Building Transparency in Employment Screening

by MAX WESMAN

MAX WESMAN

Max Wesman joined Inflection, a Penn Company for GoodHire, to lead the planning and launch of GoodHire in 2012. He oversees GoodHire's business and product strategy, development, and overall operations. Before joining GoodHire, Max managed and launched enterprise and business software products for Hewlett Packard and Microsoft. He received an MBA from UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, and bachelor's from the Wharton School, and School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. Please welcome to Elevate 2015, Max Wesman.

Webinar Transcript

Max Wesman joined Inflection, a Penn Company for GoodHire, to lead the planning and launch of GoodHire in 2012. He oversees GoodHire's business and product strategy, development, and overall operations. Before joining GoodHire, Max managed and launched enterprise and business software products for Hewlett Packard and Microsoft. He received an MBA from UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, and bachelor's from the Wharton School, and School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. Please welcome to Elevate 2015, Max Wesman.

Hi there. Welcome to Building Transparency in Employment Background Screening. My name is Max Wesman from GoodHire. GoodHire was founded back in 2012. Our mission from the start was to help businesses, both large and small, tackle the seemingly complex and daunting world of background screening their job candidates. We believe fundamentally that this process doesn't need to be overly complex, doesn't need to be paper-based, long, difficult. It really should be an integrated, fast, and easy part of a well-built screening solution. So, you may be asking, or you may already know, "What is a background check?" And in the traditional sense, background checks have been used to verify information on a candidate's resume, including where they went to school, previous jobs and titles they held, and then also looking at specific warning signs, potentially. If the person has a criminal history, if they are on the sex offender registry, and other risk signs that could potentially be troublesome for certain employers, depending on the industry that they're in.

And as we've seen with the advent of the technology, things have gotten a lot easier over the years. While background checking has been around for many years, it used to be a very manual and time-consuming process, often taking several weeks. And it was also a process that was very much paper-driven. It was passing back forms, faxing, phone calls, and a lot of the older types of technology that we streamlined today with the help of the internet apps, etc. So what are some of those examples? Well, today background checking is primarily done online. It really is a paperless process, and we at GoodHire, when we started our screening service, we're focused on how can we make a service for both companies and candidates that is as paperless and frictionless as possible? And so one of the things that we came up with was a way in which employers didn't actually have to pass pieces of paper and forms back and forward to their candidates. They can send an email to their candidates and have candidates fill out all their information, including their private information, such as their social security number and date of birth, online. So, that's one advance in technology.

The other trend is that a lot of workflows that were traditionally very much separated, the sourcing of candidates, the interview process, the background screening process, and then the onboarding process, used to all be very separated, and as a result, there was a delay often in terms of the handoff between those processes. What we've seen in the HR technology space is, one, a lot of automation is taking place, but also a lot of consolidation of those workflows, and the ability to pass information between those processes, and allow for a much more seamless, and thus efficient, experience for both employers and candidates. And when I talk about that pass-through of information, it also has to do with integration. And over the last several years, the rise of applicant tracking systems has really done a great job of taking the sourcing aspect of putting a job out on job boards, pulling in candidate requests and applications, tracking the interview process, and then the last piece, before the actual hire, the background screening process.

So background screening is now just a click away in many applicant tracking systems. And that's really, again, a matter of how can we take all of these workflows and integrate them in a much more efficient and seamless way? But while all this efficiency has been generated, particularly on the employer side, it's important to also take a step back and think about the candidates' experience. And what do I mean by that? Well, while folks you work in HR are up to speed on all the latest regulations, trends in technology, and various ways in which they can do their jobs more efficiently, candidates, on the other hand, are not as well-versed in things like background checking. And to many candidates, it can seem like a very daunting process. So, the question is what can you do, as an employer who's working directly with these folks to help them feel more comfortable in the process and to also, in general, build trust and a sense of connection between the candidate and your company?

So, one thing that we work with our customers on is helping candidates understand the FCRA, the Fair Credit Reporting Act. And while to many, it may seem like a scary law that regulates some type of credit transactions, a lot of people will consider it when thinking about credit cards, for instance, it but it's also very much relevant to hiring. And so it's important for employers to be able to effectively communicate to job candidates why the FCRA is important for them, in particular, because it protects them in a number of ways. For one, it protects them from employers using certain types of discriminatory information. In some instances, for instance, an employer cannot look at arrests or non-conviction date on a background report. There's also certain regulations around where the information can come from.

And so, when we think about candidate concerns over, "Oh, they're looking at my Twitter feed or my Facebook page," they can rest assured that a lot of the data that is being used in background checks is much more regulated and standardized for those companies that are using a real FCRA-compliant process. And then finally, it's also important for candidates to know that if information is found on their reports that is adverse or may lead to them not receiving an offer, there is a process which is guided by the FCRA which can help them dispute that information. So, once candidates understand the FCRA, and they don't need to become experts in it, but just from a high level, what it means to be guided by and regulated by the FCRA, a lot of transparency opens up for those interactions with candidates. And there's a number of ways that we suggest that employers work with their candidates to better understand this background screening process that they're about to go through.

