“One Size Fits All” is a Common Background Check Mistake

Alan Kinsey

A pre-employment background check is an important tool that enables employers to identify high risk candidates and avoid hiring mistakes. More than 80% of US employers conduct some form of background check on job candidates. Many states mandate a pre-employment background check for teachers, healthcare workers, daycare workers, and many other positions.  Many industries, such as banking, require or recommend specific background screening elements. While almost everyone agrees that background checks are a good idea, there is often confusion about what should be included in a background check. As a consequence, many employers make a critical mistake by adopting a “one size fits all” approach with their background checks.  

A good background check covers four important areas:

  1. Government or industry requirements
  2. Criminal history search that is comprehensive enough to properly mitigate risk
  3. Qualifications review including work history, education, and professional references
  4. Position specific information including driving history, credit history, and professional licensing

In most organizations a “one size fits all” approach will be inadequate for some positions, while being overkill for others. Instead, employers should review the requirements of their positions and use background check packages that are properly configured to mitigate risk for specific positions. For example, if there is a clear business requirement for a high school diploma, then education should be verified as a part of the background check. If a candidate is being considered because of their stated accomplishments with a prior employer, those accomplishments should be verified with employment verification or a professional reference check.

Background checks involve the collection of public information that is stored in a complex set of repositories, databases, and manual record keeping systems. Given this complexity, the “one size fits all” approach can expose employers to unnecessary risk or waste valuable time and money collecting unusable information.

Alan Kinsey is the Vice President of Inquirehire, a leading provider of integrated hiring solutions for business, government and non-profit organizations. Kinsey will be providing further information on background checks at the 2011 IBA Human Resources Conference on April 19-20 in Ankeny.

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