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Pre-Employment Screening: What to Expect

Pre-Employment Screening: What to Expect

Job seekers might sometimes be surprised by how many stages a hiring process comprises. However, if they tried walking in the employer’s shoes, the process wouldn’t seem so intricate. Integrating a new person into your company, even if they performed as a perfect candidate, is always risky and contains numerous pitfalls. To safeguard themselves and prevent any kind of loss, employers have to resort to different ways to find out as much information about their potential candidate as possible.

Besides the traditional interview, there is also a pre-employment screening. Do you see this notion for the first time? Or you might have heard about it and want to learn more. In both cases, our article will be helpful, as it provides a comprehensive overview of the pre-employment screening process, its types, and its non-obvious benefits.

Purpose of Pre-Employment Screening

In general, pre-employment screening aims to verify the information potential employees include in their resumes and job applications. Besides that, it also serves as a candidate’s background screening. Depending on the profession or occupation, it may be a criminal history check, previous employment check, qualification check, motor vehicle records check, or even personality tests.

It’s all done to ensure that the candidate under consideration poses no potential threat to the company, its finances, or its reputation and will make a good fit with the company culture. Learning this information can help hiring managers make more informed hiring decisions, create more efficient teams, and avoid high levels of turnover. Such achievements substantially improve the talent acquisition process and, therefore, save company money.

Types of Pre-Employment Screening

It’s important to consider that employers often use more than one type of background check at a time. To paint a clearer picture for job applicants, we’ve collected some information about what various types of pre-employment screening typically look like.

Criminal Records Checks

Companies seek trustworthy employees, therefore, the criminal background check may become a game changer. The process usually implies companies using online databases to assess data at county, state, federal, or sometimes international levels. It’s government agencies such as the FBI and the Department of Transportation that offer pre-screening services on driving or criminal records to employers.

There are such examples of criminal background checks:

  • County Criminal Record Search. This database provides records only about criminal convictions or pending cases at the county level, or in other words, connected to their place of residence or work.
  • Statewide Criminal Records Search. The quality of the search results in this database depends on the state. Very often, the search results are not very accurate and even outdated.
  • FBI Fingerprint Database Search. Since the database gives access to information regarding arrests and final dispositions only based on local jurisdiction decisions, the picture of a job candidate’s criminal history may not be comprehensive.
  • Federal Criminal Records Search. This database is particularly helpful for a thorough pre-employment screening. Some crimes can’t be found on state or country-level searches because they fall under federal jurisdiction. Federal Criminal Records Search can solve this task.
  • National Criminal Record Search. The database contains materials from different court levels (municipal, circuit, district, and superior), the FBI, the Department of Corrections, U.S. Customs, the Department of Justice, the Secret Service, and others. That’s why it allows checking a candidate’s criminal record not only connected with their previous workplace or place of living but all over the country as well.

Credit History Screenings

A candidate’s credit history can serve as an indicator of irresponsibility and financial illiteracy on the one hand and as evidence of reliability and creditworthiness on the other. This type of pre-employment screening is under the Fair Credit Reporting Act supervision and is possible to be performed only after the applicant’s consent is received. Knowing what issues a potential employee has or has had with finances can tell employers how disciplined a person is (if there were late payments or defaults), and also their commitment to meeting financial obligations (and even not only financial).

Employment Verification and Reference Checks

Companies want to be sure that previous employment, achievements, and references included in a candidate’s resume are not made up out of thin air. This type of pre-employment screening may be a pain in the neck for recruiters every now and then, as not all employers are open to cooperation in providing details about their former employees.

Another important step for employers is to ensure that a job applicant is eligible to work. For that, all candidates fill out the I-9 Employment Verification Form, Section 1 is for the employee, whereas Section 2 is for the employer. It is then stored by authorized government agencies, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement or the Department of Labor, and is provided by an employer’s request.

Education Verification

Companies that offer entry-level positions might want to verify the degree and GPA that a job candidate listed on their resume. Usually, the education verification screening is provided by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. However, according to the Family Right to Privacy Act, educational institutions have to obtain the former student’s consent before starting their background check and releasing any information about their performance or academic achievements.

It’s not only students who include their education in their resume. Employees of other levels may be required to provide a license or professional certification, for example, doctors, lawyers, teachers, architects, and some others. Companies want these documents to be verified too on the basis of the pre-employment screening process.

