Users of mobile phone apps and Web sites offering “instant” background checks on anyone at any time with little effort or cost should be aware that while these services are fast, cheap, and easy to use, they may not provide entirely accurate information, according to the white paper ‘Background Check Mobile Phone Apps and Instant Background Check Web Sites: Fast and Easy, But Are They Accurate?’ The complimentary white paper, by Lester Rosen, CEO of Employment Screening Resources (ESR), and Kerstin Bagus, Director of Global Compliance at LexisNexis® Screening Solutions, is available on the ESR website at http://www.esrcheck.com/Download/. Continue reading
New York, NY & Novato, CA — Employment Screening Resources (ESR), a nationwide background check provider accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), and HR Integrations, the leading integrations network and exchange for the Human Resource (HR) market, have announced a strategic partnership that will make HR services more accessible to ESR clients by connecting Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS) on the innovative HR Integrations HRNX platform with ESR’s background check solutions. The integration allows employers to also take advantage of ESR’s paperless Applicant Generated Report (AGR) system. Continue reading
A woman claiming she was sexually assaulted by a man she met on the popular online dating website Match.com has filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court asking that the website start background screening members for sexual offenders since her alleged assailant had a history of sex crimes, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times. (ESR News Update 4.19.11: Popular Online Dating Service to Background Check Potential Members using Sex Offender Database.) Continue reading
A recent story from Canada in The Vancouver Sun – ‘Controversial device popular with public, private employers’ – reveals that while tests using a “truth verification” device called a Computerized Voice Stress Analyzer (CVSA) to screen job applicants in British Columbia are becoming increasingly popular with employers, the accuracy rate is being questioned as some studies have shown the device to do no better than pure chance. Continue reading
Just in time for Saint Valentine’s Day, new technology such as online dating background checks can supposedly help users find out the answer to the question above in mere seconds and with little effort or cost. However, while these new online dating background check services appear extremely fast and easy to use, the information provided by them may not be wholly accurate or complete. Continue reading
Trend No. 6: Using Social Network Sites Such as Facebook to Screen Job Candidates Increases Legal Risk for Employers
A background screening trend that recently emerged where employers used social network sites such as Facebook – the most popular social networking site with over 500 million active users worldwide – to run ‘Social Network Background Checks’ on job candidates should become even more prevalent in 2011, and increase the legal risks for employers.
No discussion about background screening these days is complete without an analysis of how the Internet is used for hiring. From social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter to blogs, videos on YouTube, and business connection sites like LinkedIn, employers focus with laser-like intensity on how to use the Internet for background screening job candidates. What is sometimes overlooked in the rush to use the Internet for background screening is the one question employers need to ask: What are the legal risks in using the Internet for hiring?
The answer involves issues of discrimination, authenticity, and privacy. If employers insist on using social network sites for background screening, then they must realize that much of the ‘new media’ available to them for background screening is still covered by current employment regulations.
“Employers and recruiters have discovered a treasure trove of information on potential job applicants in social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other online sources,” says Lester Rosen, founder of Employment Screening Resources (ESR) and author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual – The Complete Guide to Keeping Criminals, Imposters, and Terrorists Out of Your Workplace,’ the first comprehensive book on employment screening. “However, the use of these sites can present legal risks, including privacy and discrimination issues.”
Employers care about the content on social networking sites used by job candidates. A 2009 survey from leading job networking site CareerBuilder.com that found nearly half of employers use social networking sites to screen job candidates, more than double the amount from 2008. The survey of more than 2,600 hiring managers revealed that 45 percent of employers used social networking sites to research candidates and 35 percent of employers rejected applicants based on what was uncovered on social networking sites. Of these 35 percent:
- 53 percent cited provocative/inappropriate photographs or information.
- 44 percent cited content about drinking or using drugs.
- 35 percent cited bad-mouthing of previous employers, co-workers or clients.
- 29 percent cited poor communication skills.
- 26 percent cited discriminatory comments.
- 24 percent cited misrepresentation of qualifications.
- 20 percent cited sharing confidential information from a previous employer.
