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How does a background check play into the hiring process?

“I got the job” is usually one of the big moments that stand out in a candidate’s mind. However, as big as that moment may be for a candidate and HR, we know it takes a lot of time and labor to hire the perfect fit for the organization and position. At times, the hiring process can feel like a limitless number of tasks, due diligence, emails, and paperwork. So where does the background check fit into this picture?

The hiring process can vary based on the employer, their internal processes, and the sensitive nature of the position. After screening of applications/resumes and initial telephone screens, usually a few in-person/web-based interviews are the next step in the process. Many employers process some level of a “background check” on candidates as part of the hiring process, but this is usually done post-selection, interview(s), and tentative offer. Several states have specific laws regarding when the background check can be initiated, ie: post-offer, post-interview, etc. The tentative offer will usually be contingent on the employer’s defined parameters and policy. Federal or state governments may impose additional requirements in certain sectors, as well. These parameters could include both internal and outsourced screening, including reference checks, education, or employment verifications, physical, drug test, and some type of criminal background check, along with what could be many other employer-based variables. Once these tasks and screening are complete, hire, orientation, and training dates are usually set.

From the beginning to the end of the process it can be extremely time-consuming, for both the employer and employee. Applicants should be as thorough as possible when providing information to either their potential employer or the screening company. Again, based on the background check level being processed it can take some time. Applicants should review their information and provide updated, accurate and thorough data. This small task will speed up the process considerably. An example, applicants notifying references and verifying their current number and email address. This can do two things, prepare the reference for an unexpected third-party contact, and make sure the supplied information is current. Candidates supplying a full middle name to help weed out possible criminal records, is again another example of why thorough information is key.

Employers should communicate the process and expectations to the applicant. Lack of communication causes delays and confusion. Be sure your candidates know what to expect, a step-by-step guide or general email can be extremely helpful. Be sure to educate yourself on the process, even if your organization outsources portions of your on-boarding process. General overall knowledge can allow for a greater understanding of the process and be cognizant of any areas that may need improvement. Finally, be sure to let the applicant know if there is an issue, how it can be fixed or exactly what they can do to address the problem. If you called a former employer and received a bad reference, do not leave the candidate guessing that they failed another part of the process. HR’s indifferent response or lack thereof can leave a bad view of your organization, or your processes with the candidate.


Jolene Johnston Vice President/Chief Operating Officer

Note: This article is intended to provide general information and should be not be interpreted as legal advice.

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