The Importance of Screening Candidates in Today’s Tight Job Market

How do employers hire in today’s overly competitive, fast-paced talent market while thoroughly evaluating and screening candidates?

Employers continue to face challenges due to the ongoing labor shortages and record-high turnover rates. In fact, little has changed since the peak of the Great Resignation late last year. February 2022 saw 11.3 million job openings and 4.4 million resignations according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In a mad rush to secure talent, many organizations have resorted to unconventional hiring practices, including expediting interview processes, forgoing pre-employment screening processes and offering hefty sign-on bonuses.

There’s an interesting parallel occurring in the housing market. With low interest rates and a scarcity of homes for sale in recent months, buyers are waiving contingencies, such as home inspections, and adding escalation clauses to their contracts in hopes of making their offer more attractive to a seller. These extreme measures can result in costly issues in the future, despite new homeowners’ contentment in the short-term.

Hiring in a hurry without thoroughly evaluating candidates and conducting pre-employment screenings can put organizations at risk for negligent hiring that can disrupt a workforce, create liabilities and lead to major problems. The risks, in this case, almost always outweigh the benefits. According to Backgrounds Plus, a professional background screening provider, and Mind Your Business Inc., a provider of pre-employment background and investigative Equal Employment Opportunity services:

  • More than 40% of all resumes contain fraudulent information
  • 60% of requests for college education verification find falsified data
  • 30% of all business failures are caused by employee theft
  • 10% of all background checks have at least one serious red flag
  • Employers have lost more than 78% of all negligent hiring cases

Employers are responsible for providing a safe workplace to the best of their abilities. Making sure to identify any red flags or indications of violence, misconduct, harassment and more before an employee is onboarded is paramount to fulfilling this responsibility. Unfortunately, a resume or job application often doesn’t address these concerns. That’s where background checks can play an important role.

Further, the act of conducting pre-employment screenings reduces an organization’s liability and, of course, harm to its reputation and related parties. We examine below how employers can (and should) thoroughly evaluate and screen candidates.

Utilize interviews appropriately

While a thorough interview process may delay your new employee’s start date, realistically, interviews are the ideal opportunity to meticulously evaluate potential candidates utilizing well-developed and consistent interview practices. Be prepared to investigate and assess candidates’ relevant information about their work history. This isn’t the time to simply chat.

If you do detect potential red flags during an interview, don’t ignore or dismiss them. Ask probing questions or clarify concerns with the candidate, making sure to stay within legal boundaries. When comparing notes with other team members who were part of the candidate’s interview, share these potential concerns. It’s possible they received related information that could put your concerns to rest or confirm your suspicions.

Follow consistent pre-employment policies and procedures

Further, make sure your pre-employment background checks and screenings are comprehensive, consistent, and compliant with federal, state, and local regulations. Develop policies around which checks are performed by position, based on job function and responsibilities, and how to handle potential red flags, including what information could eliminate a candidate from further consideration. Additionally, before conducting a background check, employers must inform candidates of the check and obtain consent from them. Your screening process should target all applicable sources of information, including social media in some cases. However, you must avoid misuse of information that could be seen as discriminatory or biased.

Partner with the right firms to run background reports

Working with a real estate agent who is experienced, familiar with the area and committed to understanding your needs is critically important when buying a home. Similarly, selecting the right vendor for background checks that meet your organization’s needs and align with your policies is also critical. This process is important to your overall recruitment and onboarding strategy, so make sure the pre-employment screening firm you partner with is reputable and uses comprehensive screening techniques. When evaluating potential vendors, you should clearly understand what they screen for and what methods they utilize to obtain information. For example, assess how far back the organization typically goes when checking a candidate’s work history or criminal record. Additionally, know what sources are being utilized and ensure that it is not a single source, which is often incomplete.

Don’t forget about gig workers and contractors

Many companies automatically run new hires through a background check but skip this step when it comes to contractors, freelancers or other gig workers. Due to their temporary position with the organization (and especially when the role needs to be filled immediately), employers may think it unnecessary to screen these candidates.

Contractors, regardless of their tenure with your organization, still represent your company, its culture and its reputation. Freelance employees also often have access to the same company information that full-time staff do, including sensitive or proprietary data. When it comes to certain industries, such as that of Lyft or Uber, physical safety is a concern, too. According to CNN, Uber started monitoring their drivers after 100 reports of abuse were filed. It was then they implemented a background screening process.

Social Media Screening in Action

As an example of effective social media screening, we worked with a client who was considering an applicant for a coaching position. The position was in an academic setting and would regularly be exposed to minors. The applicant’s social media was fairly inactive and non-controversial except for an easily identifiable, public Twitter account under his full name that was following and liking posts by several sexually explicit Twitter accounts. There was no profile photo and only a few tweets, so it could have easily been the profile of someone else with the same name. However, we dug deeper and were able to identify other users that the applicant was connected to that included individuals we identified as close relatives. This enabled the client to forgo this hiring. Hiring this individual would potentially have had grave consequences for the safety of the minors and could have caused severe reputational damage to the client.

While talent continues to remain a competitive piece of the puzzle, don’t overlook the important due diligence of screening candidates. A company’s reputation is a huge part of its success. And the safety of its employees should always be a top priority. As we return from the pandemic with a labor shortage, don’t take “shortcuts” that you will later regret.

Contact us if you have any questions, and we’ll be in touch.

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