Allegations of discrimination are one critical area where employers can find themselves in hot water when utilizing social network sites for background screening. Employers may be accused of disregarding candidates who are members of protected classes by passing over the online profiles of people based on prohibited criteria such as race, creed, color, nationality, sex, religious affiliation, marital status, or medical condition. There may even be photos showing a physical condition protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or showing candidates wearing garb suggesting their religious affiliation or national origin. This issue is sometimes referred to as Too Much Information (TMI). Once employers are aware that an individual is a member of a protected group, it is difficult to claim that they can “un-ring the bell” and forget they saw such information.
Another issue facing employers using the Internet to source is authenticity. In other words, if negative information about a candidate is found on the Internet or a social networking site, how is the employer supposed to verify that the information is accurate, up-to-date, authentic, and if it even belongs to or applies to the candidate in question?
Yet another issue is legal off-duty conduct. A number of states protect workers engaged in legal off-duty conduct. If such a search reveals legal off duty conduct, a candidate can claim they were the victims of illegal discrimination
All of these concerns are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to social network background checks. Employers need to be very careful when it comes to harvesting information about job candidates from the internet. Employers need to know how to protect themselves against allegations of discrimination and issues with authenticity and privacy if no further action is taken after the discovery on the Internet that a person is a member of a protected class or when finding negative information. How and when an employer obtains such information is critical.
For employers wanting to use social network sites to screen a candidate, the safest path when using the Internet is to obtain consent from the candidate first and only search once there has been a conditional job offer to that candidate. This procedure helps ensure that impermissible information is not considered before the employer evaluates a candidate using permissible tools such as interviews, job-related employment tests, references from supervisors, and a background check.
At that point, after using permissible screening tools, the reason for employers to search social networking sites would be to ensure that there is nothing that would eliminate the person for employment, such as saying nasty things about the employer’s firm, or if the applicant engaged in behavior that would damage the company, hurt business interests, or be inconsistent with business needs.
In addition, employers in the sourcing stage may want to consider having a clear internal policy and documented training that Internet sourcing is not being used in violation of federal and state discrimination laws and that only factors that are valid predictors of job performance will be considered, taking into account the job description, and the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for the position. It also helps to have objective and documented methods and metrics on how to source and screen on the Internet.
Another method employers may use is to have a person in-house not connected to any hiring decisions review social network sites, in order to ensure impermissible background screening information is not given to the decisions maker. The in-house background screening should also have training in the non-discriminatory use of background screening information, knowledge of the job desiccation and use objective methods that are the same for all candidates for each type of position. That way, only permissible information is transmitted to the person that is making the decision. Again, this is best done post-offer but pre-hire and with consent. An employer may be looking for online information concerning upon job suitability. For example, did the potential employee say derogatory things about past employers or co-workers, or demonstrate that they are not the best candidate for the job.
Although employers may request that background screening firms perform this function, there are a number of drawbacks. First, a background screening firm does not have the same in-depth knowledge the employer has of the details of the position. In addition, if a social network background check is done by a background screening firm, the search falls under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) which requires a background screening firm to maintain reasonable procedures for maximum possible accuracy. Because a background screening firm has no way of knowing if the online information is accurate, it is difficult for background screening firms to perform this service consistent with the FCRA. In other words, due to the FCRA, background screening firms may not be best suited to perform these types of ‘social network background check’ searches.
On the other hand, failure to utilize these social networking sites when a search could have revealed relevant information could expose an employer to claims of negligent hiring.
The bottom line is that employers must approach using social network background screening with caution before assuming everything is fair game in the pursuit of job candidates or otherwise face potential legal landmines that could destroy their business.
To read more ESR News articles about using social network sites for screening, visit http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/tag/social-networking-sites/. Learn more about Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.
Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a leading provider of background checks accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) – is releasing the ESR Fourth Annual ‘Top Ten Trends in Pre-Employment Background Screening’ for 2011 throughout December. This is the Sixth of the Top Ten Trends ESR will be tracking in 2011. To see an updated list of ESR’s ‘Top Ten Trends in Pre-Employment Background Screening’ for 2011, visit: http://www.esrcheck.com/Top-Ten-Trends-In-Background-Screening-2011.php.
Founded in 1996 in the San Francisco Bay area, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) is the company that wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen. Employment Screening Resources is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC) for proving compliance with the Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP). ESR was the third U.S. background check firm to be ‘Safe Harbor’ Certified for data privacy protection. To learn more, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com or contact Jared Callahan, ESR Director of Client Relations, at 415.898.0044 or jcallahan@ESRcheck.com.
