker:

How easy is it to find your job listing?

Most job boards will list jobs by the date they were posted, but most applicants will land on your open position by filtering for keywords and location. Make sure that you are using a multitude of keywords that apply to both the open position and your company. By using specific terminology, you can reduce the number of clicks it takes to land on your open position.

How long does it take to complete the application?

Consider not only how long it takes to complete the application, but what are the implications that arise from an application being too short or too long? If you have a short application, you might find that you receive way too many unqualified applicants. Alternately, if the application is too long, you may find that ideal candidates are abandoning the application. Testing the application to understand how much time you are asking candidates to commit is imperative.

If you find that your application is extensive, but that all points are necessary, it may be time to consider a 2-Step application. This feature makes the initial screening short for applicants and allows you to invite only qualified applicants to complete the second application step.

Are you creeped out by the questions on the application?

Test your application so you can see the process as an applicant sees it. You may find out that some of your questions are throwing red flags to the applicant–like asking for social security numbers. Maybe you are asking for an over-abundance of essay questions. Or, you may just discover that you are asking questions in a confusing fashion.


Download our hiring process questions guide

Visit ExactHire’s Resource Page to download a tip sheet with more specific examples of how to test your application and improve the applicant experience. To learn more about our HireCentric Applicant Tracking System, contact us today!


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Background Checks & Hiring – 7 Things to Consider

Since the revised EEOC guidance rules were published in 2012, there has been much speculation and frustration among employers as to the use of criminal history checks in the hiring process. These updated guidelines for background checks are especially challenging for small and mid-sized organizations, as they typically don’t have the legal resources readily available to help keep them compliant.

I’ve heard these complaints from clients over the past 18 months. At the same time, I’ve been fortunate enough to receive some tips from background check providers as to what employers can do to help avoid any undue exposure. Below are some of the things they’ve shared with me that I might recommend:

#1 – Have updated job descriptions

Everyone has heard this ad nauseum, but with these EEOC revisions, this is even more important than it has been in the past. And, if you are using an applicant tracking system such as HireCentric, creating updated job descriptions can be done quite efficiently through the use of job templates.

#2 – Be very careful in asking about criminal convictions on your employment application

While the finer points of this bear further discussion with a qualified Labor & Employment Law attorney, the key is to avoid any appearance that applicants having prior criminal convictions are excluded from serious consideration. Beyond this suggestion, many states have actually implemented legislation that makes it illegal to even ask this type of question on the employment application.

#3 – Consider only criminal convictions relevant to the job for which an applicant is applying

The fact that an applicant committed a crime is no longer considered sufficient reason to exclude that person from consideration for a position. In addition, you must be able to show that the crime for which that applicant was convicted creates risk for the organization if they are placed in a given position. An example…the fact that an applicant was convicted for shoplifting doesn’t pose any undue or unreasonable risk for the employer if the applicant is being hired to run a manufacturing machine. However, if that same applicant is being hired to manage company funds, most would agree that the shoplifting conviction is more relevant to that position and could create exposure for the employer.

#4 – Convictions must be recent enough to indicate significant risk

This is very subjective, but the intent here is to make sure that applicants who were convicted for offenses many years ago aren’t excluded from consideration unnecessarily. Another component to this is that applicant attempts at rehabilitation and recent job performance results should be considered. If someone was convicted of a crime 15-20 years ago, but has been employed and showed good performance in positions since then, that conviction likely shouldn’t be used as a way to disqualify the applicant from consideration.

#5 – You get what you pay for

There are a number of inexpensive ways to gather criminal history for applicants. While this isn’t meant to be a “plug” for any particular provider, this is an area where cutting corners can result in big penalties. Be sure to use a qualified provider of these services who can not only provide the conviction history, but who can also provide advice and counsel when needed.

#6 – Confirm convictions at the original source

This is an extension of the point above. Once a conviction shows up in any criminal history search, be sure your provider can locate and provide information from the original source…typically found at the county or municipal level. Since many of these government entities are not fully computerized, this often requires someone physically visiting a courthouse to manually locate and confirm the conviction information contained in the criminal history search.

#7 – Allow applicants to challenge any convictions found

By law, any conviction information found in a criminal history search must be disclosed to the applicant for potential appeal. It’s not uncommon for someone to have a conviction show on their record, when the actual person convicted of the offense is a different person. They may share the same name, but have completely different dates of birth or Social Security numbers. When using a provider, be sure they will either notify applicants on your behalf (ideally) or provide you the means to do so yourself (at a minimum).

By way of full disclosure, I am not an attorney and this is not meant to be legal advice. Instead, these are some effective tips that have been shared with me since the revised EEOC guidelines were released in 2012. I hope these are helpful for your organization, but I recommend speaking with an attorney or a representative from your criminal history provider for more details on this topic.

