Tag Archives: Technology

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) Releases New Resource Center for “All Things Background Checks”

By Jared Callahan, Employment Screening Resources

Employment Screening Resources (ESR), a leading national employment screening firm announced today the release of a Resource Center on its web site, containing “All Things Background Checks.” 

The new feature is intended to provide one  centralized location for ESR clients to keep current on the critical task of hiring a workforce that is safe and effective.  The site also allows Employers, Human Resources and Security Professionals, Recruiters and Job Applicants to locate resources on screening and to keep current on evolving issues affecting hiring by going to just one site.

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 and industry leading technology, service, accuracy and turnaround. 

The new Resource Center starts with twelve icons, each directing users to a different area, including sections on whitepapers by ESR, Legal Resources, books, courses and even a section for job applicants.  One of the features includes access to ESR’s proprietary summary of staff opinion letters issued by the Federal Trade Commission.  The ESR blog, which is updated frequently, ensures that users of the site are updated on the latest trends and legal developments when it comes to safe hiring.  

“We are very pleased to have the opportunity to provide this critically important information to employers and consumers,” commented Jared Callahan, Director of Marketing, and a national speaker on topics related to safe hiring.  “Background screening is a critical part of the process in identifying the best employees and with this new Resource Center, employers may simply go to just one site to find the information they need.”

See: http://www.esrcheck.com/Resources/

Off shoring IT jobs lead to dramatic increases in Data Breaches per survey

By Les Rosen, Employment Screening Resources

A recent survey quoted in Security Management Magazine demonstrates the risk to privacy and data protection when it comes to “off shoring.”  According to a new survey, of the firms that outsourced IT jobs to other counties, about half indicted that their security has been negatively impacted. And 61 percent indicated their company had experienced a data breach.  The study noted data breaches occurred in just 35 percent of the companies that do not send IT jobs outside of the U.S.  The story, and more information about the study,  is available at:  http://www.securitymanagement.com/article/outsourcing-risk-006564 

This survey naturally raises questions as to the safety of sending Personally Identifiable Information (PII) of American job applicants off shore in order to prepare background checks.  A group  called ConcernedCRA now has more than 120 screening firms that have signed on to a standard that opposes sending Personally Identifiable Information (PII) offshore beyond U.S. privacy laws to be processed.  See http://www.concernedcras.com/.  A bill was introduced into Congress in June 2009 that would limit the offshoring of data without notice in the financial sector.  A shocking undercover investigation by the BBC in 2009 showed just how easy it was to purchase PII from a call center in India. Of course, identity theft can occur in the U.S., but once data physically goes beyond U.S. privacy laws, consumers have less resources and recourses. 

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) does NOT send U. S. applicant information outside of the U.S. for processing.  ESR takes the position that once data leaves the U.S., the data is beyond the reach of U.S. privacy laws and there is no meaningful recourse for a U.S. consumer.  ESR does all processing and preparation in the U.S.  in order to protect applicants and employers.  In some countries, it is a well known fact that U.S. identities are stolen and used for identity theft.  As a practical matter, someone in the U.S. has no ability to hire a lawyer in a foreign country to pursue legal action or contact a foreign police authority to get any action taken.  The only exception is where ESR is asked to perform an international verification and the information resides outside of the U.S.  Even in that situation, ESR goes to great length to protect applicant data. 

The bottom-line:  Before selecting a screening firm determine if that firm is processing information outside of the U.S. The risk is significant, even if the off shore facility is wholly owned or a subsidiary of a U. S. firm. An employer needs to have a full understanding of how data and privacy is protected once it leaves the U.S., and what duty is owed to job applicants in terms of notice that their data is going abroard.

Increased technology and the end of paper and faxing for employment screening

By Les Rosen, Employment Screening Resources

2010 Trends in Screening Trend Six: 

With advances in database technology, and the general acceptance of the HR-xml standardization for database integrations, it appears that the use of paper and faxes is coming to an end.  Not that “Going Paperless” is exactly a new development. Employment Screening Resources, for instance, has offered a totally paperless background check solution to its clients since 2006.  However, integrations between background screening and other applications, such as Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), or Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS) may have reached a tipping point, so that the adoption will be at a faster rate.

It can also help solve issues concerning date of birth. Because of laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of age, some employers are hesitant to ask for date of birth.  That creates potential issues since background screening generally requires an applicant’s date of birth in order to establish identity during criminal searches.  However, the EEOC has made it clear that asking for date of birth is not prohibited, but should be approached carefully and requested in such a way that does not deter older applicants. With online system sensitive information such as a date of birth or social security number can be obtained directly from the applicant so that an employer is never in possession of that information pre-hire.

