As small businesses increasingly leverage employment screening to help ensure a safe workplace and improve their quality of hire, many may be overlooking common gaps in their screening program that could be unknowingly exposing themselves to risk.

To help ensure a more effective and compliant background screening program, small businesses should consider these four best practices:

1. Put the Policy in Writing

A written employment screening policy is an essential component of a successful program. According to the HireRight Small Business Spotlight, 29 percent of small business respondents plan to create a formal screening policy, while 19 percent plan to draft a policy specific to drug, alcohol and health screening.

Employment screening policies can help protect your organization from potential claims of discrimination and assist in regulatory audits. The policy will also set clear screening standards for human resources personnel.

In the policy, the organization should describe the employment background checks that they are going to run and how the screening results will be used to make hiring decisions. To help protect against discrimination suits down the road, it is best to tailor the screening criteria to each specific position that will be subject to background screening.

For example, an organization might consider including a credit check (if allowed by applicable law) as a screening component when screening for a position that involves access to organization funds. To ensure compliance, it is important to always have experienced legal counsel review the screening policy.

2. Strengthen Your Criminal Checks

Criminal background checks are conducted by 88 percent of small businesses, according to respondents of the HireRight Small Business Spotlight. However, the effectiveness of a criminal background screening program often depends on the types of criminal background checks that are conducted.

Gaps in criminal background checks may exist based on the search criteria (e.g., the geography searched and time frame) as well as when the check is conducted occurs and the frequency. Many employers only use criminal checks during hiring for full-time employees, and do not check for criminal offenses after the person has been employed by the company.

Employers can help mitigate negligent hiring risks by increasing the depth and geography of criminal background checks. For example, by expanding criminal checks to include county, state and federal criminal and sex offender searches in all jurisdictions in which the applicant has lived or worked in the past 10 years, the employer can cast a wider net and gain better protection

3. Check More Than Just Criminal History

On-demand background screening providers help small businesses enhance their screening programs effortlessly. Yet, less than half of all small business employers conduct background checks beyond basic criminal and identity checks.

Without verifying a candidate’s employment and education history and motor vehicle records, as relevant, employers may be missing crucial red flags or information that could dramatically impact a hiring decision.

By working with an on-demand background screening provider, employers can implement multiple types of background checks into one seamless process that provides better insight into the candidate. For example, checking employment and education history can ensure that candidates really do meet your job requirements and were honest about their qualifications for the position.

4. Reassess Your Program

According to the HireRight Small Business Spotlight, 44 percent of small business respondents plan to review their employee screening standards and an additional 15 percent plan to evaluate their contingent worker screening standards.

This data reveals a gap; more than half of small businesses are not regularly assessing their employee screening standards and that more than three quarters are not reviewing their contingent worker screening standards.

As industry best practices and state and federal regulations evolve, employers that do not re-evaluate their screening programs could expose themselves to greater compliance and legal risks.

It is a best practice for small businesses to self-audit their employment screening program at least once per year. Employers should also monitor legislative changes that may impact their hiring process such as those addressing the use of medical marijuana and the requirements for worker eligibility.

By reviewing and implementing these four best practices, small businesses will be able to achieve a more effective background screening program and obtain higher quality talent.

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