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Brrrrr it’s cold . . . and snowy . . . and icy!!!! No, this isn’t my way of forcing uncomfortable chitchat while we wait for a conference call to start. I actually have a point here.

The Winter of 2014 is wreaking havoc on employment background checks. More specifically, the winter weather has caused more courts to close in more jurisdictions across the country than I ever remember. And when the courts close, that delays criminal background checks. It seems like everyday I am receiving notices from multiple courts indicating that they are closed due to weather. Just within the last couple weeks, we were notified that all courts in the Kansas City area were closed as well as throughout the state of Missouri, Kansas, Connecticut, Indiana, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee (parts of), Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, and Kentucky.

Even those in the Southeast portion of the country aren’t immune to this winter’s inclement weather. Last week, courts throughout the state of Alabama were closed due to winter storms and though I haven’t yet received any notifications today, I’d be shocked if the courts are open in North Carolina and Georgia.

Other Than Building A Snowman, What Can You Do?

Unfortunately, the short answer to this question is all that you can do is wait.

Twiddling your thumbs isn’t for you?  Here are a few words of advice.

  • If you are requesting employment background checks in any of the affected areas, it is important to be prepared for how you might handle these delays. Do you need to postpone start dates? Should you be reaching out to the candidate so that they don’t feel like they are twisting in the wind? Is the start date so important that you might be willing to allow them to begin working while the background check is still processing? (For the record, I really don’t like this option).
  • The good news is that most of these courts only close for a day or two at most, so hopefully that won’t affect a candidate’s start date. However, when delays do occur, it is important not to deviate from your company’s safety and security policies. Any good background screening company will keep you informed about these delays so that you can plan accordingly.
  • Further, just because your criminal background check is delayed shouldn’t mean that the other elements of your background check will be. Things like Motor Vehicle Records, Credit Reports, National Criminal Database checks, Employment and Education Verifications should still proceed as usual. It is okay to review these results, just don’t make your final hiring decision until the all of the information (including the criminal background check) is complete.



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We’re getting ready to close out our 5th Annual Employment Background Screening Trends Survey and I wanted to make one last appeal to share your insights on some of the most talked-about issues shaping hiring practices and the background screening industry. It is important for all of us to show how we, as employers are using background checks in a responsible fashion and this survey is a great way for you to help the cause. Last year, nearly 1,000 HR pros just like you (and perhaps including you) responded to our survey. USA Today even featured the results! Don’t miss the opportunity to be heard and help make this our biggest research effort yet.

The survey will take just a few minutes of your time and your feedback will help inform your professional peers. You will also receive a free executive summary of the results for your participation and be entered to win one of two $250 American Express gift cards!

And if that’s not enough to convince you, watch the ugly guy in the video above.



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Let me officially be the last person to wish you a Happy New Year! I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions.  Why should you wait until January 1st to do something you should have been doing when you recognized a problem? Case in point, my least favorite New Year’s resolution is for those that vow to work out more. From February 15th through December 31st, there’s never a problem waiting for equipment at my gym. However, show up during the first 45 days of the year and a 45 minute workout turns into an hour and a half snore-fest. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for getting into shape, but 45 days does not make a year.

All that said, I have a challenge for you (since I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions:)). I strongly encourage all human resources professionals resolve to evaluate your company’s employment background screening program from top to bottom in 2014.  The sooner, the better. And lest you think this is a sales pitch, it most definitely is not.  What I am talking about is evaluation of your processes.

Top 10 Items to Consider When Evaluating Your Employment Background Screening Program

  • When was the last time you evaluated your background screening policies and procedures?
  • Are all incoming employees subject to an employment background check?
  • Is the background screening criteria used relevant to the position you are hiring for?
  • Have you clearly defined parameters for what information constitutes a non-hirable offense by position?
  • Are you affected by the myriad “Ban the Box” Laws throughout the country which prohibit you from asking if the candidate has been convicted of a crime on the job application?
  • If so, have you worked that question into a different part of the hiring process?
  • Are you using the proper disclosure forms required by state and federal laws?
  • Are you sure that you are following proper Adverse Action procedures when you deny employment based on the outcome of an employment background check?
  • When was the last time you audited your background screening company for accuracy and compliance?
  • Have you developed the proper procedures to comply with the EEOC requirement for individualized assessment?

