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5 min read

6 Common Background Check Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

common background check mistakes

The very thought of background check mistakes sends a chill down most HR managers’ spines. An employee screening error could have major consequences, from adverse action to the loss of a promising hire.

Unfortunately, you can’t protect yourself by cutting employment background checks altogether. The wrong hire can make your business vulnerable to theft, wasted time, and thousands of dollars in turnover costs.

Background checks are non-negotiable. Which means you need to be cautious about the way you conduct them.

Fortunately, most background check mistakes are super easy to avoid. Here are some of the most common missteps in employee screening procedures.


Mistake #1: You Don’t Have a Consistent Screening Policy

Many common background check mistakes come down to one major error:

You made a choice that could be construed as discrimination. In many cases, this is simply a matter of inconsistent practices.

Maybe you ran a credit check for one accounting candidate but not another. Perhaps you conducted a comprehensive background check for one prospect while settling for a quick criminal report on someone else.

It doesn’t matter how logical your own reasoning is. It always looks bad when you hold different applicants to different standards.

The Fix: Set a standard and stick to it.

Determine what information is absolutely necessary to know about an applicant in a specific position. Criminal background? Credit score? Culture fit?

Then, set an official plan for screening every single applicant the exact same way. You can establish different procedures for different positions. But if two potential employees are applying for the same job, you’d better make sure they’re being evaluated according to the same criteria.


Mistake #2: You Don’t Give Applicants a Chance to Correct Background Check Mistakes

When you’re eager to make a hiring decision, it’s easy to look at a background check report like it answers a yes-or-no question.

Are there any blemishes on the applicant’s record? If yes, they’re out. If no, they’re still in.

The problem is that pre-employment background checks cannot tell the whole story. An excellent hire might happen to have a rough patch in their history. Or a candidate could have an explanation that makes their criminal record look a little less shocking.

In fact, this is one reason why FCRA requirements dictate that you must notify applicants about the results of their background checks. Candidates deserve to know what you know. And you might both benefit when they have an opportunity to explain themselves.

The Fix: Give candidates a chance to respond to their screening results.

It’s always a great idea to ask otherwise promising applicants if they can explain a blemish on their record. Of course, this generates more work for your HR manager. In fact, failure to ask questions is probably such a common mistake because follow-up takes time.

Smart screening services can help relieve this burden.

As an example, SwiftHire mobile background checks notify applicants when their background check is complete. The candidate can access the report right from their mobile device. If they see any background check mistakes, they can direct questions to us. They only reach out to you when they’re ready to explain their results.


Mistake #3: You Failed to Get Permission

You must get written permission before conducting a background check. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires it.

This might seem too obvious to list among common background check mistakes, but trust us: it happens.

You could have sworn you got the signature, but when you look back, it’s not there. You thought you had the right compliance paperwork for the candidate, but you didn’t realize they lived in another county. You know the permission form is here somewhere, but it’s definitely not in the file.

You get the idea. Every HR department does their best to be thorough, but . . . well . . . stuff happens.

The Fix: Use intelligent screening software to dodge background check mistakes.

The chaos of paperwork is your HR manager’s worst enemy. But technology makes the hiring process smoother and simpler.

Once again, SwiftHire is a great example of this. Our mobile background check technology allows applicants to answer all compliance questions right from their mobile device. We use artificial intelligence to confirm their residence and generate the appropriate forms. And the screening process cannot begin until your prospective employee gives written consent.


Mistake #4: You’re Looking at the Wrong Records

Some employers are so eager to protect their business that they run every imaginable background check. It seems reasonable at first glance.

But imagine you get pulled over for speeding and the officer asks for your license, registration, college transcript, employment record, and three character references.

You’d probably feel a little defensive. You might also feel it was an invasion of privacy. Most of those documents are literally none of the officer’s business.

A graphic designer is likely to feel the same way if you ask to see a credit report and driving record. It’s like prying into a personal history that has no bearing on the candidate’s ability to serve your company.

The Fix:  Screen for information relevant to the position . . . no more, no less.

Step back and think objectively about what you really need to know about a candidate in order to trust them with your company.

You may think the connection between poor credit and a lack of personal responsibility is undeniable. It’s not . . . not necessarily. People are complicated. They’ve dealt with obstacles you know nothing about.

More importantly, when a stellar candidate is asked to sign off on several irrelevant reports, they trust you less. They see you as an employer who will always be peering over their shoulder and breathing down their neck.

On the flip side, you do yourself a disservice by failing to screen for culture fit. A lot of employers get locked in the mindset of searching for legal and financial failings. They don’t bother to ask whether a candidate’s character and work history show alignment with your company’s values and mission.

Always consider screening for culture fit.


Mistake #5: Not Establishing a Mobile Background Check Procedure

As any HR manager knows, background checks have a way of dragging down the entire hiring process.

First, the candidate has to print, fill out, sign, scan, and email the necessary forms. This is hardly ever an instantaneous process. Your applicant could be at their current place of business when the forms come in, and they have to put it off for later. Or they may not have immediate access to the necessary equipment.

Then, eager candidates get anxious while they wait for confirmation that the check is complete. They call your HR department to ask the status. When the report comes in, you have to share records with the applicant. You may have to field any claims that the report is incorrect.

And if this all wasn’t tedious enough, you now have to navigate these issues in the Work From Home era.

The hiring process lags. Meanwhile, your best candidates get swept up by another company using advanced screening software.

The Fix: Using a mobile screening solution like SwiftHire.

If your HR department is not keeping up with advancements in technology, they are going to fall behind. The good news is that industry leaders like AccuSourceHR can provide screening solutions that are easy to learn. And mobile background checks are essential in the current climate. A mobile screening service like SwiftHire allows prospective hires to answer compliance questions immediately, right from their mobile device. They sign off on the screening and receive updates regarding the status of their background check.

Once a report has been generated, the applicant has access to their results. You don’t have to play the middleman if there are any background check mistakes.

The entire process is lightning fast, FCRA compliant, remote, and safe.


Mistake #6: You Conducted Social Media Research Personally

Of course social media would be on the list of common background check mistakes. Is there any aspect of modern professionalism that social media hasn’t disrupted? Understandably, many employers turn to social media as a means of screening for culture fit. It’s logical, but it’s also problematic. Why?

Because social media includes a lot of details you’re not looking for . . . things you could never legally ask in an interview. You might learn an applicant’s age, religion, sexual orientation, or political leanings. You could find out whether they have kids or if they’ve had any recent health issues.

Now, it would be extremely difficult for anyone to prove you discriminated against them based on this knowledge. But as a general rule, it’s best to avoid learning this information while you’re in the process of making hiring decisions.


The Fix: Use a professional employee background check service for culture fit screenings.

An employee screening service can take an objective look at the character of a prospective hire. They can provide information that allows you to make intelligent human capital decisions, while withholding details that might cause unconscious bias.

Plus, a professional background screening company is probably better skilled when it comes to human capital due diligence. After all, it’s what they do day in and day out. They know what to look for, where to find it, and how to analyze the data.

Leave social media screening and other culture fit research to the professionals.

AccuSourceHR is a top provider for comprehensive employee screening. We provide everything you need to avoid background check mistakes, from smart technology to personalized attention.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you grow your business in confidence, reach out for a demo.

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