For more information about ExactHire’s applicant tracking software or potential background checking providers, please contact us today. 

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Equal Employment Opportunities Make Good Business Sense

Individuals in Human Resources already know there are laws that prohibit discrimination in the workplace against existing employees, but equal employment opportunity also relates to hiring and recruiting new employees, as well. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against someone (applicant or employee) because of his/her race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information (

How does EEO affect the hiring process?
Here are a few considerations when examining your selection process to ensure that you are in compliance with EEOC regulations:

  • Employment Applications – Nothing on the application can ask about or refer to a class of people in a way that could be construed as being discriminatory. Avoid asking questions that may single out a group based on gender, age, religion, sex…and the other federal law factors mentioned above.
  • Job Ads – Remember when posting a job advertisement not to hone in on a specific group, such as recent college grads (may seem like you are not inclusive of all ages) or women (though some jobs may seem like they have been traditionally held by a certain gender group in the past, you cannot focus the job ad to that sex).
  • Applicant Referrals – Word of mouth job advertising can be tricky. If you have a workforce that is a similar demographic, and you exclusively, or very heavily, recruit based only on employee referrals, you are likely going to minimize diversity across your workforce and run into issues of adverse impact.
  • Talent Acquisition – If all your recruiting is targeted to a certain age group, gender, race or other protected group, then you are violating the laws for equal employment opportunity. Make sure, when sourcing applicants, that you use a wide variety of external ad sources so that you do not disproportionately exclude any type of applicant based on the protected classes above.

Just a few other potentially inflammatory EEOC-related issues to keep in mind:

  • Promotions – When promoting an employee, do not make a decision based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information; but rather, on experience and/or performance/merit. In human resources, it is important to keep a documented history of performance reviews to support any promotion decisions.
  • Benefits – Regardless of age, religion, gender (including pregnancy), and the other factors mentioned throughout this blog, all employees and applicants should be offered the same benefits. Think of benefits such as health care plans, 401k and stock options that may be offered to an incoming applicant. This includes a woman getting the same pay as a man for the same job, as just one example.
  • Discipline – When it comes to the discipline of employees, the rules need to be just, legal and applied consistently across the board. This will eliminate discrimination issues as well as harassment in the workplace.

Remember to put processes and training programs in place to stay compliant with federal anti-discrimination laws beyond the recruiting process, as well.

How can ExactHire help with EOE requirements?

Using an applicant tracking system can help to streamline and ease the challenges that can sometimes be associated with compliance reporting. An ATS also has tools in place to automate the process of posting jobs to a diverse set of external ad sources so that you can more easily amass a diverse group of engaged applicants. We can show you tools to find diversity and inclusion ad sources as well as coach you on how to build reports to help you stay compliant with EEOC laws.

For more information on our applicant tracking software, please visit our resources section or contact ExactHire.

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Care Needs to be Used When Conducting Credit and Criminal Background Checks

This post was written by Paul W. Barada, Chairman of the Board, at Barada Associates, Inc.

Over the last several years, the focus of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has evolved into an even more candidate-centered agency, as opposed to giving much consideration to the concerns of employers. More and more specificity is being required of employers who want to ensure the safety of current employees and the honesty of new employees.

But rather than fight “city hall,” here are a few guidelines employers should follow when conducting either credit checks or criminal court checks. Since deciding when to use a credit check is easier, let’s start there.

Determine Which Job Applicant Groups Warrant Credit Checks

While it doesn’t make sense to order credit checks on all job applicants, there are occasions when it does matter. For example, jobs that involve some aspect of an employer’s finances would warrant a credit check. If the applicant will have access to a company’s funds, a credit card, or expense account, then a credit check is appropriate. One simple way for employers to make that determination is by looking at the job title and duties involved with the position. If the job title happens to be something like billing clerk, accounts receivable manager, or financial manager; then it would make perfectly good sense to run a credit check. At the same time, it should be noted that a credit check should be run on every candidate applying for a billing clerk’s position…not just on some of those who apply.

It’s always a good idea for employers to check specific state laws that may exist about the use of credit checks in the hiring process, as well. Otherwise, unless the job is directly related to the employer’s finances, using a credit check to decide who to hire for other types of non-financial jobs really doesn’t make much sense.

When is it Okay to Run a Criminal History Check on Applicants?

Criminal checks are a little more complicated. The first and most important point to remember is that…

No hiring decision should ever be made on the basis of a mere arrest.

