Screening results in safer workplaces, more productive employees

Thorough background checks can stop problems at the door

The world is a dangerous place and crimes — such as violence, embezzlement, theft and fraud — can easily permeate the workplace.

Conducting thorough background checks on candidates, while not a silver bullet, can go a long way in helping shield employers from these risks and also result in a more productive, efficient workforce. Professional pre-employment screening can provide the following benefits to an organization:

Increased productivity: Pre-employment screening helps decrease turnover by ensuring the right candidates are selected. It also promotes a safer workplace by excluding candidates with serious criminal offences. Consequently, employee screening can lead to a more efficient and productive workforce.

Decreased liability: Developing solid pre-employment screening policies and engaging in employee screening shows an employer has exercised due diligence in the hiring process, helping to deter negligent hiring lawsuits.

Reduced violence: Employees need to feel safe to do their jobs. Background checks and other pre-employment screening tools help weed out applicants with a violent past, decreasing the threat of a violent incident in the workplace.

Fraud and theft prevention: Pre-employment screening identifies resumé fraud by verifying an applicant’s previous education and employment history. Additionally, it can identify prospective employees with a history of theft or embezzlement.

What should an employer focus on?

There are several areas that are crucial in a thorough background screening:

Criminal record check: A nationwide search of the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database can be completed quickly, in less than 24 hours and at a very reasonable cost.

Credit inquiries: Aside from revealing financial pressures affecting a candidate, a credit inquiry can reveal undisclosed employers, alias names and confirm an applicant’s social insurance number. An employment credit inquiry does not, however, affect a candidate’s credit score. (Though conducting credit inquiries as part of pre-employment screening has recently come under fire. See “Tread carefully with credit checks: Privacy commissioner,” page one.)

Reference checks: Most companies have policies requiring reference checks for new hires but find these take too long and are often a challenge to complete. Outsourcing this service to a background screening company allows for a higher completion rate, removes biases and provides consistency. Most outsourced providers will allow a company to customize its questions and return complete results within two to three business days.

Credential and education verifications: Each year, thousands of job candidates fabricate their credentials or education history. HR or a background screening company can obtain forgery-proof results directly from a registrar’s office, with typical results in two to three business days.

Driver abstracts: This is essential information for companies hiring employees who will be required to drive as part of the job. They may be responsible for a company vehicle or representing the company while driving their own vehicle. Fast, accurate, forgery-proof results are usually available in one business day. Some background-screening companies can provide monthly re-check reminders to ensure company records are always up to date.

Exit interviews: Interviewing departing employees substantially minimizes employee turnover, reveals hidden problems, lowers the risk for future litigation and promotes good public relations with employees who voluntarily resign. Companies also learn how competitors are attracting employees and discover alternative methods to improve employee satisfaction.

Employers may be concerned such intensive screening can delay hiring but most background checks can be completed in two to three days.

Privacy concerns

An organization might also have concerns around privacy, especially with governments enforcing strict privacy legislation that controls the collection, storage and disclosure of personal information. But employers have an absolute right to conduct lawful, pre-employment screening to hire the best-qualified candidates.

In conducting a background check, employers only find out about things an applicant has done in her public life. Checking CPIC for criminal convictions or calling past employers and schools does not invade personal privacy, as long as proper consent has been given by the candidate.

The key is informed consent. Depending on the background check, once an offer of employment is given, an applicant will be required to sign a consent form, providing personal identifiers, including complete name, a minimum of five years’ address history and a date of birth.

Employers should tell job candidates early in the process a background check will be required if they are successful in advancing through the interview process. Many who are not comfortable with this, or have something to hide, will self-select out and move on to the increasingly difficult task of locating a company where screening policies are less stringent.

Both employers and applicants have come to learn pre-employment screening is an absolute necessity in the business world. More importantly, they know due diligence in hiring is a way to keep firms safe and profitable in difficult times.

Tim Hardie is president of Hire Performance, a background screening company in Toronto. He can be reached at [email protected] or, for more information, visit

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