Survey Says: How Applicants Feel about Background Checks

ThinkstockPhotos-460053679Millions of organizations worldwide recognize that background checks, when done consistently and efficiently, can improve safety and security and lead to higher quality hires, longer employee retention and decreased legal risk. The use of background checks has increased notably since Sept. 11, 2001, and the costs have diminished by nearly one-fourth over the past 25 years as technology and the Internet have advanced.

So we know that the practice of screening is popular with compliance officers, legal counsel and the C-suite. But what about regular consumers? How do the people who are subject to these reviews of their backgrounds feel about the process? Do they view it as important, intrusive, a necessary evil or even a waste of time? First Advantage recently commissioned an international consumer survey to find out.

The poll was taken by over 2,300 consumers in the US, UK and the Asia Pacific (APAC) region in 2015. The term “consumers” here should be considered interchangeable with “job applicants” or “employees.”

The first question simply asked whether organizations should run background checks on their job candidates. The results were quite clear: By a wide margin, people agree that candidates should be screened. Nearly 90% of US respondents agreed, along with 86% in the UK and 75% in Asia Pacific.

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The survey also asked people whether they have direct experience with background checks. In the United States, 82% of respondents affirmed that they had undergone a background check as a condition of employment at least once. Perhaps that is not too surprising since the United States is considered a “mature” market in terms of background screening practices. Interestingly enough, that number drops to 61% in the UK, and 49% in APAC.

Respondents were also asked to rank their levels of apprehension surrounding six main aspects of the job search process, and the results were more or less consistent among world regions. The job interview topped the list, followed by the first day on the job, negotiating a salary and updating a resume. Background checks scored fifth on the list with drug testing registering as the least apprehensive aspect for respondents. This may signal that consumers realize that the presence of a criminal offense or other discrepancy does not necessarily preclude employment in today’s age. In the US, for example, many local or state-level “ban-the-box” laws have been passed over the past ten years prohibiting employers from asking applicants if they have criminal records, at least until they have an opportunity for an in-person interview. In the UK, the non-profit organization called Business in the Community has similarly launched a ban-the-box awareness campaign urging employers to drop the criminal conviction tick box on applications for unregulated positions.

While the background screening process isn’t keeping many people up at night, a certain percentage does admit to embellishing the truth. When asked whether they have knowingly stretched the truth on a resume or during a job interview, 23% admitted that they had. Of course, that percentage does not include those who are afraid to admit that they’ve not been entirely honest, or those who make innocent mistakes. But even with nearly one in four people confirming that they are not always truthful when trying to get a job, that should be enough to give placement professionals and hiring managers something to think about.

When managed properly, background screenings offer many benefits. It can yield more informed, more efficient and all-around smarter people decisions while at the same time mitigating legal risk. This latest survey data suggests to staffing organizations and their clients that they should be comfortable knowing consumers also have an expectation that background screens will be part of the hiring process.

The results and implications of the global survey will be further explored in a free webinar, “Public Pulse on Background Checks,” on Aug. 18. To register, click here.

MORE: Decisions in pre-employment screening


Theresa Preg

Theresa Preg
Theresa Preg, senior director of product management at First Advantage, is a widely respected criminal records expert with more than 20 years of background screening experience. She can be reached at Theresa.Preg (at) fadv (dot) com.

Theresa Preg

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