Why Should You Care?

Not more than a month went by in 2013 when we didn’t see a marquee press release announcing a multi-million dollar suit being filed against an employer for allegations of violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act in conjunction with their employment background screening practices or discrimination in hiring practices for the same.

Whether these companies being sued are guilty or not, the cost to defend these allegations and the negative publicity surrounding these cases should be a big red flag for all. Class action attorneys have found a new target and they are circling like sharks. Most employers are doing things properly, but there has never been a better time to make sure that you brush up on your responsibilities when it comes to employment background checks.









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For quite some time now, I’ve felt the organizations that support the formerly incarcerated have done a disservice to ex-offenders when it comes to their stance on employment background checks.  Rather than educating ex-offenders about the reality of criminal background checks and how to prepare for the tough questions from employers that are sure to come and educating employers about the benefits of hiring ex-offenders, organizations such as The National Employment Law Project (NELP) and the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) have spent far too much time focusing on what they can do to eliminate the practice altogether.

In doing so, they continually point to statistics that they should know are misleading.  The best example of this is NELP’s assertion that the 65 million Americans with criminal records are unemployable due to their convictions.  If this were true, employers wouldn’t be able to hire anyone.  EmployeeScreenIQ data shows that less than 10% of those with criminal records are actually eliminated from employment when a background check reveals a conviction.  Based on our experience, the number of unemployed ex-offenders is widely exaggerated.

I don’t pretend to ignore the fact that some employers have enacted unfair hiring criteria when it comes to those with criminal records, but it is important to acknowledge the public safety and risk management benefits society receives as a result of this practice.

Here are my top 3 strategies to really promote re-entry into the workplace

1. They need to spend time educating ex-offenders about what they can do to prepare themselves for the process.  U.S. News and World Report columnist, Jada Graves recently wrote what I consider to be the best career advice geared towards those with criminal records I have seen.  It doesn’t sugar coat the issue and provides candidates a simple road map to follow.  It encourages candidates to set reasonable expectations for the jobs that might be out there, cautions them not to lie about their past and suggests that they study their consumer rights.  If you haven’t read this article yet, I would encourage you to do so.  To me, this should be required reading for all ex-offenders and the organizations that support them and should be used to develop training and assistance programs.

2. Rather than focus on misleading information such as the example I showed above, run with the issue that allows you to take the high ground:  Accuracy.  Every time I read Broken Records: How Errors by Criminal Background Checking Companies Harm Workers and Businesses, a study conducted by the NCLC I find myself applauding their efforts to highlight their concerns over inaccurate background checks, while at the same time cringing over their gross over-generalizations about the fact that all background screening companies knowingly report unverified data.  The NCLC highlights instances of reporting false positives, sealed or expunged information, multiple ledgers for the same offense, etc.  Unfortunately, there are some companies that routinely engage in these practices but they are the exception, not the rule.  I strongly support their efforts to hold those offenders accountable for failing to adopt reasonable procedures to avoid inaccurate information.  That’s a real problem and is unfair to anyone who has fallen victim to inaccurate data; ex-offender or not.  But let’s not paint the picture that all background screening companies have no regard for accuracy.

3. Develop studies that highlight the benefits of hiring ex-offenders.  To be sure, not everyone with a criminal record will qualify for every job, but show employers what they might gain by taking a chance.  Looking at retention rates, recidivism, tax credits, etc.  If groups like NELP and NCLC would work hand in hand with the employer community, they would accomplish so much more for their constituents than they do by waging war on background checks.

By taking these steps, I think that ex-offender advocacy stands a much better chance of making a real impact on the lives of those with criminal records and being a reliable voice in the eyes of the public and the media.



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Here’s a scenario for all you human resource professionals out there.  Let’s just say that most job candidates made their Facebook profiles public.  Let’s say that most employers checked their job candidates’ Facebook profiles and used it as the only tool to determine whether that person would be a good employee.  Would you be surprised if I told you that this practice didn’t lead to better, more qualified hires?

No.  Me neither.  Now what if I gave you a crystal ball?  Do you think your success rate would be about the same?

A recent study from researchers at Florida State University, Old Dominion University, Clemson University and Accenture sought to confirm the assumption that Facebook wasn’t a good hiring tool.  They could have just saved the time and money and just asked me (but I digress).