(Employment Screening Resources (ESR), a leading national online employment screening background firm, is releasing the ESR Third Annual Top Ten Trends in the Pre-Employment Background Screening Industry for 2010. This is the SIXTH of the ten trends ESR will be tracking in 2010.)

Job Applicants and Online Employee Background Screening Software

A recent post on an HR blog concerned an applicant who was directed online to web-based background screening software to fill out information, finding it took 80 minutes. Not surprisingly, this applicant was not pleased with the amount of time and effort it took to fill out on online background form. Such dissatisfaction can actually lead to qualified applicants going elsewhere. See: http://www.risesmart.com/risesmart/blog/feeling-dissected-by-pre-employment-screening-software/

Employment Screening Resources (ESR)  believes that an applicant’s time is valuable and the online system for a background check should respect the applicant and reflect the value the employer places upon recruiting qualified candidates. The ESR system, for example, only takes a few minutes of an applicant’s time to fill out online. It only asks those questions that are strictly necessary for the screening an employer wants and does not waste time by asking for information that is not needed for the screening involved. It also transfers information already put into an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), if the ATS is able to send it. Also, all work is done in the US in a professional environment, and not sent offshore or into private homes for processing, so applicant privacy and data protection is much greater. Applicants that have had a negative experience with using online background screening systems to fill out their own data may want to suggest that the employer look at other systems, such as the ESR system at: http://www.esrcheck.com/Applicant_Generated_Reports.php

Annual Top Ten Trends in the Background Screening Industry

ESR has identified the following trends for 2009 in its second annual report on trends in the screening industry and safe hiring.  The full report is online at:  http://www.esrcheck.com/2009-trends-backgroundscreening-industry.php

  1. Increased Governmental Mandates: The federal and state governments for 2009 are likely to require more background checks, especially in sensitive industries.  In addition, right-to-work verification under the E-verify program will be a hot topic for 2009.
  2. Privacy and Accuracy:  Privacy advocates in 2009 will be focused on resolving instances of noncompliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act’s requirements for accuracy and dispute investigations.  A leading cause of inaccuracies comes from matching innocent job applicants to criminal records based upon the same, or a similar, name in a database, without re-verification of the record at the courthouse.  A new organization called Concerned CRA’s (www.concernedcras.com) has taken a stance against utilizing such databases without taking proper measures to ensure accuracy of criminal records.
  3. Second Chance for Ex-Offenders: Unless as a society we want to build more prisons than schools or hospitals, something must be done to reduce recidivism and find employment for applicants with criminal records.  The State of New York, for example, to deal with this issue directly, has passed new â second chance” laws that became effective this year. The laws place a greater emphasis on employers analyzing a past criminal record to determine whether there is a business justification to not hire a person, including providing job applicants with notice of these various new rights.
  4. Consumer Protection Litigation:  As the screening industry matures, and applicants and their lawyers become much more informed about their consumer rights, it is likely that there will be an increase in litigation in 2009.  These lawsuits, including class action lawsuits, will be filed against screening firms, particularly when it comes to various notices required under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act and accuracy requirements for the Background Screening Report results.
  5. Impact of the Recession: As a result of the recession and higher unemployment, it is likely that employers will need to scrutinize applications even more carefully, to be on the watch for fraudulent credentials, such as inflated or fictional employment or education history.
  6. Data Security, Data Breaches, and Off-shoring Data: Since identity theft continues to be a national and international problem, expect even more emphasis in 2009 on data security and protection.  Closely related is the continuing issue of employers and screening firms sending confidential consumer data offshore for processing to places such as India for cost savings.  Once data leaves the United States, it is beyond U.S. privacy protections.  Concerned CRR’s (www.concernedcras.com) has also taken a stance against off-shoring such data without notification to consumers.  The use of home-operator networks also presents an unnecessary risk to privacy as well.  There is no justification for personal information to be spread across kitchen tables and dorm rooms across America.
  7. Accreditation by the NAPBS: The non-profit trade organization for the Screening Industry, the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (www.napbs.com) has announced the introduction of an accreditation program.  NAPBS has gone through an exhaustive process to develop “Best Practices” for the industry, and it is anticipated that firms will start going through the accreditation process this year.
  8. Social Network Sites:  The use of social networking sites as a pre-employment screening device will continue to be a hot topic in 2009, as more recruiters and HR professionals go online to satisfy their curiosity about candidates.  The problem: contrary to popular belief, just because it is online does not mean that it’s a good idea to utilize it without developing policies and procedures.  Online material can be inaccurate, discriminatory, and under certain circumstances, its use can be an invasion of privacy.  Stay tuned as more courts give their opinions on this issue.
  9. Integration of Services:  With the advent of Web 2.0, it is likely that technology will play an even bigger role in the coming year.  Seamless integrations with Applicant Tracking Systems allow paperless background screening systems at the click of a mouse.
  10. International Background Checks: With mobility of workers across international borders, Due Diligence is no longer limited to just what an applicant has done in the United States and there will be stronger demand in 2009 for International Criminal, Education, and past Employment checks.