By Lester Rosen, ESR President
At the end of Part 1 of this blog, the question arose from some hiring managers as to whether automated reference services like Checkster could replace the type of employment verifications performed by background firms.
The short answer is no. Although services from Checkster and similar firms can be extremely valuable, they are done earlier in the time line of the hiring process. Background checks are done near the end of the time line. Traditional background checks and Checkster type services can compliment each other, but they serve different purposes. They are different tools for different functions.
First, Checkster type services occur in the talent sourcing and selection stages. Background checks, by comparison, occur only AFTER a tentative decision has been reached. In other words, Checkster type services are used to decide who to focus on out of a pool of candidates, while a background check seeks to assist an employer in exercising due diligence by examining if there is any reason NOT to hire someone that an employer has potentially targeted for employment.
Although a Checkster type service will obviously also help to eliminate some candidates from consideration in the early stages based upon the results of the third-party reference and assessment provided to employers, there is a fundamental difference between an email-based reference service and the role of a background firm.
The whole idea behind due diligence as a legal defense is independent factual verification.
For example, background firms do not take the applicant’s word for whether the past employer even existed. A background firm will typically independently verify that the past employer existed as well as verify that the phone number is real, independent of what the applicant contends. Even if past references are contacted for evaluation purposes by email, the task of verifying the truthfulness and accuracy of the employment history still requires a screening firm to independently obtain information from past employers.
Another advantage to an employer utilizing traditional background checking techniques is that the employer has a powerful argument in front of a jury in the event of a lawsuit for negligent hiring that they excised due diligence. The background firm’s efforts to manually verify the existence of a past employer, and then to verify that the applicant in fact worked there, is one of the most important and powerful due diligence tools in the employment process. By knowing where a person had been, an employer is able to eliminate any unexplained gaps in employment, and to also know where to search for potential criminal records. It is a well-known fact among due diligence professionals that verifying where a person has worked is just as important, and in some cases more important, than checking for criminal records. A criminal record can occasionally slip through the cracks, but an unexplained gap in employment creates a red flag that may prompt an employer to do further research.
If an employer is sued for negligent hiring, it is also questionable whether an employer can demonstrate due diligence if they let job seekers pick and choose which references were contacted. There is also the possibility of a fake or set-up reference, or an applicant creating a fake identity, and having the bogus ones “verified.” Checkster certainly takes step to minimize the possibility of fraud. However, in the final analysis, there is no substitute for the hard work of manual checks. By manually verifying the existence of past employers, and verifying dates of employment in order to reveal gaps in employment, an employer is taking the final due diligence steps needed before making a hiring decision final.
Employment verifications by a background firm are typically conducted in a call center environment in high volume by callers who are used to verifying factual information about an applicant’s employment history. Given the highly sophisticated software and databases as well as expertise that screening firms bring to the process of manual verification, a substantial number of such checks are completed within three working days.
The bottom-line is risk management. Although these email assessment tools are an excellent means of providing an in-depth assessment about a candidate during the decision-making stage, the traditional background check complement them for the final candidates and provides the demonstrable due diligence that can be used as a legal defense if there is a negligent hire lawsuit.
Conclusion: In the never ending efforts by employers to identify candidates that are a good fit and qualified, a new internet tool has been developed to allow employers to utilize email to accelerate the process of obtaining references and assessments from past supervisors and others that know the applicant. Questions have arisen as to how such a tool is related to the background screening process that employers utilize in order to exercise due diligence. In fact, the two processes, although related in some ways, are entirely separate workflows that occur at different times in the hiring process and for different reasons.
Internet based references can be utilized by an employer to whittle down the field of candidates and to help an employer decide whom to hire. Background checks occur after an employer has made a tentative decision, and needs to determine whether there is any reason NOT to hire an applicant.
When past employment checks are done as part of the background check process, the purpose is to verify that the employer actually exists and to independently verify the core details of employment, such as job title and dates. In other words, there is a large difference between obtaining references, which are a qualitative measure of an applicant’s fit and abilities, and factual verification of an applicant’s employment history, which is a critical due diligence task. Both processes can be useful in the quest to select the best candidates to hire and to avoid bad choices.
For more information about background checks and employment verifications, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.
