5 Potential Security Gaps in the Screening Process

Is your company's employee background check process thorough and secure? Here are five potential gaps to look for as you review your policies.

If your company has a background check policy in place for employees, congratulations: you are already on your way to doing your due diligence in hiring, reducing your liability, and protecting the safety of your customers and workers. However, don't go getting comfortable or complacent just because you run background checks on your employees when you hire them. Just because your company has a background check policy in place doesn't mean it's perfect. Periodically reviewing your policy and looking for gaps or holes in security is a good idea to protect your business from potential risks. Here are five common gaps to consider.

1. You are only running criminal history checks

Criminal history is a big part of what most pre-employment background checks are looking for but it is not the extent of what they are trying to uncover. Yes, you want to know if a person you are thinking about hiring has a history of violent crimes or harassment. However, you also want to know if your top candidates are who they say they are on their resumes. As such, going through the resume of the person you are hoping to hire and verifying key information—their previous job titles, dates, and responsibilities; their college degree; any professional certifications they say they have—is just as vital as taking a look at their criminal record.

Other types of background checks might also be necessary depending on the job in question. For example, if you are hiring someone to drive a delivery truck, you need to look at that person's driving record. If you are filling a position that involves the handling of money and finances, you might consider running a credit history check.

2. You are only focusing on one geographical area

One of the most common gaps in employee screening processes occurs when employers don't realize the importance of covering a broad geographical area with their criminal history checks. There is a major misconception that all criminal background checks are run through one giant database which keeps track of every crime ever committed in the United States. No such database exists. Other common misconceptions are that state background checks are better than county background checks and that multi-jurisdictional (or "national") background checks are better than state background checks.

In actuality, most criminal records are filed at the county level. County courthouses will report to state repositories but they aren't always timely or vigilant about the process. As a result, your best bet for finding an applicant's full criminal history is to run county checks in the areas in which that person lives or has lived in recent years. It can even be worth running an address check, finding the counties where an applicant resided, and ordering county checks from those courthouses. You can also widen the net with state and multi-jurisdictional checks in case the applicant committed crimes outside of those home territories.

3. You are only running background checks on full-time employees

These days, almost all companies run background checks on their full-time employees. If you aren't extending your background check policy to include part-timers, contractors, temps, and other workers then you might want to consider an update. It's true that these individuals do not have as much contact with customers, clients, or partners as your full-time employees do. It's probably also true that none of them have access to your company's finances, and some of them might not even have access to your facilities.

However, part-time employees, freelancers, temps, and substitutes are still representatives of your brand as long as they are working for you. If someone who works for you hurts a customer or sexually assaults one of your employees, it ultimately won't matter whether or not the person was a full-time employee. Such incidents can lead to lawsuits and cause PR nightmares that damage companies. It's best to consider background checks for part-time employees and vendors as part of your due diligence.

4. You never run background checks on existing employees

Criminal history checks provide a glimpse into a person's past but only really provide a snapshot taken at one particular moment in time. Just because a person had no red flag criminal activity on his or her record when you hired them doesn't mean that they will stay clean forever. With this realization in mind, it's important to institute an ongoing background check policy at your business. Perhaps you have employees go through the background check process every three to five years. Maybe you have a random background screening policy in place. In the latter system, current employees might be expected to disclose any new convictions with the possibility of a random background check helping to keep them honest. Either way, remember that it's important to screen your existing employees every once in a while.

5. Your policy isn't consistent or well documented

Whatever your background check policy is, it needs to remain constant and be appropriately documented. You need to have a process that every new employee goes through and you need to make clear to existing employees how ongoing background checks are going to work. Meticulously planning out your company background check policy is important for several reasons. For one thing, when everyone is going through the same checks, you avoid accusations of discrimination or favoritism, which can be dangerous for any business. For another, when your policy is well documented, it keeps you well-organized during the hiring process. You know when in the process you are going to run background checks, when you need to get written permission from your candidates to do so, and which types of checks you are going to run. Lastly, a consistent and documented background check policy is easy to check against guidelines from the FCRA and EEOC to make sure you aren't overstepping any lines.

Conclusion

Don't let a gap in your background check process impair the security of your business or open the door to lawsuits or negative press. Instead, evaluate your background check policies today using the common oversights above to grade the process that you already have in place. If your policy exhibits one or more of these flaws, consider sitting down with the company attorney to fix it. In the long run, you will be glad you took the time to do so.

Michael Klazema has been developing products for pre-employment screening and improving online customer experiences in the background screening industry since 2009. He is the lead author and editor for Backgroundchecks.com. He lives in Dallas, TX with his family and enjoys the rich culinary histories of various old and new world countries. 

             Michael Klazema

             Michael Klazema