Reputations Trickle Up: The Role of Background Checkers

US staffing agencies are responsible for more than 3 million employees serving in temporary or contract positions every week. From global manufacturing companies to hyper-local businesses, HR professionals serving a myriad of industries rely on staffing agencies to provide a just-in-time workforce, keep labor costs in check, manage seasonality in their businesses, reduce administrative expenses, and much more. But most of all, they rely on staffing agencies to save them time. Performing the due diligence of screening and qualifying employees is among the most time-consuming tasks they face. But few HR managers would sign up for saving time at the expense of staff quality. Every time they bring someone new on board, their reputations are on the line. And as a trusted resource, so is that of their staffing agencies.

Many staffing agencies now rely on online background checkers to screen employees. This digital solution saves agencies time and money. Who can argue with that? But there are a few pitfalls you should be aware of before selecting and using a background check service.

Compliance is key. The term “background check” is used pretty loosely by the companies that sell them. Some services might be perfectly suitable for social use: trying to find an old friend you’ve lost track of or checking out the latest match proposed by an online dating service, for example. But the best background checkers for professionals follow specific protocols to remain compliant with government regulations. Before hiring a service, make sure it is committed to operating in keeping with FCRA and EEOC standards. Ask about whether they distribute the proper disclosure statements and collect signatures that verify candidates’ acceptance of their practices. Bear in mind that a background check company’s actions on your behalf can be construed as your own actions in litigation. You may also want to limit your consideration of background screening partners to those companies that are accredited by the Professional Background Screening Association.

PREMIUM CONTENT: Introduction to Employee Referral Platforms

Services you can expect. You can expect professionally-credentialed background checkers to search many different public records. They will authenticate a candidate’s identity, educational background, and work history. They’ll check driving, military and criminal and court records. Some will check professional references upon request.

For staffing agencies, the question to ask is what sources do you use to perform your checks. Look for a company that responds with a full array, including those mentioned above. Be aware that checking social media resources is controversial. Some information gleaned from social profiles cannot legally be used to make hiring decisions. Even if that information has no bearing on your decision to hire, you could be accused of using it anyway.

Many background check companies also maintain their own databases. If a company mentions that they use a proprietary source, ask them how often they update it. You want the freshest information available. Most background checkers only check public records going back seven years, which comports with many states’ laws. But candidates move around. Ask whether your background check company performs record searches in all states where the candidate has lived to get the most complete profile on each potential employee that you can.

Be clear on payment terms. Payment structures vary among background check companies. Generally, subscription billing makes sense for agencies that may commission hundreds of checks per year. Bu even when you sign up for a subscription, some companies will limit the number of checks you can request over a particular time period. Going over the limit may result in your being billed on a pay-per-check basis for some checks. That can cause some unwelcome surprises. The last thing anyone needs is more bills to dispute. If speed is important to you—let’s say you get a next-day order for a dozen factory workers and have to add more employees to your roster to meet the demand—check your contract before ordering a rush check. Many background checkers charge a premium for fast turnaround.

Seek employee feedback. Remember, reputations trickle up. A candidate’s experience with your background check service will reflect on your company. Since we’re all in the business of attracting and maintaining the most qualified, reliable employees, choose a background check service that treats candidates as you’d like to be treated. So ask about the process they experienced. And heed any warning signs that come from your inquiries.

MORE: How to onboard employees right

Susan Doktor

Susan Doktor
Susan Doktor is a writer and business strategist who hails from New York City. She writes, guest-, and ghost-blogs on a wide range of topics, including finance, technology and the HR industry. Follow her on Twitter @branddoktor.

Susan Doktor

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