Denials of employment have to be based on a conviction, but there are also other qualifiers to keep in mind. In other words, an employer should not deny employment simply because a criminal conviction appears on a candidate’s record. Factors that have to be considered include what are known as the “Green Factors“:

  • the nature and gravity of the offense or conduct
  • how much time has passed since the offense
  • conduct and/or completion of the sentence
  • the nature of the job held or sought

While that all may sound a little complicated, it’s really not. Common sense is the best guide in nearly every case. For instance, if it turns out that a candidate has, let’s say, ten years of solid job performance in the field that the employer needs, but was convicted of a DUI while in college, common sense would seem to suggest that a youthful indiscretion a decade ago hardly justifies denying a job offer today. On the other hand, if a candidate has a record of multiple convictions for theft, hiring him to be in charge of the company vault wouldn’t make much sense either!

On a more serious note, when considering a candidate with a conviction record for workplace violence – including a recent conviction for that type of behavior – an employer would be on solid ground denying employment to that person strictly on the results of his criminal background check because of the employer’s responsibility to maintain a safe workplace. Generally speaking, the standard time frame most employers use is to go back seven years when checking criminal convictions. Complying with that standard is probably the most reasonable thing to do, although there’s no harm in going back further, providing there are no state laws that prohibit reporting back more than seven years.

Keep FCRA Authorization Separate from Employment Application

It should be particularly kept in mind that if an employer with a job opening is going to do a background check, candidates must be asked to sign a “disclosure and authorization form” that is completely separate from an employment application. If negative information comes back, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) specifies that a “pre-adverse-action letter” be sent to the applicant. Thereafter, the applicant must be given the opportunity to supply additional “facts or context” that explain in writing why the outcome of the background check should not apply. If a satisfactory response is not given, then the employer may send out the required “adverse action” letter to the candidate.

In summary, we are finding that the legislative pendulum continues to swing in favor of job seekers and away from employers. Despite that, however, it’s still possible to successfully, thoroughly, and lawfully carry out background checks that will help ensure that employers can still hire the best people for the jobs they need to fill.

To find out more about using Barada Associates’ online background check service in conjunction with our applicant tracking software, contact ExactHire today.

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Consider How EEOC’s Guidance on Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions May Affect Your Employment Application

In your organization, do you ask applicants about prior convictions on your employment application?

From my personal experience looking at many different web-based applications in our clients’ applicant tracking software portals, I’m guessing that you might (and I suppose since you are reading this blog post that you very likely do ask this question). If so, now’s a great time to reevaluate your employment application to ensure that its not only legally sound in general, but also mindful of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

As the title suggests, this is the agency’s “guidance,” and in fact, not actual law or regulation by which courts are bound. However, given the EEOC’s long-standing responsibility of enforcing Title VII, it is certainly in your organization’s best interest to take a critical look at your hiring process – including the data you gather about candidates for hire at the application stage; as well as your policy on the use of any criminal record background checks as a means to screen and potentially disqualify candidates for hire. I’m not an employment attorney and I’m certainly not offering legal advice, but here are some considerations for examination to help you avoid potential pitfalls as you evaluate and plan your organization’s reaction to this guidance:

Think And Be Green While You Conduct Thorough Job Evaluation

If there are specific takeaways from the EEOC Guidance, one of them would be to stress the importance of evaluating situations on an individual, case-by-case basis before making a hiring decision, rather than applying neutral, blanket approach policies. That is, you can’t just have a policy that states that all applicants who have any prior convictions will be disqualified. Of course, there are always exceptions according to the EEOC’s Guidance…and certain industries are subject to Federal mandates requiring organizations to disqualify applicants with a specific conviction in a certain specified number of recent years (i.e. banking and applicants with financial- or fraud-related convictions); or, even some industries that must disqualify applicants who are unable to obtain a required occupational license due to the issuing agency imposing a life-long ban on applicants with convictions related to espionage, etc.

So, think Green and cite the three-pronged approach resulting from the Green v. Missouri Pacific Railroad Company case to evaluate all jobs across your organization individually to determine whether an applicant’s criminal history would have a bearing on his/her consideration for that position. These three items include: 1) the type and seriousness of the criminal conduct; 2) how much time has passed since the criminal conduct took place; and 3) the duties and responsibilities of the specific job.

Part of an effective job evaluation process is outlining the essential job requirements for a position…the non-negotiable requirements. This can be a tedious undertaking, especially if you have a large number of similar job listings that will have the same sorts of requirements. However, you can speed up the process by creating basic job templates that may be used as a foundation for creating multiple, and more specific, individual job descriptions with an easy-to-use applicant tracking software product. Not only will you be thinking Green in terms of following the judicial precedent, but you will be green and make the human resources department paperless!

“Ban the Box”? Well, maybe move the box.

So, if you are asking about prior convictions on the employment application, it is a pretty good assumption that you are also taking care to add a disclaimer that says something like this:

NOTE: Answering “Yes” to this question is not an automatic bar to employment. Factors such as how this conviction would relate to the position, age and time of occurrence, the seriousness and nature of the circumstances will be considered.

