Background check software lessens manual labor and reduces risk

What are job candidates not telling you? Learn about the benefits of background check software.

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Most of us have "stretched the truth" on a resume at one point or another. But while these white lies are often harmless, in some cases job candidates can be hiding something much more serious. Pre-employment screening and the use of employee background check software is intended to ensure that companies know what they're getting, experts say.

"There are significant numbers of [candidates] who are either lying on resumes or leaving something out," said Michael Krigsman, CEO at Asuret, a Boston-based research firm. "So screening helps companies know that the prospective employee is representing himself accurately."

In the past, a company would hire a background screening agency, which would send runners to courthouses as well as state or local agencies to gather various pieces of information, including school transcripts and criminal history on potential candidates. Needless to say, this was a manual and labor-intensive process.

"Today, the background check software is database-driven," Krigsman said. "What the best vendors do is aggregate data from lots of sources and database lookups [instead of] having to physically send someone out to [do the work]. And where you can use data to replace manual processes, it's going to be less expensive and in many cases more accurate as well."

In addition to faster turnaround on background checks and more process automation, background check software can also help employers spot qualification embellishments, according to experts.

Background check software helps bring resume fibs to light

William Tincup, an HR consultant in the Dallas-Fort Worth area agreed that background screening software makes an HR professional's job much easier, and as such, companies should take advantage of what the technology has to offer.

"I would do a background check, a credit check, a reference check -- and all that stuff can be automated," Tincup said.

Some companies also offer assessments -- automated reference checks of sorts, he said. The potential candidate fills out a questionnaire about himself, and the employer asks the candidate's references to fill out the same questionnaire. Once all necessary submissions are received, the software flags the discrepancies between the candidate's answers and the answers from references. With this report in hand, the employer can then decide whether the discrepancies constitute enough reason to terminate the hiring process.

Trisha Zulic, director of Human Resources at Efficient Edge, a San Diego-based benefits administration services provider, said her company uses background check software to run a candidate's driver's license and check the sex offender database and federal databases. However, because California has strict laws regarding employer use of credit check information to make hiring decisions, Zulic said she does not run credit checks on potential employees.

Zulic is also careful to run checks on all counties that people have lived for the past five years. She explained that candidates will sometimes only list their current address as an attempt at hiding negative incidents that occurred in other counties.

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"So if HR is not looking closely at the application and a candidate has moved to a county nine months ago, the software will automatically run the first county the candidate lists as his address. It won't run the other counties," she said.

Who should be screened with background check software? Krigsman said it's always a good policy to use background check software to screen everyone, from CEO candidates to office workers -- albeit to different degrees.

"If you're going to hire a CEO for a large company, then you're going to want to do a much more in-depth analysis of that person," Krigsman said. "And if you're just hiring a bunch of people, you would use [the background check software] to verify the basics, like their credit history, criminal history [or] if they're on a sex offender list. It's very good for those purposes."

Using background check software is particularly important for companies in retail, whose employees deal with money, as well companies in the healthcare industry whose employees have access to clients' personally identifiable information and medical histories, experts said.

Capabilities vary vendor to vendor

However, not all vendors offer the same services, Krigsman cautioned. Some vendors access credit bureau data and focus only on credit history, liens and bankruptcies, while others concentrate solely on criminal history or drug testing, or offer resume-screening capabilities.

Additionally, some providers gear their software offerings toward smaller companies with approximately 100 employees and others target their products for much larger companies. Then there are vendors that integrate their software with customers' human capital management systems, such as Taleo or SuccessFactors or Workday.

TalentWise and HireRight are two vendors that have been doing background and credit checks and credit checks for a decade, and that have branched out to offer other applications, Tincup said.

"TalentWise has a social reputation screen that goes out and assesses the social media properties of an applicant to see if they're talking badly about anyone [or if they] they using vulgarity," Tincup said. "The employer then has to determine its risk tolerance. Do you want hire people talking badly about another brand? What if that person has a bad day [or] a bad experience? What if you have to fire that person?"

Integration with personnel data key with background check software

According to Tincup, the best-case scenario is when all the talent acquisition data that's stored in various systems -- including information from background screening software -- ports back to the applicant tracking system so a hiring manager has all the information about each candidate at his fingertips, Tincup said.

Zulic agreed that integration is the key to having accurate, up-to-date information. She explained that Efficient Edge candidates are asked for their permission to run a background check when they submit an application. Checks are only run on candidates that are ultimately considered for the position.

"The information comes back to us electronically and securely. Then, [with] a push of a button, the system integrates all the data into the electronic personnel file," she said. "That's really important -- it's like one point of contact." Zulic added that her company relies on a single platform -- ADP -- for most HR functions.

But no matter if a company is using one or multiple platforms, it's important to integrate background check data into the electronic personnel file.

"You don't want to risk missing something," she said.

About the author:
Linda Rosencrance has written about technology for more than 10 years and has been a reporter for more than 20 years. A former Computerworld reporter, she is a freelance writer in Massachusetts and also an author of several true-crime books.

This was first published in December 2013

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