Here are ten (10) trends in hiring and employment screening that ESR is tracking in 2008.

  1. Paperless Systems: With advances in technology, there is no longer a need for job applicants to sign a physical piece of paper or for employers to enter data on a background screening website. An “Applicant Generated Report” takes advantage of the federal electronic signature laws for a valid online signature, so that applicant fills out the screening authorization form online, then that applicant data goes directly into the background screening firm’s system.
  2. 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. Although there are numerous practical and legal challenges as well as data and privacy concerns, international background checks are becoming very accessible to employers.
  3. Legal Compliance: Even though the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) governs background checks on the national level, there are a number of states passing their own laws. This underscores the trend that background checking requires legal compliance expertise in order to comply with complicated federal and state laws.
  4. Privacy Concerns and the Off-shoring of Data: Even though great strides have been made to fight identify theft and to protect personal data in the U.S., there is practically no legal protection once personal and identifiable information (PII) leaves the U.S. Employers need to very carefully establish whether a background firm is sending data off-shore for processing and, if so, employers need to know what country is being used, what information is going off-shore and what privacy protection is in place. The concern for employers? If it gets out that you are using a screening firm that sends applicant data overseas, would applicants want to apply to your organization?
  5. Accreditation of Screening Firms: For many employers, it is difficult to distinguish among screening vendors. The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) is in the process of developing accreditation standards. In the meantime, the following website has a helpful article and link to a sample Request for Services (RFP) that may help employers determine how to select a screening service. See:
  6. Rights of Ex-offenders to Get Jobs. There is an active movement in the U.S. to help ex-offenders obtain gainful employment. Without a job, an ex-offender is likely to end up back in custody, and unless we as a society would rather build more prisons than schools and hospitals, a way is needed for ex-offenders to get back to work. In addition, there is a greater likelihood that an employer could be sued for discrimination if an ex-offender is denied employment without a business justification.
  7. Increased Screening of Temps, Independent Contractors and Vendors: Some employers have well-thought out screening programs for their employees, but routinely allow temporary workers, independent contractors and vendors access to their premises, clients, or computer systems with no idea of who they are. Employers need to examine their practices for screening members of their extended workforce and vendors.
  8. The Use of Search Engines and Social Networking Sites: Employers will increase their use of search engines and sites like Facebook and MySpace to screen applicants. However, there are a number of pitfalls, such as obtaining information that is potentially discriminatory or not authentic. In addition, the issue of whether applicants have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in their social networking sites has yet to be determined, since there are strong arguments that not everything on the web is fair game for employers to use.
  9. The Use of Criminal Databases. Although large criminal databases are a valuable secondary tool with millions of records, employers are beginning to understand that those databases are not a replacement for a county criminal search but rather a supplemental search that may lead to other counties to check.
  10. Ongoing Screening Post-hire: New tools make it possible to screen employees periodically after they are hired. However, thought must be given to the type of screening and what to do with any negative information. Such screening also uses databases, which can have a high rate of “false positives” and “false negatives” when used as a standalone tool.

For more information, contact Jared Callahan of ESR at [email protected] or 888-999-4474, Ext. 240

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