What is Employment Screening and How to Do Employment Screening

Employment screening enables you to verify the skills, experience and qualifications of a candidate to assist you in making your hiring and recruitment decisions. This provides you with all of the available information about a candidate to make the most accurate decision and safeguard your hiring process. Employment screening also helps to protect your company’s reputation and ensure that your financial and people risk is minimised.

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Many employers will conduct pre-employment screenings before they send you a job offer. Potential employers will typically perform a screening sometime during the interview process to assist in their hiring decision. There are a variety of screenings potential employers can use to get a thorough understanding of your background. In this article, we will explain what pre-employment screening is and how you can prepare for it.

What is pre-employment screening?

Also sometimes called a “background check,” a pre-employment screening is a verification of your information and background. Employers can use screenings to determine if you can handle sensitive or confidential information and to assess skills that are relevant to the position.

Depending on the job, employers can conduct one or more of these common pre-employment screens:

  • Social security number (SSN) tracing is used to find all of the names, date of birth and addresses associated with that SSN. This trace makes it possible for employers to find areas to search for additional records.

  • Criminal history screenings check records in various local, state, national, federal and even international databases. Some criminal history screenings may require you to submit your fingerprints. Criminal record checks will often include a combination of records derived from multiple sources. They can be done at county, state, federal, or even international levels. Companies can commonly access this data from just online databases.
  • Using those databases to check criminal records is referred to as screen-scraping. This process can sometimes turn up charges against job applicants that are very old or have been dismissed.
  • The general consensus is that the most effective method of getting an accurate picture of a job candidate is to have real people looking through hard copies of records, in order to ensure that they are getting information about the correct person and the true outcome of all criminal cases.
  • Pre-employment screening services are offered by government agencies such as the FBI and the Department of Transportation to employers who want information about driving or criminal records.
  • It’s possible that checking criminal records will protect a company in any negligent hiring lawsuits. However, there are laws in many states which specify just how information from these criminal records can be used when evaluating job candidates.
  • Criminal background checks will often include the following:
  • FBI Fingerprint Database Search – Submitting fingerprints to the FBI database will not necessarily result in a comprehensive picture of a job candidate’s criminal history. That is because the database depends upon local jurisdictions to provide information regarding arrests and their final dispositions. A great deal of information may be missing. This search should comprise only one small part of any pre-employment screening.
  • National Criminal Record Search (NCRD) – This database is constructed from information in the repositories at the municipal, circuit, district, and superior court levels, plus the FBI, Department of Corrections, U.S. Customs, DEA, U.S. Marshal, Department of Justice and Secret Service. It identifies criminal offenses not only where the job candidate has worked or lived, but from all over the country. The national database allows instant access to hundreds of millions of records, including the National Sex Offender Registry.
  • Federal Criminal Records Search – Bank robbery, embezzlement, interstate drug trafficking are just some examples of the type of federal offenses that won’t show up on state and county level searches because they fall under federal jurisdiction. That is why a search of federal crime records is suggested for a thorough pre-employment screening.
  • Statewide Criminal Records Search – Records of felonies and misdemeanors are usually found in the central repositories of each state. The information is provided by courts, corrections, and law enforcement agencies all over the state. However, the quality of these searches can vary widely from state to state, since each one gets to decide how data is imported and who is allowed access to it. The information is not always accurate, or up to date. Depending on the state, the records may not even cover all levels of its court system.
  • County Criminal Record Search – Local county and municipal records will be available through this search.

  • Public records screenings can search motor vehicle records, driving history, credit history, bankruptcy records, workers’ compensation records, civil records and sometimes medical records.

  • Verifications and credentials screenings check the accuracy of your education or degree received, previous employment, professional certifications or licenses, professional references and military service records. Particularly for entry-level employees, employers like to verify a job applicant’s degree, academic performance or major. The Family Right to Privacy Act requires that schools obtain consent from the former student before they release any type of academic records.
  • These reports will verify the dates students attended the academic institution, which fields were studied, the degree earned, grade point averages, and the date of graduation. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) covers all of the background checks included in an education verification screening.

  • Controlled substance screenings are conducted by a health care provider to ensure your employment complies with company-wide policies on illicit substances.

