Background Screening: Not So Fast

data point tuesday_500

Well, not so fast, my friend, as Lee Corso likes to say. A new survey results report from EmployeeScreenIQ, Employment Screening Practices & Trends: Not so fast, my friend (Lee Corso)The Era of Heightened Care and Diligence, brings up some important issues and is interesting on several fronts.

First, from a regulatory perspective, it would seem that employers aren’t paying a lot of attention to the relatively new EEOC guidance on criminal background checks that was released in April 2012.  According to the survey, of the almost 70% of respondents who said that their organizations have reviewed the EEOC guidance, only a little more than half of them have not made changes to their screening policies as a result. More interesting, though, is the 32% of respondents who either weren’t familiar with or haven’t reviewed the guidance. Huh.

Second, more than half the respondents report that only 15% or less of job candidates distort their resumes to the extent that they aren’t hired. This is surprising given the perception that distorting resume claims is the best way to be disqualified from employment opportunities. Surprisingly, these survey results may reflect that employers see resume distortion as a minor factor in the screening process. Huh.

EmployeeScreenIQ Resume Distortion Impact

Third, and most interesting to me, is the impact of the legal uncertainty for using social media as a source of background screening information. This uncertainty appears to have scared the you-know-what out of employers. Huh.

Actually, I’m not sure I believe the data here. Or rather, the survey questions may not have been posed to the right people.

EmployeeScreenIQ Social Networking Sites

Really? Only 36% of employers always or sometimes check social networking sites for background information? Huh. Here’s what I think is happening. Those corporate folks responsible for filling out surveys like this – in the recruiting function – know the legal quicksand that is forming around the use of social media for employment screening and are clear that their formal guidelines restrict the use of Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, blogs, etc. in this way. This doesn’t mean that hiring managers aren’t doing it anyway. In fact, I think it’s a fair bet that although many employers are specific in excluding social networking sites for candidate background screening, as reported in this report, hiring managers do it anyway. All. The. Time.

That’s why the next survey question’s answers seem highly suspect to me.

EmployeeScreenIQ Why Not Social

Don’t have time? Right.  Not relevant? Please.

I guarantee that hiring managers make the time because they think checking out “social” behavior is extremely relevant.

This report brings up some great questions for recruiters and hiring managers and shows the need, I think, for greater communication between these two groups. Staying on top of EEOC guidance is, of course, a critical part of HR’s regulatory and risk mitigation obligations. Evaluating the impact of resume distortion is part of the recruiters’ responsibility. And staying current on the evolving legal decisions in the employment/social media space is a critical new high impact area of contribution for the HR and recruiting functions.

One might not think that the arcane world of background screening would present such an interesting opportunity for HR pros. Think again.

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5 Comments

Filed under Background checks, Candidate Experience, China Gorman, Connecting Dots, Data Point Tuesday, EEOC, EmployeeScreenIQ, Employment Screening, HR Credibility, Talent Acquisition

5 responses to “Background Screening: Not So Fast

  1. Pingback: Report: Majority of Companies Ignoring EEOC on Background Checks - Construction Recruiters | Construction Recruiters

  2. Pingback: Another Reminder Why HR’s Priorities Need to Focus on Business Value

  3. Pingback: HR Priorities and Business Value |

  4. Part of what you are pointing out is that surveys are not credible unless they are designed properly. This survey was of “992 companies across a broad range of industries”. It turns out that the actual range is important. The United States is a huge market with over 7 Million firms. Whether or not the survey represents a random sampling of those firms actually matters.

    (Hint: it’s not very likely that this is a random representative sample of employers. That means that the survey’s conclusions are meaningless anecdotes without statistical validity. This would be a good time to notice how vulnerable one is without rudimentary statistical literacy).

    The widely published BS about dishonesty on Resumes usually boils down to the fact that a candidate tried to simplify a complex situation and use language that the external world can understand. Resume consultants routinely advise that you put your experience into the language of the job description. This is most likely not the language of your company. Applicants have to solve that problem in order to get seen.

    In our universe (professional HR consultants), the EEOC is a big deal. It is not a big enough deal to be everywhere all the time or even many places a lot of the time. It is a tiny operation that doesn’t really matter to most employers. The odds of an having an audit are significantly lower than having a tax audit. Lack understanding of new regulations isn’t surprising. Most people only consult their employment attorney at times of crisis.

    Finally, those of us in the heart of the social media bubble get an inflated view of the importance of the phenomenon. People who actually work all the time don’t really have a lot of time for Social Media. Nor do their bosses and potential bosses. My guess is that checking social media for background purposes rarely produces something interesting or actionable.

  5. Seems to me its the [few] finalists among the [many] candidates who will get scrutinized via social media. Need a better survey than what you are showing there to examine the truth of that.

    No real problem unless firms fail to train/’discuss’ what is and isn’t job-related with hiring managers to minimize risk of poor decisions (and what should be obvious compliance problems) like noting that the obvious top candidate is receiving congratulations from here Facebook friends on her recent pregnancy and finding she can’t get the hiring manager or recruiter to call her back with the offer she was promised.

    What might be worth discussing elsewhere is the ability of the finalists to scrutinize the social media details of the hiring manager and his/her team that the candidate would be working with. For some companies, this could mean an increase in last minute turn downs. Background checks go both ways. Even before applying it seems a service for prospective candidates that identifies (whether they want to or not) the job’s hiring manager and team mates and assesses their ‘social behavior’ to infer their professional behavior would be worth a few of my dollars if I were choosing a new job. Just sayin’

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