Employment Screening - Less black and white, more full-colour

Don't approach screening as a binary proposition

People often refer to pre-employment and background screening as providing a ‘snapshot’ of a potential employee, and to a certain extent that’s true. A person’s work history and the references they provide can certainly give you more information than you might get in a formal interview setting.

But it’s important to remember that a ‘snapshot’ can be just as blurry as that tiny black and white photo from 1956 – and that’s about all you’re going to get if you rely entirely on a list of previous employers and a quick conversation with one of them.

So how can you make sure you’re getting a full-colour picture of the candidate you’re thinking of hiring? Here are our tips for putting together a profile that will help you hire the employee that makes the most sense for your organization.

Make sure you’re getting enough information

Relying on one employment reference or one source of data is never enough to give you a complete understanding of a potential employee’s work and education history, their skills or their approach to their job. Putting together a pre-employment screening picture should include more than one employer, education and credential verification, social media searches and, where applicable, licensing and criminal checks.

Don’t let one piece of the puzzle colour everything else

Once in a while, you (or the screening company you engage) will speak to a former employer who is less than enthusiastic about a candidate. If all the other references, and the background information you’ve collected, is positive, then one person’s negative comments shouldn’t automatically disqualify an otherwise-perfect candidate. By all means, ask more questions – many recruiting and HR professionals will tell you that the way a potential new hire responds to a question about a negative reference will tell you more about that candidate than anything you could ask them in an interview anyway.

Don’t skip the education and credentials

It's estimated that more than 50% of people lie on their resumes, and studies have shown that this most often turns up in the education and credentials section: People say they have a degree they never achieved, or have a certification they never even started. Whether a person actually has a BA in sociology may seem irrelevant to the position for which you’re hiring – but whether that person lied about having a BA definitely tells you something about the way they approach their career.

A little Googling never hurt

Courts have generally held that if you have asked a candidate for references and they know you will be conducting some background screening in the hiring process, it’s perfectly acceptable to go online and Google them for publicly-available information, such as their public Facebook page, Instagram and LinkedIn. Does their LinkedIn profile match what’s on their resume and what they told you in the interview? Do they spend a lot of time publicly venting about their current/previous employers on Facebook? The way a person presents themselves online can help create a fuller picture of the person who’d be coming to your office every day.

Use judgement about criminal checks

A 42-year-old candidate who has a misdemeanor conviction from that time he was 18 and did something foolish shouldn’t automatically be dismissed from consideration if everything else is in order and he’d make a good hire. Before you move on to the second-tier candidate, it’s worth making a call and asking about it – again, the response you get will tell you a lot about the person you’re thinking of hiring.

Step back and look at the big picture

You’ve gotten a report from the screening company, you’ve done your own research, and you’ve spoken to the candidate more than once. Step back from the fine details and think about the picture that’s forming in your mind: Does this person have the right skills and experience for the role? More importantly, do they have the right attitude and cultural fit for your organization? Have your interactions made you think that this is the sort of person you’d be happy to work beside every day – or given you grave concerns?

It’s this big picture snapshot you should act on.