ESR will place its Third Annual Top Ten Trends in January, 2010.

Background checks and job boards do not always mix

On the surface, it is easy to see why a job board may see the  appeal in an excluisve integration with a background firm.   The idea is that an employer can use the job board to find the candidate and at the same time, perform a background check through the partner background firm.  From a business development perspective, it looks like a good arrangement for both the job board and the screening firm, and gives the job board an additional stream of revenue.  

The reality however, may turn out to be much different.  First, very knowledgeable observers of the recruiting world have predicted rough waters ahead for the big job boards.  The July 6, 2009 edition of Business Week noted that the job boards are losing ground to sites such as LinkedIn, Craigslist and Twitter among others.  According to one expert quoted in the article, “The big boards have peaked.”  

What that means is that recruiters are finding candidates from numerous sources.  Since all candidates need to be screened in a similar  fashion to prevent claims of disparate treatment, it make little sense to utilize  background services offered through just  one  job board for some candidates and to make other arrangements for all other candidates.  There is a lot to be said for uniformity of treatment of candidates.  

These types of tie-in arrangements also assume that Human Resources professionals are swayed in large numbers simply by the fact that there is a built –in economic association.  However, most HR professionals have an understanding that just because one firm enters into a business development deal with another does not mean that HR is getting the best deal or that their needs are being meet.  HR professionals do not sacrifice their own due diligence and blindly accept the recommended partner.  

The smart move for job boards that want to retain traffic, service thier clients  and increase business would be to allow employers to do their employment screening with whatever background firm the employer chooses.  That would make a job board even more valualbe as part of the hiring process.  Through standard integration tools, that is something job boards could easily allow.   Exclusive business development  deals with just one screening firm  carries with it the unstated premise that the job boards know better than  HR and recruiters what is good for them.   That  is the same “old school” thinking that may have gotten job boards in trouble in the first place.   Besides, HR professionals clearly understand that when a job board has an exclusive partner, that most likely there is some sort of economic sharing as well. 

For information on how to select a screening firm, a sample Request for Proposal (RFP) or how to audit your current screening firm, see information at http://www.esrcheck.com/ESRadvantage.php

The sample RFP is at: http://www.esrcheck.com/backgroundscreeningrfp.php and the article on how to select a screening firm is at: http://www.esrcheck.com/SelectingBackgroundScreeningFirm.php

New Utah Privacy Laws Impact Employers and May Show Future Trend

Utah is the latest state to pass tough new privacy laws when it comes to Personally Identifiable Information (PII).

Utah passed a new law effective May 12, 2009 called ‘The Employment Selection Procedures Act.’  See: http://le.utah.gov/~2009S1/bills/hbillenr/hb1002.htm

The law prohibits an employer with more than 15 employees from collecting an applicant’s social security number, date of birth or driver’s license number before a job offer or before the time when a background check is requested.  In addition, if the person is not hired, the employer will not keep the information beyond two years. The employer also may not use the information for any other purposes and must maintain a “specific policy regarding the retention, disposition, access, and confidentiality of the information.” An applicant has the right to view the policy.

The idea appears to be to limit the flow of personal data before or unless it is needed and to destroy it if no longer needed.  For employers using paper applications, it creates an administrative burden since the employer needs to add another step to get the data required for a background check if an applicant moves forward in the hiring process.  However, electronic hiring procedures, such as the Applicant Generated Report system offered by ESR, solves this issue, since an applicant is only asked to provide confidential data only if the employer decides to perform a background check and the information only goes to the screening firm.

ESR provides Utah employers with a sample policy in the ESR proprietary 50 state guide available after logging onto the ESRnet system. 

The Utah law is part of a growing trend to restrict access to PII in order to prevent identity theft.  Some courts have attempted to restrict the access of identifying information in public records, which makes it harder for employers to receive accurate reports on a timely basis.

