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    Busted: 5 Myths Uncovered about Employment Screening

    Are you familiar with the popular expression “a bull in a china shop”? Well, this is just one of the many assumptions and popular beliefs tested by the widely popular science entertainment show ‘Mythbusters’ featured on the Discovery Channel. Amazingly, in that particular episode, the myth was busted. The show set up a makeshift china shop and the bulls ran through and kept avoiding the shelves, even when running at high speed. As a business owner, you may find it interesting to learn there are some common myths --assumptions and misconceptions concerning employment screening.

    Myth #1

    Requesting a background check through an online site for a potential candidate saves me money and provides all the information needed to make an informed decision.


    Busted: Access to background checks are readily available and inexpensive to purchase. However, access to concrete information is only available to licensed firms experienced in background checks.

    Takeaway: Do your homework and find a reputable, licensed firm. Otherwise, you might waste your  time and money on an incomplete background check, ultimately, hurting your business and bottom-line.

    Myth #2

    Social media is a great way to attract promising hires, so it must be a useful tool to utilize as an employment screening tool.


    Busted: While social media might be a way to get “to know” a candidate informally, it may open you to discriminatory thinking and EEOC violations. This is because a person’s personal life is usually shown on their profile – marital status, children, political views, religion, and sexual orientation.

    Takeaway: Continue utilizing your company social media sites to attract potential top talent. However, be selective on which social media sites you visit. For instance, Linkedin is a professional networking site and the candidate would have their past job history posted, as well as their professional connections.

    Myth #3

    A credit check showing negative history indicates the candidate is irresponsible, so they should not be considered as a potential hire.


    Busted: While good credit is usually necessary for management level jobs or positions of a sensitive nature, you will want to know all the facts. For example, the potential hire may have experienced a temporary setback in their credit because of a major life event out of  their control, such as divorce, death in family, or loss of a job.

    Takeaway: If you have questions on any part of the credit history, make sure to discuss with the applicant to find out the entire story. An article in Entrepreneur magazine advises to always consider the reasons behind negative marks in a credit report. In fact, a president interviewed said he may favor someone who has faced adversity and taken command of their financial crisis rather than not.

     In 2012, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued “Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” to serve as a resource for employers, employment agencies, and unions.

    Myth #4      

    Title VII prohibits employers from obtaining or using criminal background reports to screen job applicants or employees.


    Busted: Employers are not prohibited from acquiring criminal records to screen potential or current employees. However, it is important to note Title VII does prohibit employers  from treating applicants with the same criminal records differently due to race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

    Takeaway: Be forthcoming in job posting or application process.

    All applicants should be made aware that they may be subject to a criminal background check. Also, consider including a statement which clarifies that candidates having a criminal record will not automatically eliminate them from consideration. Protect yourself from liability – review your company job announcement to ensure it does not include verbiage, such as “no criminal history”, “no felons”, and “no arrest records.”

    Myth #5

    As an employer, you are within your legal rights to automatically exclude potential contenders from consideration when a criminal history report comes back showing an arrest record.


    Busted: EEOC’s Guidance provides advice on avoiding Title VII liability if using potential candidates' or current employees’ criminal records to make employment decisions. For instance, it states an employer must be able to show that an exclusion is “job related and consistent with business necessity.”

    Takeaway: Utilize the same searches for each applicant applying for the same opening.

    If the search results in a criminal record finding, keep in mind an arrest on record does not establish criminal conduct has occurred. Craft and implement a written policy and procedure to follow should a background check for an ideal candidate result in past criminal conduct findings. Include reasons you would exclude a candidate. For example, would the person pose an increased risk, based on the job responsibilities or would they pose an increased risk, based on the environment (private home vs warehouse setting vs outdoors) in which they would be performing their job duties?

    There are a variety of tools available to pre-screen potential top talent for hire.  As a business owner, it is in your best interest to "take the bull by the horns" and  familiarize yourself with the most common misconceptions surrounding employment screening. Arm yourself with this knowledge and follow best practices to ensure better protection of your biggest investments ---namely your business and employees.

    Learn how to combat the national labor shortage. Download the whitepaper!

    Greg Hermanson

    Greg Hermanson is responsible for the recruiting and hiring of SWBC employees—a number which has grown from 400 to more than 3,500 since he joined the company in January 2005. In addition, as Vice President of Human Resources, he is responsible for employee relations and plays a key role in the performance management process. Greg and his Staffing and Employee Relations teams have helped SWBC to maintain the culture that facilitated our organization being named one of the “Best Companies to Work for in Texas” by Texas Monthly.

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