June 1st, 2017 | Debbie Lamb, Sterling Talent Solutions

Background Screening Research Results: Key Insights to Improve Your Screening Program

Sterling took the pulse of HR professionals for our soon to be released Background Screening Trends & Best Practice Report. We recently previewed the results of this survey with Clare Hart, CEO of Sterling and Nick Fishman, Senior Vice President, Strategic Partners and Alliances, Sterling. The survey asked questions on background screening best practices, challenges and barriers, awareness of compliance issues and expectations and emerging trends for the rest of 2017.

Background Screening Survey Participants

Sterling surveyed over 500 HR professionals across the United States in February-March 2017. The majority of the respondents (67%) were in the managerial to upper management role. Survey data represented 33 industries including consulting, education, healthcare, manufacturing, not-for-profit, staffing and technology. The majority of participating companies had between 1 and 500 employees and annual revenue between 1 MM and 50 MM. The results of the survey refer only to those that conduct background checks.

Why Does a Company Run Background Screening Checks?

Based on the survey results, 89% of responders currently perform some background screening while 11% of the survey takers did not perform any checks. The number of checks run per year is based on the company size. The survey found there are many reasons why a company runs background screening checks:

Graph Results

For businesses, it is important to get the whole picture of a candidate from entry-level to executive to protect from bad hires, which could affect a company’s reputation and bottom-line. The survey found that 57% of respondents conduct executive background checks in the same way as other candidate screening, while 41% of those surveyed will perform more due diligence for executive hiring.

What Types of Background Checks Are Being Run?

We asked what types of background checks the survey participants were running, and found:

  • 93% Criminal Record Search
  • 64% Employment Verification
  • 55% Form I-9/E-Verify
  • 50% Education Verifications
  • 46% Motor Vehicle Records
  • 44% Substance Abuse Screening
  • 35% Professional Certification Verification
  • 28% Credit History Reports
  • 23% Social Media/Web Search

There were some interesting changes in the survey from 2015 to 2017, especially for drug screening and social media searches. According to the survey results, substance abuse (or drug) screening has dropped from 51% in 2015 to 44% in 2017. The legalization of marijuana for recreational and medicinal use across the country has taken effect on a company’s drug screening policies. According to the annual Quest Diagnostic Drug Testing Index, illicit drug use among US employees continue to rise, resulting in the highest drug test positivity rates in 12 years. This nationwide survey of more than 10 million workforce drug test results revealed positive marijuana results increased among all three testing specimens: oral fluid, hair and urine. In Colorado and Washington (the first states to legalize recreational marijuana), positive marijuana test results increased 11% and 9% respectively, while the overall nationwide marijuana positivity rate increased 4%.

However, it is important to remember that marijuana continues to be illegal at the federal level. Because of the changes in state marijuana laws, employers have been re-visiting their drug screening policies, but they do not have to stop screening. They can create a drug screening program that complies with all of the state and federal substance abuse testing requirements but still meets the company’s strategic goals.

Social media is used in all aspects of the hiring process from recruiting to background screening. The use of social media screening increased from 2015, up from 5% to 23% today. 57% of social media screening is conducted by the in-house HR team while 21% of these screens are conducted informally by someone other than hiring manager or a third party vendor. There are both risks and benefits to social media screening, but these types of screenings are becoming more important for companies. Social media profiles can reveal red flags from a resume as well as evidence of drug use, negative comments toward previous employers or co-workers or even disclosure of confidential information.

Background Screening Challenges

Background screening isn’t always easy. 38% of our respondents said their top challenge when it comes to background screening is ensuring they are getting all the information they need to make an informed hiring decision, while 25% are more concerned with complying with the ever-changing screening laws.  Ban the Box laws, one of the many laws that affect the hiring process has gained popularity across the US, especially in the past few years. Of the respondents in our survey, 36% believe Ban the Box laws only delay the inevitable information an employer will learn anyway.  Nearly one-third of the respondents also believe the ban the box laws are fair to the candidates, but on the reverse side, nearly one-quarter of respondents find the laws unreasonable for employers. In order to be compliant with multi-state and city ban the box laws, companies are removing the box asking about criminal history.

Candidate Experience is a Growing Topic

Having a positive and transparent candidate hiring experience is becoming more popular with companies. In addition to being compliant with local, state and federal laws, 26% of those surveyed said that candidate experience is their top priority this year. With today’s candidate-driven job market, companies are competing for top talent. Having a great hiring experience will put companies ahead of their competitors to get the best new hires. New HR technologies, including an emphasis on mobile, are also playing a role in improving candidate experience including:

  • Complete background check via mobile device
  • Customized compliance forms
  • Integration of background screening with ATS
  • Digital consent forms
    with eSignatures
  • Real-time status updates

Keeping Up-to-Date with Background Screening

This is just a preview of some of the results from the Benchmark Background Screening Survey. We will be sharing more of the findings over the next few months. It is very important for a company to review their background screening program annually to keep up with changes in the law, product updates and shifts in consumer sentiment. A third party background screening partner will help guide you through the ever-changing compliance landscape and provide ways to create a positive and seamless candidate experience. To get more data and insight to the Benchmark Survey listen to an On Demand version today.

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.