Background checks or simply referred to as BGC, are one of the few comprehensive tools that are available to employers to assess the quality of job applicants, along with the accuracy and authenticity of the information, records, and references they’ve provided. There is often the thin red line between hiring a candidate who will prove to be a tremendous asset to the organisation, and on-boarding an applicant who is incompetent, if not a fraud. With up to 50% of all job applicants admitting to lying on their resumes, and the numerous instances of employees using their positions of power to commit crimes, background verification is a necessary precaution to safeguard the interests, finances, and reputation of the recruiter.
One would assume that given the numerous repercussions of hiring a flawed candidate, background checks would be treated with the utmost urgency and care they deserve; unfortunately, in many places, that’s simply not the case. As a nuanced undertaking, they are subject to numerous mistakes and procedural errors at several different levels of the recruitment process if not handled professionally. This, in turn, jeopardizes the authenticity of the information gathered, and the integrity of the investigation itself. Here are just some parts of the background screening process where recruiters are likely to make mistakes:
Mistakes as seemingly innocent as a spelling error or incorrect address, provided by an employee can cause innumerable issues for the company in the long run, for example in an instance when the employee is absconding. This is why it is important for those conducting the background check to remain constantly diligent because even the slightest details can have enormous implications for the company in a worst-case scenario.
As important as a candidate’s educational qualifications are, verifying their credentials with their alma mater is a time-consuming process given the bureaucratic functioning of these organisations. In instances where the screening is being held up for a considerable period by the applicant’s supposed university, many HR departments may mistakenly choose to overlook this crucial check and take their chances. This can result in a company hiring an unqualified candidate for the job.
Criminal Records and Character References
Court record checks and personal references are necessary but often taken with a pinch of salt owing to the fact that human beings make mistakes, and can change with time. However, in cases of past sexual assault, violent behavior, or theft, the value of these potential employees needs to be properly evaluated, if not immediately be considered as grounds for elimination.
A person’s credit history is an excellent way of determining whether or not they’re likely to commit fraud, i.e. the lower the score, the greater the risk. They are one of the few metrics by which an employer can accurately determine a candidate’s fiscal responsibility and trustworthiness based on verifiable numerical parameters. Unfortunately, many recruiters do not give credit scores the weightage they deserve, which results in serious problems for the organisation.
Candidates who are seemingly docile in real life may hold reprehensible and extreme views online, and post hateful messages on social media. These nuances in human behavior cannot be picked up by a simple personal interview, and therefore recruiters must make sure to properly screen a potential employee’s social media pages. While this practice is slowly being accepted as an industry standard because it is comparatively easy and not time-consuming, it is yet to be fully adopted.
Human Resource Department Mandates
Getting HR departments to conduct background checks themselves is a conflict of interest because the primary mandate of these departments is to fill in company vacancies in a timely manner while screening candidates is only a secondary function. This conflict of interest might cause them to be biased in favor of the candidate and overlook evident ‘red flags’ to meet their quotas.
Lack of Established BGC Procedures
Many companies that conduct their own background checks have yet to establish proper procedures by which the process must be conducted, and the factors used to evaluate negative information. As a result, the parameters by which these screenings are conducted depend mostly on the competence of the team conducting them, which leaves the door open to errors.
While to err is human, establishing well defined BGC procedures, and hiring specialist agencies, rather than Human Resource departments to conduct them, is effective ways to eliminate some of the more critical mistakes of the screening process as a whole. Companies must also implement ‘zero tolerance’ policies if a current employee is believed to have committed any type of fraud during the hiring process, they should be investigated and have their employment terminated if there’s substantial evidence to that effect. Establishing an industry reputation as a diligent recruiter will greatly reduce the number of fraudulent and misleading applications that the company will receive.