Recruiters and Background Checks – How to Speed up the Process

The life cycle of a background check is often in conflict with a recruiter’s time constraints to fill a position.  This blog explores how recruiters can help speed up the process.

Part of the on boarding process for most in-house recruiters is the completion of the pre-employment background check.On the other hand, it is mission critical that employers exercise due diligence in their hiring. If an employer hires someone who turns out to be dangerous, unfit or unqualified, and some harm occurs where it was foreseeable that a bad hire could cause damage, then the firm can be on the hook for a negligent hiring lawsuit, not to mention all of the other costs, workplace problems, and negative publicity associated with a bad hire. Of course, a bad hire does not reflect well on a recruiter either.

The challenge for recruiters  is that they are typically under intense time pressure to complete the hiring process quickly and to get the new person started. In a perfect world, a recruiter would like to be able to go to a website such as www.Should-I-Hire-This-Person-or-Not.com to get an immediate “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.” However, no such site exists because much of the data needed to do a background check is simply not gathered ahead of time and data based in such a neat and tidy way. There is not even a comprehensive national criminal database that reveals an accurate criminal history. Most private employers do not have access to the FBI criminal database, and even the FBI database is subject to numerous sources of errors.

As a result, background checks are conducted by actually calling up schools and past employers and going to courthouses. A background check will typically take three days, and that is assuming the universe is cooperating. Of course, there will be delays if an employer has gone out of business or refuses to call back, or a school is closed for a holiday or requires a release or check sent by mail. If a high school degree needs to be verified, there are almost always substantial delays since each high school does things completely differently.  If the applcaint has a GED, the delays can be very long.  If an international background check is requested, there can be a substantial delay.  Further delays can occur if there are potential criminal record matches, and the court clerk delays producing the file that would help determine whether the case can even be reported under complex federal and state rules.

The end result is that the  life cycle of a background check is often in conflict with a recruiter’s time constraints to fill a position. The good news is that a recruiter can be pro-active in speeding up background checks in several ways.

Creating an Efficient Background Check Timeline

1. Recruiters must understand the process can be delayed if screening firms are sent incomplete information, or supplied with forms that are illegible or incomplete.

For example, screening firms often face difficulty in deciphering an applicant’s past employers or social security number. Since a screening firm is not expected to read hieroglyphics or be a “mind reader,” the screening firm has to contact the recruiter to clarify the information. Some screening firms will make their best guess and if they are wrong, the report is delayed even further, proving the old adage that “no good deed goes unpunished.”

Recruiters who review all applications for completeness, legibility and accuracy with the candidates before sending the applications to a screening firm will find their work is completed much faster.

2. An in-house recruiter needs to communicate with hiring managers to eliminate unrealistic expectations. A hiring manager may not understand, for example, that criminal records are searched at each relevant courthouse, or that delays can occur if there is a potential match and the court needs to bring files from storage.

Hiring managers must also be advised that employment and education verifications can be delayed for a number of reasons, such as schools that are on vacation or that require a check or release to be mailed, or employers that are closed, merged or refuse to cooperate. If there is a delay in receiving a completed screening report, the recruiter should examine the source of the delay.

3. If a recruiter is working with a screening firm that has an online ordering system, the process is considerably faster. Not only does this ensure accuracy, which makes the process faster, but it also avoids delays caused by sending a request to a screening firm and waiting for the firm to do manual data entry.

4. Finally, there are times when a recruiter should determine that even though the screening firm has not been successful in obtaining all of the information, enough data is available to make a hiring decision. This typically happens in the area of verifying previous employment. When conducting employment verifications, often times the earliest employment is the most difficult to obtain. However, it may also be the least relevant. If the applicant, for example, worked in a fast food restaurant six years ago after getting out of school and the fast food place will not call back, then there may be no reason to delay the hiring decision, especially if the screening firm has obtained the most recent, and presumably more relevant, job verifications.

5.  It is also important to understand there is a difference between screening and investigation.  Screening is a high volume process, typically done at a low price point so large numbers of people can be reviewed, typically within 3-4 business days.  Investigation on the other hand is much more intense and in-depth endeavor, where each applicant is the subject of increased focus.  However, it much more expensive.   A recruiter or employer cannot reasonably expect to receive investigative level services at screening prices. 

Experienced recruiters understand that background checks are not only a critical part of the hiring process, but are a great deal more complicated than merely putting a name in a database. A competent background checking process requires specialized knowledge, resources and experience. This is particularly true since employment screening is a highly regulated area. The best way to speed up the process is to understand exactly what is involved in facilitating the smooth flow of accurate data.