Strengthening Your Company’s Screening Practices

By Steven E. Sacks, CPA, CGMA, ABC

The employment scene appears from the usual poll takers to be the best it has been in nearly 20 years. A closer study may show that in the statistics, there have been people who have stopped looking or ceased receiving unemployment checks, as well as those who are underemployed based on their education and experience. If more jobs are created and businesses repatriating their operations from overseas, the focus will return on recruitment and selection.

No matter what government statistics show, companies operating in competitive industries will have to implement solutions and methodologies that create efficiencies in the hiring process. The most onerous aspect of the hiring process is background screening. A benefit of streamlining the process is separating the real talent; the individuals who have the skills and experience but also have the right attitude and possess the necessary cultural fit.  If you use an effective screening strategy, you will be able to uncover early warning flags; the signs that will help you avoid conflict at the early stages and save you money for mistakes made. The result: a more productive, collaborative and committed workforce.

Consider research conducted over the past several years, particularly as it relates to looking at the talent pipeline. Eight-seven-percent of companies researched by the Aberdeen Group indicated they have difficulty in establishing a talent pipeline. A company can either post a position internally and a list of candidates emerge through the normal recruiting channels, or it can establish its own pipeline by articulating the company’s own mission, goals vision and culture. The latter approach comes with the expectation that people will self-select, thus minimizing the efforts of senior leadership.

Choosing Wisely

Pre-screening of candidates will add a layer of protection, resulting in higher retention rates because the employer will get a more comprehensive picture of the candidate, particularly as it relates to his or her meeting the requirements of the position. But there is a powerful tool companies can use that never existed years ago: social media. While much information can be discovered by a candidate prior to the face-to-face meeting, the interview questions must be limited to the job and matters related to the job. A reading of the case, Neiman v. Grange Mutual Insurance Company is important because it shows that a LinkedIn profile had eliminated an individual from consideration of a VP position.

A careful balance needs to be struck: the company’s hiring needs against the fairness accorded every viable candidate. Despite the numerous benefits of using a background screening solution for employment verifications, credit checks, criminal history, drug testing and other important factors, many companies have yet to embrace such a solution. Only about half the states conduct a background check on candidates.

There will be challenges to companies that don’t include a background screening as part of a standard operating procedure. There will be a negative impact of hiring people who don’t meet the criteria; and it usually costs three to four times the salary costs to replace them. Another fallout is the negative reputation to the company. It is, therefore, up to the human capital department and senior leadership to fashion a policies and protocols that are in compliance with labor laws but also ensure that the right candidates are vetted properly without violating any laws.

An effective background screening practice is more than just ensuring a streamlined HR process; it can have significant benefits for the company as a whole. No matter your industry, company size or hiring reach, the right approach to background screening will bring immediate improvements to the hiring process and save significant costs in the long run.


Importance of Background Screening

 1.     Ensure a Safer Work Environment. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence reported in 2016 that substance abuse cost employers $81 billion. Companies should look to the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association for guidance. Another resource is the National Association of Professional Background Screeners.

 2.     Minimize Exposure by Hiring Properly.  Implementing a pre-screening program enables you to determine whether a candidate has the right skills, experience, aptitude and attitude, among other attributes. Figures from the Department of Labor indicate that the wrong hire costs a company up to 30 percent of an employee’s first year earnings.

 3.     Maintain Consistency and Compliance. If your company or firm has multiple facilities or offices, ensure that the screening processes human resource personnel use are consistent and followed in a uniform manner. At prescheduled times, each office should participate in a meeting discuss the existing protocols and make recommendations for improvement where necessary.

 4.     Preserve the Company Image. A revolving door of departures can harm the company’s or firm’s brand. Accompanying this is a reduction of morale and productivity that can have far-reaching effect. First comes customer service complaints, and with social media as the tool du jour, unwanted attention reaches the media. From here, anything can happen (of an unfavorable nature).

5.     Increase Efficiency. By using a comprehensive background screening solution, the company can accelerate candidate selection, eliminate hiring delays and ensure their new hires can contribute much sooner to organizational success. Meshing the screening process into the candidate tracking system or human resource system can reduce recruitment time and mitigate errors. The time saved can be applied to onboarding new employees, a practice that oftentimes is overlooked. 


About Steve

Steven Sacks is the CEO of Solutions to Results, LLC, a consultancy that specializes in helping individuals, firms and organizations meet the challenges of communicating with clarity and purpose. Visit his website at