In particular, candidates may not know that their written consent is needed before a background check can be done. And so it's very important from the start when you work with a candidate, to make it clear that yes, we are going to present you with information about the background check we're going to run. We're going to tell you what exactly is going to be included in that background check. If there are special requirements like a drug screening or a credit report that are going to be run, those will be made clear to you up front and you will have to sign to authorize the employer to perform that background screen.

And so, what we like to do, and we try to help employers with this, is provide very clear email notifications that explain that, "Okay, the company that you have been interviewing with is going to conduct a background check on you. You're going to need to agree to this background check. And it's not going to, hopefully, be much of a back and forth in terms of paper files and attachments. And then, also the very important thing is that your personal information and privacy is very important. And so, both the company, as well as the background checking provider they're going to use, are going to take all precautions possible in order to protect you and your information. It's also important to provide a point of contact, a phone number, email address, even the name of a person that the candidate can contact if they have questions about their report.

In most cases, over probably 85% of background checks, there will be nothing to worry about. But in those rare cases where adverse information comes back, such as a criminal record, a speeding ticket, a discrepancy in terms of a previous job, it's important that the candidate know that there is someone out there to support them. And so it's critical that notifications get sent to the candidate explaining the report process, what they can do if they have questions about their report, providing actually a copy of that report that they can then easily look at and dissect what might have gone wrong. And then, finally, as I mentioned previously, there's the adverse action process. So, the FCRA, again, is on the side of the candidate in that the FCRA dictates that if an employer decides not to hire a candidate, they have to go through very well-defined process whereby the candidate is notified that adverse information was found on the report, a copy of the report is given to the candidate, and then an appropriate amount of time is given for the candidate to review the report, contact the employer to discuss what may have happened on that report, and then for, ultimately, a resolution to be achieved between the candidate and the employer.

So you may be asking yourself, "Okay, this all sounds great, but at the end of the day, I need a partner in the background screening process. I need to know that when my candidates are going to be interacting with my company, but also my partners, that there's a sense of synergy between my company and my background screening partner." And so you wanna make sure that you're aligned in terms of values, in terms of the process that the candidate's going to go through, and the overall sense of trust that you can provide between the hand-off from your company to the background screening provider. One thing that we found, and has been more so the case as technology advances, is you want to give your candidates as many options as possible to participate in the screening process. So this means looking for a provider that has access to their background screens over mobile devices. Sometimes candidates may be out of the country, they may be away from their home or from their computer. But most people have cell phones. And so, if your screening provider can take in the candidate's information on a mobile phone, either through a mobile web browser, or through an app, that's just another way that you can make sure that you candidates feel connected to your process and don't feel unnecessarily burdened by having to go find a desktop or to print out forms that they have to manually fill in.

And overall, as we've talked about, it's really important to make your process as easy as possible. And so you want to have forms that are clear, concise, that also work for the various use cases that your candidates may fall into. So you may not just be hiring candidates who will be working for you as employees, you may be screening volunteers, you may be screening contractors. And so it's important that your background screening provider has a number of different options that are customized to your particular need. And that they provide options as well in terms of how they take in those consent forms, be it online, hopefully, because that the most efficient way to do things. But also if you need to sign and fax those forms in, or manually upload them, that your background screening provider should hopefully provide you with various ways in which to get those consent forms into the process.

Not only is it important to choose the right background screening provider, but it's also important to have the right internal policies within your hiring team. And these policies need to be focused on not just creating efficiency with how you source candidates and consistency with your interview questions, and the process with which you evaluate candidates, but it's also important that these policies extend to how you treat your candidates, interact with them when it comes to background screening. When we work with customers, we talk about the 3 Cs of background checks. The fist C is Company-wide. And this is an important aspect, because you want to make sure that the policies that you applied at background checking applies across the entire company. This is particularly important in terms of avoiding potential discrimination lawsuits that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has been known to leverage against employers that do not follow consistent company-wide policies. So, even if you have high-level executives, there needs to be a set of consistent standards when it comes to background checking that gets applied across everyone in the company.

Consistent, the 2nd C. It also becomes an issue if the actual enforcement of background screening is not consistent across your company. What I mean by that is it's not a wise maneuver to only screen some job candidates that come in, as opposed to being consistent with screening everyone in the company, again, with those same policies across the board. And then, finally, and most importantly, compliant. You want to make sure that you are compliant with all federal, state, and local laws when it comes to employment screening. This is particularly important because there's unfortunately a lot of potential litigation and you want to make sure that you are screening your candidates in accordance with the FCRA, that you are using the correct resources, and that those resources leave no room for potential error or legal compliance headaches. We also recommend that every company seeks legal counsel to help them make sure that they've set up stringent, comprehensive, and compliant processes for background screening. As a background screening provider, while companies like GoodHire, we have a lot of experience in this area, every company is unique in terms of the industry they're in and particular regulations that may impact them. And so, we always recommend that these companies seek legal counsel that has expertise in their industry before they finalize their background screening process.

That's all I have for today. I hope this was informative, and I hope that we can keep the conversation going. We at GoodHire are always looking for ways in which to engage with employers, to help them think about some of these complex issues, when it comes to background screening. We have a great blog that I encourage you to check out, or to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Thank you very much.