In a surprise to exactly no one, the study revealed that, indeed, using Facebook as the sole determinant in a hiring decision was not a good idea.

According to Forbes.com the study, “involved the recruitment of 416 college students from a southeastern state school who were applying for full-time jobs and agreed to let the researchers capture screenshots of their Facebook Walls, Info Pages, Photos and Interests. The researchers asked 86 recruiters who attended the university’s career fair to review the Facebook pages, judge the fresh-faced seniors’ personality traits and rate how employable they seemed. Each recruiter looked at just five of the candidates, and got no other information about them (such as a resume or transcript). A year later, the researchers followed up with the now-graduates’ supervisors and asked them to review their job performance.”

Those that were rated the lowest by employers were those with posts that contained profanity, sexual references, pictures of intoxicated individuals, etc.  Also concerning, were the low ratings of non-whites.  I couldn’t sum up the findings better myself so I thought I’d offer this quote from Chad H. Van Iddekinge, one of the researchers from Florida State:

“Recruiter ratings of Facebook profiles correlate essentially zero with job performance.” 

Why Does the Study Matter?

Personally, I don’t think the study does matter.  In order for it to be relevant, you’d have to believe in the make believe assumptions I asked you to consider above.  Most people do not have public Facebook profiles and most employers aren’t looking there any way, let alone that no one would ever use this as the only tool to determine hiring eligibility and future success.

Now, swap out LinkedIn for Facebook and I would love to see the results of that one.  While I don’t think employers only rely upon LinkedIn for recruiting, I do think it’s more prevalent.  Plus, it’s more geared toward professional use then any other widely utilized network.

I am, however concerned about the information shared about race. Unfortunately, we live in a society where people have their own personal biases.  In most cases, these biases are subtle and we don’t think that they factor in our decisions, but they do.  In past blog posts about the use of social media background checks, we’ve encouraged those that engage in the practice to have one person gather the information, highlight adverse findings and pass it on to a decision maker who is not privy to protected class information.

A Well Rounded Search

While the study proves that Facebook alone is not a good indicator of job performance, I think it would be wrong to dismiss it, or more importantly, dismiss the value of a social media search to find, screen and hire new talent. These searches can be extremely valuable when blended with more traditional hiring practices; interviewing, assessment testing, employment background checks, etc.  Now, perhaps someone could commission a study that incorporates all of those elements in their research —–  Oh that’s right, there’s no need to waste the time and money.  We know that works, but if you want to pay me to conduct that study . . .

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Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren has introduced a bill that will effectively bar employers from conducting credit checks on potential job candidates as part of the employment background screening process.  The proposed “Equal Opportunity for All” Act would make credit checks illegal in many cases except in specific areas such as national security.

Now let me be the first to say that this bill doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks and I thought it would be good to highlight 6 ideas as to why. [...]

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It must have been a slow week over at Drive Thru HR because they’ve asked yours truly to join them for this coming Monday’s  broadcast (December 16, 2013 at 12:00pm CST) to talk all things employment background checks.

The plan is to talk about increased government scrutiny around background screening and the resultant flurry of legislation – and litigation which have left many human resources professionals struggling to maintain compliance. We’ll also talk about criminal records, credit checks, resume distortion and social networking and other serious challenges facing the HR community when conducting background checks – all under the watchful eye of the EEOC, which issued new guidance last year.

And I’m sure William Tincup (@williamtincup) and Bryan Wempen (@bryanwempen) will have some other fun tricks up their sleeve.

Me, I’m just focused on the intro music.  I’m thinking something like Metallica’s Enter Sandman.

Here’s the 411 if you are interested in joining. http://ht.ly/rurPZ






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Our friends from the great state of Texas are in the news once again when it comes to employment background checks, and once again, their efforts are worthy of applause for those who support this responsible business practice. You might recall last month the Lone Star State filed a federal lawsuit against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for their guidance on employers’ use of criminal background checks.  Well this month, according to the Washington Post, they are challenging the Obama administration’s stance that the navigator’s tasked with helping people sign up for the Affordable Care Act benefits should not be subject to employment background checks.