By doing so, you are informing the applicants that their honest answers to the question will not disqualify them from future consideration for employment without further investigation. Plus, sometimes background checks come back showing convictions for applicants who did not disclose a criminal record on the application. While you cannot immediately disqualify them for this potential lie, if after an investigation is completed, you determine the background check results are indeed valid and a person does have a criminal history, then you may have grounds for disqualification based on an applicant’s failure to disclose the info. But again, it might depend…

If you’ve heard of the “ban the box” movement, then you know that certain states and local governments have indeed prohibited a check-box style question on employment applications that requires applicants to disclose any criminal history. The EEOC’s guidance does not ban the box at the Federal level – employers may still choose to ask such a question. However, organizations might opt to evaluate the necessity of this question on a per-job basis rather than as a blanket question for all applicants.

If a Title VII claim is brought against your organization and the EEOC finds that you have a case of disparate impact against a protected class under Title VII, then the burden will be on you as the employer to substantiate your hiring process through documented reasons for your choices. If you have a blanket question asking all applicants about prior convictions, and you conduct background checks on all applicants prior to hire, and you DON’T have any documentation supporting how your approach is both job-related and a business necessity, then you will likely not win. Lastly, in some cases when the employer does do a thorough job of documenting its reasons, the plaintiff may still win if he/she can prove that there is a less discriminatory “alternative employment practice” that achieves the same results for the employer that the employer was not willing to accommodate, according to the EEOC’s Guidance.

As discussed previously, the job evaluation process can help you determine for which positions you may wish to:

  • consistently request information about conviction records
  • conduct background checks to determine any previous criminal records that may be cause for concern in consideration of employment (obviously heeding any specific Federal and/or state/local Government regulations for your industry at the same time–but, note that Federal preempts state/local mandates when the state/local regulation does not seem to support Title VII)
  • determine the durations of any exclusions you may impose based on conviction type

Once you have evaluated all positions and developed a game plan, you may decide to “move the box” for your conviction question, even if you do not want to completely ban it. Make sure that your applicant tracking system (ATS) allows you to use job-specific screening questions so that you may ask this question of only applicants for certain positions rather than for all job listings.

Train managers on how to handle confidential data and limit access to sensitive applicant information

Train employees on hiring processThis is just good business sense in general, but please take care to always train the employees in your organization who touch the hiring process in any way. Document your training efforts. Set expectations with them about your employment policies, including how you conduct background checks and Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requirements, as well as how they should handle any confidential data to which they have access. And by all means, limit confidential information – such as applicants’ criminal record disclosures – to the fewest number of people possible. Make sure that your technology for hiring partner can advise you on how best to set up restricted access for your managers in your hiring software.

Develop specific employment process policies and document them!

After you and your employment attorney carefully evaluate your potential risks, create a documented employment process policy, roll it out to your hiring team; and, most importantly, follow it consistently! Inconsistent application of hiring processes can be the quickest road to disparate treatment claims in which one protected class under Title VII is found to be treated differently in the selection process.

Careful consideration should especially be given to being consistent in conducting background checks on all applicants for positions in which the organization determines there is a need. Then, based on results, it is up to the employer to determine if a specific conviction may flag an applicant based on business necessity and a job-related reason; thus, resulting in a closer examination of that specific case–perhaps through “individualized assessment” including the opportunity for the applicant to respond and explain the history. Employers may consider regional recidivism statistics, for example, when documenting why one job’s duties justify an exclusion for applicants with certain job-related convictions versus another position.

Automate the screening process and make it easier to collect applicants’ background check releases through the use of email templates inviting applicants to submit the release in a secure, web-based form that accepts electronic signatures.

Be a good consumer of state/local regulations’ potential conflict with Federal mandates…for ALL locations where you have employees.

It’s hard enough to keep track of all the different categories of employment laws that affect how we do business – employee and labor relations, benefits, leaves of absence, pay practices, employment discrimination, etc. It’s even harder to not only be mindful of Federal guidance and regulations, but also more specific state or local mandates (and whether or not the Federal level preempts the local level regulation in your specific scenario).

This can be a lot to handle if your organization employs people in many different geographic areas, as well. You may need to consider how questions you ask on an application that may be permissible in one area, might cause concern in another state that has different laws imposed. Consult your trusted employment law attorney to determine which regulations may affect your organization in different geographic areas. Then, incorporate web-based technology as a part of your documented hiring process and save time and money on managing and organizing applicant and job listing data across many different locations in a legally sound way.

Has the EEOC’s Guidance on Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions caused a change in your organization’s hiring activities so far? For information about how ExactHire’s hiring technology solutions can assist your organization in being aligned with Federal guidance, please contact ExactHire.