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Useful background screening tips for small businesses

Dec 27, 2012 Quinn Thomas

When it comes to best hiring practices, small businesses should look beyond a resume and try to find the best fit according to skills, personality and the intangibles that might signal an ideal employee. Candidates who successfully pass the application and interview processes might then be subject to a background screening for employment. Managers may examine consumer credit reports, court records, arrest histories and public information. Some employers may subject candidates to pre-hiring drug and alcohol screening. When conducting background screening, it's important to consider issues of regulatory compliance and best practices according to industry.

Small businesses should first identify the highest areas of concern when it comes to eliminating candidates due to red flags raised by reports. A bank might eliminate a potential teller if the individual had been found guilty of theft. An industrial production plant might flag candidates that have drug charges on their record. It is important to determine the parameters of how background screening data will be used in order to clearly and fairly sort candidates.

When it comes to setting a screening policy, hiring personnel should have a clear sense of what results might disqualify candidates from certain positions. The use of consumer credit reports can determine reliability and management skills, but best practices wouldn't involve using these reports to determine salary. Criminal records should be examined, except where barred, alongside education and traffic reports. It is important to be thorough and check outside state jurisdictions. Alternative credit data may also be obtainable that might reflect short term loans and other financial engagements. This data can be triangulated to paint a clearer picture of the candidate.

City, state and federal regulations exist that limit the usage of information from background checks. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) protects consumers' rights to the use of private financial information. There are reported cases of incorrect information that may exist on individual's criminal history, so the reliability of data is crucial. Some states, like California, have particular regulations as to uses, and cities like Newark, New Jersey have severely limited employers' ability to conduct criminal checks.

Further, changing laws regarding the medical and recreational use of marijuana in states like Colorado, Washington and Massachusetts should make firms re-evaluate drug and alcohol screening procedures, considering the dangers of substance usage in various working conditions like truck drivers and machine operators. Staying abreast of changing legal definitions while establishing policies based around compliance and safety will help hiring managers know that each job offer is right.