Four Common Background Check Misconceptions in the Age of COVID-19

Four Common Background Check Misconceptions in the Age of COVID-19

By Tricia O'Connor

There have always been misconceptions about pre-employment background checks. The pandemic has shined a new light on some of these myths as some screening procedures have taken on new importance and organizations have been forced to pivot their programs. 

Let’s examine how the pandemic has put new attention on four of these misconceptions, and what employers should look for in background checks in the age of COVID-19.

1. Online Screening Services are Sufficient for Background Checks

These cheap online companies do nothing but scan public records. It’s essential to the background check process that researchers have access to check criminal records. Some courts have moved to electronic records, but many must be searched in person. Still, many public records are woefully out of date and incomplete and the chance of missing important information is extremely high. You might also receive records for someone else with the same name or miss records because your applicant has an alias.

COVID-19 also caused courthouse closures across the country. If you were using an online company, your entire hiring process may have been halted because of these closures. However, if you’d been working with an accredited agency like EBI, you would have had the full support of our award-winning customer care team to help you navigate this challenge. During the early stages of the pandemic, EBI continually optimized our services for each of our clients to ensure we could get them the information they needed to keep their hiring process intact. 

In the instances where certain courts’ information was temporarily unavailable, we immediately alerted our clients that the search had not been performed. Once that information became available, we notified our client. Through EBI’s technology and partnerships, we did have access to most of the information needed to complete a criminal background check. 

This level of attention and service is not likely to be found an at off-the-shelf screening company.

2. All Essential Information is Already Online

Using Google and social media sites to vet your candidates can land you in some extremely difficult situations. Employers are not allowed to consider certain information like race, gender, religion, or other protected classes when hiring. But this stuff – and lots of other information that can, but shouldn’t, play into earning a job – is almost always readily available through social media.

Because this information is visible, even the most seasoned recruiters and talent acquisition professionals can unwittingly find themselves defending their actions in court.

Why?

You can’t “unsee” what you see, according to Bianca Lager of Social Intelligence.

Lager says a growing number of states have laws regulating employer use of social media information. For example, California, Colorado, and New York have laws protecting employees’ and applicants’ activities during off-duty hours. And employers are restricted from asking for user IDs and passwords.

Curbing DIY social screening has taken on new importance during COVID-19, too. 

Depending on what source you use, social networking sites have a combined estimate of 3.2 – 3.6 billion users. Remote work skyrocketed in 2020, prompted by the disruption of COVID-19. So did employees’ unfiltered access to social media. Combined with other events like social justice protests and the presidential election, social media became increasingly volatile, says Bianca Lager, the President of Social Intelligence, a Santa Barbara-based Consumer Reporting Agency. EBI partners with Social Intelligence to legally screen job applicants’ social media accounts to help protect workplace culture and prevent harassment.

A social media background check should focus solely on workplace relevance and should be conducted by an accredited Consumer Reporting Agency like EBI. 

3. All Background Screening Companies are the Same

Background screening companies can vary as widely as potential job candidates. It is important to look for companies that have proven their dedication to the industry’s best practices.

An accreditation with the Professional Background Screeners Association (PBSA) is essential. These companies are committed to the highest levels of accuracy, dependability, security, and transparency.

COVID-19 has also shown how valuable it is to partner with a screening agency that innovates and responds to challenges on its own. Screening organizations who remained complacent during the pandemic may lack the responsiveness needed to help clients navigate through their own challenges. You want a screening partner who advocates for your business, empathizes with your current situation, and cultivates new business ideas that can propel you forward following the pandemic. 

4. Only Large Firms Need a Screening Process

COVID-19 has changed the hiring landscape. In response, you may need to change how you hire. Applicants are looking for companies that take their health and wellness seriously and make them feel confident about returning to a brick-and-mortar workplace. This includes conducting pre-employment background screening and COVID-19 testing and implementing a health and safety protocol. It’s become a best practice for businesses of all sizes to implement these solutions in a customized fashion.  

One of the best hiring improvements businesses can make during this tumultuous time is to work closely with your human resources department to ensure you have a swift, concise, and accurate recruiting and onboarding process. If you are narrowing hiring to essential positions only or increasing hiring for a specific extended workforce, you may want to re-evaluate the scope of your pre-employment background screening process. For example, while background checks are still necessary to ensure a safe hire, you may not need to perform an MVR check for positions that don’t require driving.

Pre-employment background screening is essential for companies of all sizes. Sometimes smaller firms have more to lose by making a bad hire. Hiring an unfit candidate can cost upwards of $25,000, money that’s tougher for smaller companies to part with. Investing in a quality screening process is wiser than risking the time, money, and potential damages of a bad hire.

Partner with EBI

We’d love to speak with you about background checks, but if you’re not quite ready, start with our two-part series ‘Are You Getting What you Pay For From Your Background Screener?’ This series gives you the knowledge and tools necessary to optimize your screening program and policy and improve the overall quality of your talent acquisition process during COVID-19 and beyond.

As we move forward in a pandemic society, more businesses are also recognizing the importance of investing in employee and guest safety solutions. EBI Workplace Health & Safety is a secure U.S. cloud-based, customizable platform providing modular options for retailers and all organizations to protect their people and their livelihoods. The platform serves as a central data repository and analytics engine for data collected through employee mobile health apps, thermal scanners, and contact tracing systems. These analytics give employers the insights they need to make critical business decisions to keep workplaces open and operational. 

As always, our EBI team is here to answer any questions you may have about background checks or EBI Workplace Health & Safety. 

Workplace Health & Safety

About the Author

Tricia O'Connor

Tricia O'Connor

Writer. Digital marketer. Storyteller. An award-winning writer and editor, Tricia O'Connor is the Marketing Content Manager at EBI. Tricia worked as a broadcast and print journalist for nearly two decades writing and producing programming for high-profile networks like ESPN Radio, History Channel, and Hallmark Channel, as well as contributing editorial work to publications nationwide. Tricia joined the EBI marketing team in 2019 and is responsible for content strategy, development, and engagement. Tricia earned a master's degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and is a proud undergraduate alumna of Wheaton College in Massachusetts.

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