We expressed concern that failing to screen these employees could result in disastrous results and apparently, Texas Insurance Commissioner Julia Rathgeber agrees.  After all, these navigator’s will have access to the Holy Grail of sensitive personal data (otherwise known as Personally Identifiable Information).  This information includes a person’s name, social security number, date of birth and home address; in other words, the keys to the castle.

Under the proposed rules, navigators would have to prove U.S. Citizenship or their legal right to work status, submit to a background check and [...]

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Criminal Background Check Compliance

We’re guilty. From time to time, we use the space in this blog to promote our company events such as webinars, surveys, special awards, etc. And while we are very excited and passionate about what we do as a background screening company, we try not to cross the lines of over-promotion (only you can tell me if we’ve done a good job with this).

Today, I’m going to depart from that philosophy and shamelessly promote our upcoming webinar, “My Candidate Has a Criminal Record: Now What?”. The reason I am doing this is because human resources professionals cannot afford to miss this one. Not more than a month has gone by this month this year where we haven’t seen a marquee press release announcing a multi-million dollar suit being filed against an employer for allegations of violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act in conjunction with their employment background screening practices or discrimination in hiring practices for the same.

Whether these companies that are being sued are guilty or not, the cost to defend these allegations and the negative publicity surrounding these cases should be a big red flag for all. Class action attorneys have found a new target and they are circling like sharks. Most employers are doing things properly, but there has never been a better time to make sure that you brush up on your responsibilities when it comes to employment background checks.

Our panel of experts includes Gordon Paisley from United Airlines, Tammy Henry from WalMart and Jason Morrris, Angela Preston and yours truly from EmployeeScreenIQ. We’re going to talk about how to develop a compliant hiring matrix, what should be considered when determining if a criminal record should disqualify someone from employment, the proper steps you need to follow when sending adverse action notifications and how to perform individualized assessments.

The webinar is free and if early response from your peers is the nudge you need (we already have 500 people signed up), then please take it.

As you can tell, I’m very passionate about this topic. If I’ve violated the blogger compact of promotion, I sincerely apologize. We just want to see less press releases alleging violations of legal background screening practices so that we can focus on the tremendous benefits that a comprehensive and compliant background screening program can have on your hiring practices.

All the info you need about the webinar is listed below:

To make intelligent hiring decisions, your company conducts employment background checks. It makes sense that you want to know all of the information on your candidate before making a final hiring decision. But then—it all comes down to the results. When a background check reveals that your job candidate has a criminal record, how do you respond?

Company hiring practices have fallen under increased government scrutiny and it’s critical that you understand the implications of your actions – and have a proactive process in place to address these unique hiring situations. So what are best practices for protecting your company?

On December 10th, join EmployeeScreenIQ for a complimentary webcast entitled, “My Candidate Has a Criminal Record. Now What?” This info-packed session will demonstrate the steps you must take when a candidate’s background check uncovers adverse information. Our featured panelists are, veteran HR executives L. Gordon Paisley from United Airlines, Tammy Henry from Walmart, and background screening experts Jason Morris, Angela Preston, and Nick Fishman from EmployeeScreenIQ. Join us while we discuss important legal considerations and share practical advice for developing a safe and compliant hiring protocol.

Attendees will learn:

    • Precautions to ensure their organization’s hiring practices are legally compliant with FCRA & EEOC requirements.
    • Essential considerations before making a hiring decision on a candidate with a criminal record.
    • Best practices for individualized assessments and adverse action.




By attending this webinar, you will receive 1 HRCI credit.

HRCI

The use of this seal is not an endorsement by the HR Certification Institute of the quality of the program. It means that this program has met the HR Certification Institute’s criteria to be pre-approved for recertification credit.

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An interesting and important article appeared today in the Wall Street Journal that looked at a topic we’ve discussed frequently – the intersection of social media and employers’ screening and hiring practices. The article, Bosses May Use Social Media to Discriminate Against Job Seekers,” highlights a new Carnegie Mellon University study that suggests employers are using social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn as a pre-screening tool to discriminate against minorities.  Our own research –  EmployeeScreenIQ’s 2013 Background Screening Trends Survey Report – was also cited finding that more than a third of employers use social media to perform background checks on candidates some of the time (only 7% indicated they used it all the time) to demonstrate that there are a number of companies who do screen using social media sites.

I’m not convinced that the Carnegie Mellon study can conclusively make discrimination claims because [...]

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