How Background Screening Technology Innovations Help Employers Overcome New Hiring Challenges

Often, news coverage about employment background checks focuses on what went wrong. You might hear about inaccuracies in a background check that kept a candidate from getting a job; maybe compliance missteps during the background screening process led to a class-action lawsuit, or a background check failed to uncover key information that may have prevented workplace violence.

What earns less attention are the many benefits of background checks. Background checks help to enhance workplace safety, confirm a candidate’s qualifications, and identify the right person for the job. According to the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA), the top reasons employers conduct background screenings are to protect customers and employees (76%), find better-quality hires (52%) and safeguard the company’s reputation (41%).

Innovations in the screening industry are making background checks more efficient, accurate and valuable to HR teams than ever before. While current hiring trends present new hurdles for employers, advances in background screening technology are helping HR professionals rise to the challenge.

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Top hiring trends for 2021

The global pandemic has accelerated several trends related to Background Screening Technology, that was already on the rise.

Hiring trend 1: Skilled labor shortage 

Many factors are making it harder to find qualified workers. Generous pandemic-related unemployment benefits have kept some candidates out of the workforce. Though federal benefits and those in many states have ended, some workers are reluctant to return to the workforce for fear of COVID-19. Many workers face child-care problems, while others have made career changes.

In this environment, a slow turnaround on background checks could cost you a prime job candidate. More than six in 10 professionals lose interest in a position if they don’t hear from the employer within two weeks of their first interview, and 36% of employers have shortened their hiring process since January 2021. You should never skip a background check; the key is balancing speed and accuracy when conducting a background screening.

Features to look for in background screening technology 

  • In-house data hosting for faster-automated searching
  • A provider that continually automates access to new data sources
  • Human review of alerts for reliable results
  • Automated workflows including consent requests, adjudication and adverse action
  • Easy integration with your ATS and HRIS platforms to reduce manual workflows
  • Mobile-optimized communication with candidates, including digital consent, to speed the process

Hiring trend 2: Rise of remote work 

Remote work is here to stay, which means you’re more likely than in the past to hire people from other cities, states or jurisdictions where different laws apply. Some 39% of companies have widened their candidate search geographically since January 2021; 32% have advertised fully remote positions.

You may even be considering international candidates. One-third of HR professionals say that in the next five years, they expect to hire more candidates who live or have lived in other countries, and 72% believe companies need access to international screening capabilities. When hiring without meeting candidates in person, screening processes such as employment, education and identity verification are more important than ever.

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Advancements in biometric identity verification and robotic process automation (RPA) are the biggest technological breakthroughs the screening industry has seen in the past few years. Biometric ID verification allows background screeners to provide a more frictionless experience for candidates to prove their identities and reduce fraudulent applications. Using RPA, screeners can have candidates login to their previous payroll providers and use automation to pull employment verification data more efficiently and cost-effectively.

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Features to look for in background screening technology 

  • International background check capabilities for both current US residents and candidates living overseas
  • Automatic cross-checking of records for accuracy with a manual checking process for positive results
  • Scalability for companies planning international expansion
  • Identity verification tools to help confirm your candidate is who they say they are
  • Intuitive online and mobile experience to make a positive candidate impression

Hiring trend 3: Fair chance hiring

Issues of racial inequality came to the fore in 2020, bringing new attention to the concept of fair chance hiring. This movement aims to give candidates with criminal records an equal chance at employment. Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe nonviolent offenses shouldn’t automatically disqualify job applicants. However, background checks may disproportionately weed out job-seekers of color, who are statistically more likely to have had encounters with the criminal justice system.

Ban-the-box and fair chance laws seek to level the playing field for candidates with criminal records.

Ban-the-box laws in 36 states and more than 150 cities and counties prohibit asking about criminal convictions on job applications. Fair chance laws regulate when employers can conduct criminal background checks and how they can use the results in hiring decisions.

The ever-growing patchwork of state and local ban-the-box and fair chance laws can make compliance a challenge. Choose a vendor that is an expert on compliance and can guide your organization towards the right background screening packages to meet your company policy and regulatory requirements.

Features to look for in background screening technology 

  • Software that automatically applies legal reporting restrictions based on federal, state and local laws
  • Automated adjudication and adverse action workflows based on the federal, state, and local laws applicable to the business’s and candidate’s locations
  • Option for candidates to provide additional context about criminal records or dispute screening results during the screening process

Hiring trend 4: Hiring from within

The ongoing shortage of qualified workers means more companies are hiring from within. Moving employees into new roles may require additional background screening to confirm licensing or other qualifications and mitigate risk of negligent hiring.

Even employees who aren’t changing positions may need regular screening for new criminal records if they are in sensitive jobs such as childcare or delivery driving. Reflecting this trend, the number of companies conducting background checks annually or more often doubled in 2020 compared to 2018.

Features to look for in background screening technology 

  • Ability to automate regularly scheduled background checks such as criminal, healthcare sanctions and motor vehicle records checks
  • Automated alerts of new information about employees
  • Automatic requests for FCRA-compliant consent

Hiring trend 5: Designing a great candidate experience

It’s a job-seeker’s market, so making a positive impression on candidates is vital. A background screening process that’s clunky and unintuitive—or leaves the candidate unsure where they stand and what to do next—makes your company less desirable as an employer. Job applicants who had a positive candidate experience are more than twice as likely to recommend a company to others and 38% more likely to accept a job offer.

Features to look for in background screening technology

  • A candidate-friendly background screening process that keeps candidates informed of the status of their screening
  • An intuitive mobile workflow for candidates to quickly upload required documents, complete forms, provide e-consent, and check status
  • An online help center to provide customer service for candidates
  • Easy integration with your third-party or in-house ATS and HRIS so you control the branding of the candidate experience

Put the right background check provider on your side

The right technology can give your organization a hiring advantage. When selecting a background screening provider, look for vendors that are making proactive investments in new processes and technologies to automate and simplify the background checking process from all angles—making the candidate’s experience easier, pulling data more quickly, and automating the adjudication/decision-making process.

But don’t forget about the human touch. Choose a screening provider that has FCRA-certified experts on staff and combines automation with human reviews to cross-check positive results and verify accuracy. Last, but not least, a background check company that continually monitors changes in employment laws and updates its solution accordingly can protect you from liability. Ultimately, compliance is your responsibility, but choosing the right background screening provider can make it easier.