By Lester Rosen, ESR President
Identifying applicants that are the right fit and have the right knowledge, skill, and abilities to do the job is a perennial challenge for employers. In pre-industrial society, the problem was generally solved by either hiring someone that the employer knew, basing the hiring decision upon a personal recommendation, or using an apprenticeship type program that gave an employer a great deal of insight into who they were hiring.
While these approaches are still in use today, it is no longer possible to match millions of applicants and jobs based upon the employer having a pre-existing relationship with applicants. Additional approaches such as using the internet to find good candidates have developed. Since every time an employer hires a stranger, it is somewhat of a “leap of faith,” employers need tools to make good decisions. Employers are seeking ways to determine who the person really is and what the person has done in the past, as predictors of how they will perform. Although past is not always prolog, past performance says a great deal about how a person may be expected to perform in the future. Employers also want a means to “look under the hood” at applicants rather than just accepting them at face value.
Every hire represents a significant investment and – simultaneously– a significant risk. A bad hire can result in a legal and financial nightmare. Bad hires cost an employer a great deal in terms of time wasted recruiting, hiring and training, and searching for a replacement, not to mention the job not being done. A bad hiring decision can also lead to litigation for negligent hiring, if the new employee turns out to be unfit, dishonest, or dangerous, and someone is harmed. To add insult to injury, when the bad hire is eventually terminated, employers need to deal with the possibility of a wrongful termination lawsuit even if the firing is entirely justified.
In order to evaluate the various hiring tools, it is essential to understand that the hiring process occurs on a time line. Each step of the continuum carries its own set of legal implications. Matching your hiring tools to the proper stage of the time line is key to sorting out the best applicants AND to helping prevent a bad hire. The available tools of the hiring process can roughly be divided in seven stages as follows:
- 1. Sourcing stage: This is the process of gathering potential applicants through a variety of means that can include inbound applications from job boards, websites, newspapers, or outbound efforts, such as recruiters seeking passive candidates;
- 2. Preliminary screening stage: In order to narrow down the applicant pool, there is a preliminary screening primarily based upon the applicants’ self-stated qualifications, conveyed by the resumes or applications or newer tools such as video websites;
- 3. Assessment stage: This stage can include the interviewing process to further narrow down the field of candidates, as well as numerous other assessment tools, ranging from objective testing to references from past employers or supervisors, or various other testing methods;
- 4. Decision process stage: Here, the employer has narrowed the pool to one, two, or three finalists and is moving toward a conditional job offer based upon an internal decision-making process;
- 5. Background checking stage: At this point, either a conditional job offer has been made or is contemplated, and the employer needs to exercise due diligence, typically through a background screening firm, to determine if there is any reason NOT to hire the candidate. The emphasis of a background screening firm at this point is a factual verification of details such as job title and dates;
- 6. The post offer/pre-hire stage: This is where an employer is able for the first time, if they so choose, to address such areas as pre-employment physicals;
- 7. The post hire/on boarding stage: This is where an employer, for example, can complete the form I-9 process.
These seven stages illustrate a clear demarcation between efforts pointed at deciding who to hire, and efforts directed at deciding who NOT to hire. This is where evaluation of the pros and cons of the hiring tools comes into play.
Background checks, for instance, are of little assistance in stages 1 through 5. That is because a traditional background check is only performed on finalists, where, by definition, an employer has already made a tentative decision to either hire or place that person in the group of finalists. Background checks are used to decide who NOT to hire.
Are there other tools available besides background checks for sorting through the pool of applicants? Yes. One of the most interesting new tools is for online automated reference checks and assessments.
An example is the offering of Checkster, a company founded by a veteran in the talent management sector. Job candidates select references, such as former supervisions and co-workers, who then get an assessment request emailed to them. It’s self-service. Eliminated are the time spent making phone calls and waiting for and tracking responses. The references simply fill out an email questionnaire. The questionnaire itself is a scientifically designed assessment instrument that gives a fresh look at the applicant and contains a number of state-of-the-art validation tools. The results are communicated back to a recruiter or hiring manager in a graphical and intuitive report. Although there are others competing in the same space, Checkster clearly has thought through and designed the process from both the assessment and talent management point of view.
