June 26th, 2017 | Sterling

Creating Your Perfect Background Screening Policy

According to the UK Background Screening Trends & Best Practices 2016 Report, one in five companies that perform background checks does not have an official background screening policy. So if you don’t—not to worry, you’re not alone and luckily, we’ve got you covered. Sterling recently hosted a webinar, HR Essentials: How To Create an Effective Background Screening Policy presented by Steven Smith, Vice President for Sterling, who gave some top notch advice on why and how to create an impactful background screening policy. Having a screening policy can be an essential part of the background check process, but is especially important now with the looming impact of the GDPR with its changes about how personal data can be accessed and handled. You can access information about the first in our GDPR webinar series on our website.

First thing’s first, for those of you who don’t have a background screening policy you may be wondering why it is important. Maybe you’ve never had any problems with candidates during the screening process, felt a policy was too complicated or didn’t know there was a need for one. But the truth is, a background screening policy helps maintain transparency with both candidates and employees and ensures that you handle all candidates in a consistent manner, avoiding inadvertent discrimination. When you do run into that vocal candidate challenging the background screening results, your policy will be your lifeline that helps you preserve a consistent and compliant screening process, protecting your brand, people, property and reputation.

Sterling has put together a Background Screening Policy Considerations checklist, which is a handy guide explaining the important components of a background screening policy. Let’s talk details about your policy:

Who and What to Include in Your Background Screening Policy

Your policy will serve as a guideline from the way you communicate with your candidate throughout the background screening process and through the beginning of the onboarding procedure. It is important to clearly document each aspect of this process in line with all background screening legislation for the sake of complying with the law and maintaining utmost transparency with your candidates and employees.

  • Decide at which point in the hiring process the background check will occur. Background checks can be performed at different times during the candidate process—before they are hired or when an offer has been made— so clearly outlining a fixed point for the background screening will help avoid any procedural issues.
  • Determine who is subject to a check and which employees need a more in-depth screening process. As a result of sector specific screening requirements, some positions need credit or financial stability checks while others need employment verifications. Make sure to identify who has authority over this procedure on an ongoing basis and further, who will be documenting each and every screen that occurs.
  • Explain the method for how you perform and review the background checks. Often, candidates fear that a small glitch in the screening results will prevent the applicant from further consideration. Now is the chance to highlight your reviewing process and that background checks are only one part of the hiring procedure, helping with candidate transparency and peace of mind. Hand in hand, document that the candidate will be given the opportunity to debrief with the employer if a decision has been made to terminate the hiring process as a result of the background check.
  • Include a process for data protection and upholding privacy for all candidates’ personal information. With the implementation of the GDPR policy in May 2018, the way we handle our candidates’ information is under more and more scrutiny and it is vital to follow all procedures. Don’t forget to pinpoint why you perform background checks in the first place and what you hope to achieve. Your candidates will feel much more confident giving you their personal information as a result and not to mention, you’ll mitigate any legal liabilities.
  • Document data retention periods that relate to a background check. Candidates may feel uneasy about you holding their personal information in your system for eternity. Determine the length of time you will hold onto screening results and if specific circumstances require you to hang onto some data for longer. Consider your legal obligations that may deter you from retaining information beyond a set time and make sure to address that in your background screening policy.
  • Define how often you will audit the process. The background check policy, if used correctly, exists to help you stay consistent with how you conduct your background checks and to ensure compliance. Have steps to monitor and review the success of your background screening policy and define a procedure for editing it in the future.

How to Roll Out Your Background Screening Policy Across Your Hiring Function

Once you have an idea of how to create and what to include in your background screening policy, it’s essential to use the right resources that are uniquely appropriate for your company.

  • Identify useful resources you’ve already created. Review your notes from when you were bringing background screening to life in your company. Then, as you’re creating your policy, gather all of your informational guides and resources you already use when bringing your candidates through the process and you will have a detailed blueprint for your policy.
  • Identify which groups need to be involved in this process. This may sit closely with your Risk and Compliance teams, but one person or group cannot make this policy alone. Identify who will be a part of this project, whether that is a project manager from HR or a representative from the Talent team, and engage them in the process up front.
  • Consider international impact. Companies who are screening across regions or globally, this one is for you. Rather than creating one overarching policy, Steven suggests creating a plug-and-play type template. With the structure of the policy in place, each region’s HR director can input locally appropriate information and your policy can remain in line with each country’s unique interests and procedures.

How to Manage Your New Policy

Creating your policy is only the start of a large indenture. Remain focused on communicating your policy and ensuring its continued validity amidst continually changing legislation.

  • Brief your HR staff and hiring managers on the details of your policy. Explain the reason for your new policy and when it is appropriate to engage your candidates in the conversation around the background checks. A great time for this would be during the interview, so candidates are aware of the specifics surrounding the process. You may consider releasing your policy for maximum clarity.
  • Identify best practice versus current practice. Though your company has a say in which type of background checks are used for different positions as well as when to screen your candidates, a screening package can change very quickly in this industry, so it is so important to stay up to date on your policy. Recognise that your policy may be missing key pieces or need to be regularly updated with the progression of the GDPR policy. Identify when to review your policy and who will partake in analysing your program.

Whether you have a background screening policy or not, take a moment to review your background screening procedures for not only your candidates’ benefit but for preserving your company’s brand and reputation. Keep up with our GDPR webinar series to stay in the know on changing policies and helpful information. For more material on background screening best practices sign up for our next webinar on July 20 at 2 PM BST, and to learn more details about creating your company’s background screening policy, listen to the OnDemand version of our ’ HR Essentials: How To Create an Effective Background Screening Policy’ webinar.

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.