Background Checks “Flash Forward”


In the new television show “Flash Forward” from ABC, everyone gets a brief glimpse into what their lives are like 6 months into the future. So I started thinking about what the future holds for the employment screening landscape. Let’s take a look into that crystal ball together…

Quicker, faster, less expensive criminal records

More states and counties are making more information available in quicker, easier to access formats. This leads to better processes, increased clarity when reviewing old records, and faster turnaround times.

New services are emerging as complementary tools to a client’s screening program. A National Criminal Search is an example of a quality service that can provide additional information alongside the high quality county criminal search.

Amongst county court researchers, new technologies and search methods are taking shape. Hit percentages are increasing, delivering companies even better information to make strong hiring decisions.

Longer, tougher, more expensive criminal records

Wait a minute. Didn’t things just get better, faster and cost less? By and large, that will still be true in the future. But criminal records are best found by searching the county courthouse, and some communities are feeling the economic pinch. Less tax revenue means fewer staff members and the technology upgrades that are needed for a fast, streamlined background check.

How will this impact your background check program? Courts may balance budgets by restricting access and/or charging more money for court documents. Some courts close early, or shut their doors one day a week. Others are furloughing or permanently laying off court clerks.

Now, this is a localized issue. Not every jurisdiction will do this. And not every client will see delays. But for those who do, this is likely why. Hopefully, this trend will abate is things begin to improve.

People looking toward people looking for shortcuts

As the economy treads water, candidates will become more desperate to look good to the shrinking number of hiring managers filling open positions.

Where there are desperate candidates, there are others only too willing to take their money. Fake colleges and universities are sprouting up like weeds. These organizations offer diplomas and degrees for “life skills” which apparently rest solely upon a person’s ability to open their checkbook!

But the only victims here are the companies that do not do quality background checks. EmployeeScreenIQ is an industry leader in identifying and snuffing out diploma mills. New diploma mills pop up every day, but our team works hard and tries to find each and every one of them.

Most worrisome is the “employment mill,” an emerging phenomenon. Companies, for a fee, provide a verification of your “employment history.” It’s nothing but a set of lies. Plain and simple.

People looking away from people looking for jobs

Another scary trend shows no signs of abating. It is taking longer for schools and companies to provide education and employment verifications. As organizations deal with their own budget shortfalls, staff is either reduced or directed toward revenue producing activities. This means moving slower when it comes to verifying the employment history of your candidate. We chronicled this development earlier this year. See How Another Company’s Downsizing Negatively Affects YOUR Hiring Initiatives

Getting information through education and employment verifications remains a common courtesy. EmployeeScreenIQ team members are highly skilled at obtaining it; cajoling those who get no material benefit from cooperating to provide detailed insight in a timely manner. But as people become busier and administrative staffs shrink, providing information becomes even less important to those who hold it.

In another effort to balance budgets, states begin releasing early convicted criminals who have not served their entire sentence. Companies will see early release prisoners submitting applications for employment. At the same time, government agencies such as the EEOC are looking at the link between those denied jobs and the rationale used by employers. Regulatory officials are increasing their focus on its applicability and relevancy when making hiring decisions.

Some companies strengthened their screening strategy. Some companies…

A number of companies reviewed their screening program to ensure it was consistent and compliant. They evaluated whether it took advantage of new screening tools that were not formerly available. They assembled the appropriate stakeholders, created a structure and installed a modern, relevant and value driven screening program. By leveraging their screening partner’s expertise, they protected their organization.

Others stood still. Hoped the program that was selected in 2005 remained the best program for 2010. They didn’t engage their screening provider or passed on recommended changes. Some forgot the rationale behind a particular service, and re-ordered it each time in the future because it was ordered each time in the past.

Obviously, EmployeeScreenIQ prefers the former approach. So as we head back to the present, how do we together create something that lives on into the future?

Crafting a stronger, better future

A background check program is like a race car engine. Each piece should be periodically taken apart, cleaned, and reinstalled. New services should be evaluated, old services reconsidered.

The passage of time can be an enemy for clients whose program does not evolve, while the future affords the greatest opportunity to advance, strengthen and prosper. EmployeeScreenIQ truly enjoys working with clients on this process. But as excited as we get when you ask us to consult on the state of your screening program, we don’t know your business as well as you know your business. And we might not know when that engine needs a tune up.

If you’re hiring less and spending fewer total dollars, maybe design the program you always wanted, rather than the one you could afford when your total outflow was higher. Conversely, if we heard your future strategic goals, we might strongly recommend eliminating services you ordered for years. So it doesn’t always mean spending more. But it does mean spending smarter.

We’re entering a challenging time. Not because quality will plummet or costs will dramatically rise, but because there are things in flux whose outcome can’t be predicted. When will courts stop closing early on Tuesdays and Thursdays? Or re-hire the staff they furloughed? But on the flip side, which courthouses will increase the access they provide? Who will leverage technology to make more information available faster? Which new diploma mill will we sniff out tomorrow? It’s too bad we can’t “Flash Forward” in real life.

Kevin Bachman is Vice President of Quality Service for Cleveland-based EmployeeScreenIQ, a best practices provider of pre-employment screening services throughout the U.S. and worldwide. Kevin can be reached at (800) 235-3954 ext. 450 or by email at