The end result of using such a tool is that the reference can quickly respond to an email, and time is not wasted on playing phone tag or managing follow-ups. The employer obtains a candid assessment because the person giving the reference is advised that the actual scores are confidential. Through Checkster’s processes, the email evaluations provide a scientific assessment of what is “under the candidate’s hood” – thus increasing the employer’s odds of making a job offer to the best candidate.
However, the question has arisen from some hiring managers: “Can services like Checkster replace the type of employment verifications performed by background firms?”
For more information about background checks and employment verifications, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.
By Lester Rosen, ESR President
A new free online tool allows employers to easily create custom interview guides with an interview generator form.
One of the problems that face employers of all sizes is preparing for interviews. Most recruiters, human resources professionals and hiring managers are now familiar with the notion of a structured interview. Using a “structured interview” guide during applicant interviews helps employers ask permissible questions in a consistent fashion for all applicants for a position.
Of course, in addition to standard interview questions, employers need to add job specific questions that stem from the job description and the knowledge, skills and abilities required for a position, as well as the essential functions of the job. That is yet another reason why well written job description is so critical in the hiring process.
In order to assist employers in preparing structured interviews, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) has released the ESR Interview Guide Generator,Â a free web based interview generator to help employers build printed interview forms for any position. The wizard tool allows employers to select from generic interview questions, or to create their own questions, put the questions in the order they need and then create a printed form that can be saved or modified.
This free tool solves several issues for employers. It helps employers, recruiters and HR professionals produce a printed structured interview guide and focus on developing relevant questions for each position. Printed interview forms also help employers ensure that interviewers are asking the right questions every time, in the right way. Using a “structured interview” guide helps employers ask permissible questions in a consistent fashion for all applicants for a position. An employer should only choose those questions that are valid predictors of job performance for a particular position.
The tool allows employers to choose from standard interview questions, or to create their own questions. Questions are grouped into sections and are displayed on the completed form within these groups. An employer may customize however they want, including adding custom questions, or changing the sections that the chosen questions are placed.
Once the interview is built online, the Finish tab will display the interview form. When the employer is ready, they can click the print button on the Finish tab. The free tool does not save the form so it should be pasted onto a WORD document for future reference.
The sample questions listed are questions that appear in various public sources suggesting commonly used interview questions. By use of the “Custom Question” section at the end, an employer can create any questions they wish and put them into any section they wish. ESR offers no legal opinion whatsoever if any question is legal or appropriate. An employer should contact its attorney if there are any questions as to the legality of any interview question. This information is provided for educational purposes and general assistance only and is not offered or intended as legal advice.
By Jared Callahan, Employment Screening Resources
Employment Screening Resources (ESR), a leading national employment screening firm, announced completion of its integration with Taleo Business Editionâ„¢. This new integration provides a simplified, paperless technology solution to perform legally compliant employment background checks.
Taleo Business Edition(c) is the leading on-demand talent management solution for companies with up to 5,000 employees. Taleo Business Edition helps small to mid-size organizations around the world find, develop and retain top talent by simplifying recruiting, performance and compensation management with unmatched flexibility.
The integration of Taleo Business Edition and Employment Screening Resources allows employers to initiate a completely paperless background checks with the click of a mouse, allowing for the fastest possible turn-around time with the least amount of effort. Featuring single sign-on and the ability to view report status in real-time, employers, HR departments and recruiters can leverage the Taleo solution with the latest legally-compliant background screening technology.
Employment Screening Resources (ESR) is the firm that literally wrote the book on background checks, The Safe Hiring Manual, and provides pre-employment screening services and drug testing internationally. The firm specializes in legal compliance expertise, as well as industry-leading technology, service, accuracy and turn-around.
“Through the Taleo Business Edition integration, Employment Screening Resources can provide the most advanced and legally compliant screening solutions to our mutual clients,” commented Jared Callahan, Director of Marketing for ESR, and a national speaker on topics related to safe hiring. “Employers can harness this advanced technology and no longer need to handle physical pieces of paper, go to different software systems or worry about legal compliance.”
About Employment Screening Resources: Employment Screening Resources (ESR), is a safe hiring partner and provides REAL background checks, not cheap database shortcuts or off-shoring that endangers privacy. ESR specializes in legal compliance and provides industry leading technology, service, accuracy and turnaround. Contact: Jared Callahan for additional information at 415-898-0044 or by email jcallahan@ESRcheck.com.