  • Lie detector or polygraph tests can only be required by companies that provide security services or manufacture or distribute controlled substances. Most private companies are not allowed to use lie detector tests as a form of pre-employment screening. However, certain types of businesses are exempt from this prohibition, such as alarm, guard or armored car services, as well as those who dispense, distribute, or manufacture pharmaceuticals.

  • Pre-employment assessments are tests your potential employer may ask you to take to determine your abilities as they relate to the role.

Drug Testing

Drug testing is probably one of the most common screenings that employers use to ensure that job candidates will be productive employees and as a preventative measure against injuries in the workplace.

Drug tests identify illegal substances potential employees may have ingested or been exposed to. It must be done in strict compliance with laws of the state where the business is located.

Worker’s Compensation Claims History

Screening for worker’s compensation claims that a job applicant has filed in the past is not available in all states. Furthermore, in those states where it is available, it must be conducted in strict compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Credit History Screening

Pre-employment screening of the credit history of job candidates is regulated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Employers are not only required to obtain the consent of all applicants to perform such a search, they must also provide the applicant with access to the results.

Still, many employers consider such a screening to be helpful as an indicator of irresponsible behavior if the search turns up financial problems. On the other hand, it is also considered evidence of trustworthiness and reliability if the applicant has a positive report.

Sex Offender Registry Screening

Employers may conduct searches through registries at both the state and Federal level to find out if job applicants are on sex offender lists. This type of pre-employment screening allows them to avoid endangering their staff or tarnishing their reputation by removing sex offenders from their pool of prospective employees.

Motor Vehicle Records Screening

This information comes from a state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and is usually immediately available. Records of license suspensions, accidents, convictions, violation or any disciplinary actions are included in the results from DMV. Companies whose employees operate motor vehicles in the course of their work, such as trucking, delivery or sales, are most likely to require this type of pre-employment screening.

Employment Verification

Employers verify previous employment listed on resumes and job applications using this type of pre-employment screening. It is also used to check the accuracy of dates of employment, job title, and other related details. However, some of the employers which job candidates list on their resume or application may have policies which limit what type of information they will provide about a former employee.

Another important screening element is to verify that a job applicant is eligible to work in this country. All workers in the United States are required to complete an I-9 Employment Verification Form in order to prove their identity and eligibility.

Supervisor/Reference Interviews

Employers will sometimes want to interview references or former supervisors, in order to evaluate the ability of a candidate to perform the job in question. In these cases, the employers will usually be required to provide written permission from the applicant before anyone will speak with them.

This pre-employment screening will provide information regarding the possibility that a job applicant might prove to be a threat to the economy or national security foreign policy of the United Sates.

A county based search of civil records is commonly used by employers as a guide to a job candidate’s character. This pre-employment screening will reveal lawsuits which are based on the applicant’s failure to fulfill the terms of a contract, it will also reveal all civil lawsuits which have been filed against the potential employee.

A civil records search will also make it easy to see whether a job candidate makes a habit of filing lawsuits. It can be a useful tool for determining whether a potential employee is reliable or not.

Licensing and Professional Certification Verification

Companies will always want to verify that their employees have any licenses that are required for their work. This would include attorneys, medical personnel, engineers, accountants, real estate agents, and more.

The pre-employment screening will reveal whether a license is valid, the expiration date, and whether the applicant has been the subject of any type of disciplinary action.

Military Service Records

Records available on veterans will show the dates served, the type of discharge, and the rank held at time of discharge.

Bankruptcy Records

It’s easy to verify whether a job applicant has filed for bankruptcy. However, employers are prohibited from using that information against the applicant.

Medical Records Verification

Companies are not allowed to check a job candidate’s medical records under any circumstances. They are not even allowed to ask specific questions about a candidate’s medical history.

Applicants may be asked whether they can perform all of the responsibilities of a job. If the answer is yes, an employer has no choice but to accept it as the truth.

One exception is when companies make medical exams a requirement of that job, and all similar ones, so that everyone in those positions are required to undergo an exam. In other words, they can’t require a person who is limping to have a medical exam unless all other applicants are also required to undergo an exam as a requisite of employment.