Top 10 Trends in Employment Background Screening

I’m still digging out of things that stacked up while I was off at the annual SHRM conference in San Diego  last month, and here’s one of those things: the latest take on trends in employment background screening.

This comes courtesy of a survey conducted by EmployeeScreenIQ and, “was completed by 606 individuals from a wide range of organizations in the U.S. in May 2010. It provides a reliable snapshot of how organizations currently use background checks, how their use has changed in recent years, and what lies ahead.”  

The respondents are largely from smaller companies – 61 percent are from organizations with 500 or fewer employees – but I think you’ll agree that the survey results are likely to apply to just about any size business at all.

The introduction to the 2010 Trends in Employment Background Screening survey (and you can download a free copy here ) states it pretty plainly – “Human resources managers have a duty to avoid bad hires” – and that’s why I found the Top 10 findings from the survey to be pretty interesting. Here they are:

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Top 10 Survey Findings

  1. Employment background screening is a widespread practice: 92 percent of the companies surveyed perform background checks. Of that majority, 70 percent use them for over 80 percent of hires.
  2. 70 percent of respondents said that background checks have increased in importance in recent years.
  3. Background screening will continue to become more prevalent. About a third of those who don’t use background checks reported they intend to do so in the next six months.
  4. Only 32 percent of respondents felt that social networking sites were useful for employment screening.
  5. Criminal record checks (county and/or national) and employment verifications are mandatory in the majority of organizations that conduct checks.
  6. Most respondents consider criminal records (county and national), employment verifications, substance abuse, and educational verifications as high priority checks.
  7. Only a third of the respondents view credit checks as a high priority in the hiring process.
  8. Less than a third of the organizations surveyed said they did not perform checks on contract workers nor mandate they be performed.
  9. More than three-quarters of respondents agreed their managers were very supportive of their screening program.
  10. Nearly all respondents (96 percent) agreed that candidates accepted the need for background checks.

Cleveland-based EmployeeScreenIQ touts itself as a “employment screening company offering a variety of employment screening services to mid- and large-cap organizations throughout the world, including those in North and South America, Europe and East Asia.”

I met Nick Fishman, the company’s co-founder and currently its executive vice president and chief marketing officer, at SHRM San Diego. I was stuck not only by how much he knows about background screening, but also how focused he  is about the standards and practices that the industry needs to follow in order to conduct background checks in a fair and credible way during these challenging times for both employers and prospective employees. The conclusion to the 2010 Trends in Employment Background Screening survey makes this point as well:

“Background screening has become a standard and important part of the hiring process. Furthermore it has become more important in recent years and is likely to become more widespread. Hiring managers support background checks and candidates accept the need for them. The area that is most sensitive is credit checks, particularly because a bad economy has left many people with poor credit histories. The challenge for organizations will be to ensure they get high quality background checks and use them routinely in a climate where untruthful resumes seem more common and the risks of bad hiring are greater.”

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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