Drug Testing

Despite any common sense, some people somehow manage to break the safety rules connected with taking illegal substances at work. Not only is it ethically wrong, but also fraught with workplace injuries. To prevent such situations, some require their potential workers as well as existing ones to conduct drug testing from time to time. These are normally organizations that provide transportation services, educational services, medical services, or that maintain any type of public safety services. It’s crucial to know for both parties that the procedure must be conducted strictly in accordance with local laws and regulations.

Benefits of Pre-Employment Screening

Even though the pre-employment screening process may seem to be time- and sometimes effort-consuming, it always pays off in the long run. Due to comprehensive background checks, a company can kill three birds with one stone: ensure safety in the workplace, find an employee who will highly align with the company culture, and safeguard itself legally.

Ensuring a Safe Work Environment

A safe work environment is one of the fundamental things every employer has to offer to their staff. When integrating a new person into a team, hiring managers and bosses have to ensure the new employee can pose no potential threat to the peace and security of the workplace and the people working in it. Not only will good hires reduce the risk of physical health damage but also contribute to employees’ mental well-being. People who feel safe and cared about tend to be more engaged and committed to handling their work responsibilities at a high level.

Assessing Job Competency and Fit

Taking into account how tough the situation in the job market is, people are ready to pull out all the stops just to get their resumes noticed by employers. This desire makes them so resourceful when creating their resumes or cover letters that they are prone to attributing imaginary merits or skills to themselves. Recruiters and hiring managers are well aware of all tricks candidates can resort to, but pre-employment screening tools serve as a wonderful filter against crafty but unfit job seekers.

Minimizing Legal Risks for Employers

There are obviously laws and regulations that require all businesses to provide safe and healthy working conditions to their employees. If anything happens to a worker during their working hours, it’s the company that shoulders the responsibility for it. Furthermore, if the work initially implies dealing with dangerous equipment, hazardous chemicals, or vulnerable members of society, it’s in the company’s interest to hire a trustworthy and reliable employee who will not damage the company’s image because of negligence. Besides financial and reputation losses, the trial proceedings process itself is extremely stressful and energy-consuming. It’s better to make use of preventative measures.

Some More Non-Obvious Benefits

Using pre-screening tools helps hiring managers and recruiters be more efficient when narrowing down the applicant pool. This means that the risk of bad hires gets lower. In one of our recent articles, you can learn more about how much money businesses lose because of hiring the wrong people. The average cost to hire an employee is over $4,000, not to mention the benefits package costs and training costs a company spends on a new employee. So pre-employment screening does take extra time, but it may well save a fair bit of a company’s hiring budget instead.

What to Expect During the Pre-Employment Screening Process

Finally, there are some nuances a job seeker should be prepared for when dealing with the pre-employment screening.

Completing Initial Forms and Passing a Pre-Screening Interview

Filling out initial forms usually includes:

  • Personal information
  • Employment history
  • Educational background
  • References
  • Consent for background checks
  • Signature and date.

The pre-screening interview is a pretty critical element of the pre-employment screening, it either gives the candidate the green light to the next stage (interview with the upper management) or disapproves their candidacy. The interview doesn’t usually take much time, as it’s not a regular interview. For this reason, it’s conducted over the phone or video chat. The typical questions are:

  • Tell me about your teamwork experience.
  • How can you apply your previous experience to this position?
  • Have ever had conflicts at work and how did you solve them?
  • What was your biggest challenge at work? How did you manage it?
  • What do you know about our company?

Providing Personal Information and Authorization for Background Checks

An interviewer has to respect personal boundaries and avoid asking too personal or too invasive questions, however, job candidates should regulate the appropriateness of the questionnaire too. The questions have to conform with confidentiality laws and regulations depending on the state you’re being interviewed in. Some institutions aim to protect workers, like The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It ensures that all federal discrimination laws are respected and obeyed. Also, as we’ve mentioned before, many institutions would first receive the candidate’s approval and then provide any kind of information about them.

Completing Drug Tests and Physicals, if Necessary

Since drug tests and physical examinations are normally conducted by official healthcare or testing facilities, candidates have to take them seriously and follow all the scheduling requirements. Being late or missing the appointment will hardly add points to their candidacy.

When taking a drug test, a candidate should be psychologically prepared to provide urine, blood, or hair samples. Detecting the presence of certain substances or medications will highly likely be a deal-breaker. Physical examinations are typically required for public safety and emergency services jobs, commercial driving jobs, the industrial sector and construction jobs, or healthcare and nursing jobs. It’s usually assessments of vital signs, vision, hearing, and mobility – the essential abilities that enable a person to do their work without endangering themselves or others.

Date: 8 July 2023
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