Study suggests job applicants put off by social media background checks

Employers who are beginning to use social media as part of their background check process might be opening themselves up to a negative impression – and even job offer rejection – by prospective employees.

That’s according to research from a study on the effects of social network screening in the workplace conducted by researchers out of North Carolina State University. The study, which was presented at a recent Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology conference, found that social media background screening actually reduces an organization’s attractiveness for the job applicant and incumbent worker.

According to the study, 175 students applied for a fictitious temporary job they believed to be real and were later informed they were screened. Applicants were less willing to take a job offer after being screened, perceiving the action to reflect on the organization’s fairness and treatment of employees based on a post-study questionnaire. They also felt their privacy was invaded.

The use of social media background checks is becoming more popular among employers. While this study doesn’t suggest employers not be completely candid and transparent about the use of such employment screening methods, it should cause some discussion about whether the tactic is worth the payoff.

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Government background checks for security clearance getting downright speedy

Everyone’s doing background checks on everyone else these days, it seems, and all this background checking seems to be making the government speedier at it. That’s according to testimony last week before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee, which stated the government is completing its initial personnel security investigations in an average of 36 days, a sharp drop from the 145 days average in 2005.

The Office of Personnel Management’s background investigations for top secret clearances average 72 days, compared to 308 days in 2005. Reinvestigations, which are required every five years for employees with top security clearance average 93 days against an incredibly slow 419 days in 2005. All other secret or confidential clearance reinvestigations average 31 days now, compared to 115 days in 2005.

Merton W. Miller, associate director of investigations for the Federal Investigative Service, which provides background checks for 90 percent of the federal government, said the speedier checks were due in part to the updating of the national security questionnaire, the Standard Form 86. That form now asks for more information from applicants, which in turn has streamlined the interview process. And there’s an increased emphasis on filling out forms electronically rather than on paper, which has decreased the number of incomplete or illegible forms and led to fewer backlogs, he said.

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Screening only one facet of avoiding, or catching, a criminal

The headlines on the Jerry Sandusky trial are a clear indication that there needs to be more than background checks in order to protect children from predators. For those not familiar with the case, Sandusky is the former Penn State assistant football coach who is currently facing 52 counts tied to what prosecutors say was his sexual abuse of at least 10 boys over a span of 15 years. The state says Sandusky met many of his alleged victims through The Second Mile, a charity for underprivileged youths that he founded.

Avoiding the hiring of someone with a criminal record that could pose a threat to your company or your employees is one thing. But catching a criminal is another, and a background check doesn’t always reveal one. Sandusky, though his trial is ongoing and he hasn’t been convicted of any crime yet, had no criminal record leading up to this recent arrest.

Last week the national Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), one of the nation’s largest volunteer sports organizations, announced aggressive actions to implement the measures put forth by two independent task forces. The first steps include requiring that all adults involved in AAU activities – from volunteer coaches to AAU staff – undergo detailed background checks. The second is adopting clear policies and procedures designed to ensure that young athletes are never left alone with individual adults. And the third step is requiring all AAU volunteers and staff to report any incidents of suspected child abuse to law enforcement and to officials of the AAU and related sports clubs.

The action was prompted after child sexual abuse allegations were lodged against an ex-president of the group, according to news reports. In total, there are 42 recommendations for changes in AAU policies, procedures and protocols, all designed to make young athletes safer. The recommendations cover six broad subject areas: culture, protocols, screening, participation, training and reporting.

The fact that screening, employment screening and volunteer screening, is only part of the recommendations is a good indication that every employer and every organization across all industries should have a multi-tiered system in place for preventing – or at least catching — such abuse.

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Clearing up myths about background checks

With the use of background checks increasingly in the news, employees and job seekers across all industries are becoming more wary of what details about their personal and professional histories are being researched, reviewed and used against them during the hiring process.

The vast majority of employers use fair, unbiased measures to help them determine the best applicant for a particular job. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a slew of misconceptions out there regarding employment screening. Here are a few of the most common misconceptions, which all employers should be aware of as you journey through the hiring process.

Myth 1: Background check policies are the biggest reason the unemployment rate is so high. This is untrue. Background checks do keep the occasional applicant from securing the job, but background check policies are put in place to ensure the best applicants are hired and retained. The goal is to hire, not to keep a position unfilled.

Myth 2: If you have a criminal record, you won’t be hired. While having a criminal record could pose some difficulties during the hiring process, that depends on how long ago the crime was committed, the nature of the conviction, among other things. According to one survey, less than 10 percent of applicants with criminal records are denied employment.

Myth 3: Employers factor in your credit score when deciding whether or not to hire you. Not true in most cases. Credit checks are typically done when the job in question involves handling money and keeping track of finances. Even so, most employers use what’s called an Employment Credit Report, which does not include a credit score.

Myth 4:  Applicants aren’t given a chance to correct or argue findings. Actually, by law employers are required to give job applicants a copy of their background check and allow them to clear up any misinformation.

As with most areas of business, communication is key. Make sure your policies are clearly stated, and strictly followed. And give prospective employees the chance to clear up any misinformation that might have been uncovered during the process.

New survey finds 37 percent of employers use social media in screening process

The use of social media background checks has been a bit of a hot-button issue lately, as more people bite back against the privacy-violating practice of employers asking for job applicants’ social media passwords. While employers are wading into this new area of employment screening with a good mix of trepidation, curiosity and legal counsel, previous surveys regarding the use of social media in the background check process seemed to point toward its growing popularity. A survey by California-based Employment Screening Resources cited a statistic that 48 percent of employers admitted using social networking websites as part of their employment screening process.

But a newer survey, this one by Chicago-based job board CareerBuilder, includes more conservative numbers. According to the CareerBuilder survey, 37 percent of hiring managers and human resources professionals use social media to look into job candidates.

The survey says employers primarily used Facebook (65 percent) and LinkedIn (63 percent) to research candidates, while 16 percent used Twitter. Employers cited the following reasons for using social media to look into the candidates’ backgrounds:

  • To see if the candidate presents himself/herself professionally: 65 percent.
  • To see if the candidate is a good fit for the company culture: 51 percent.
  • To learn more about the candidate’s qualifications: 45 percent.
  • To see if the candidate is well-rounded: 35 percent.
  • To look for reasons not to hire the candidate: 12 percent.

It’s clear this new tool for researching prospective employees is here to stay, at least in some capacity. Employers would be well advised, though, to avoid asking for passwords and instead just use the information a job applicant already has deemed to be “public.”

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Pa. Dept. of Aging changes to electronic fingerprinting

The Pennsylvania Department of Aging will soon begin using an electronic fingerprinting process to screen people applying to work in a long-term care facility or home health care agency, according to a press release by the department. As of June 4, manually submitted background check requests no longer are to be accepted by the department.

“In addition to enhancing the protections provided to our older adults, electronic fingerprinting will help us to more quickly process background checks,” Secretary of Aging Brian Duke stated in the release. “This is important because it will help people obtain jobs in Pennsylvania’s valuable health care industry.”

The secratatropin hgh Older Adults Protective Services Act requires applicants and employees of long-term care facilities, home health care agencies and other agencies to undergo a criminal history background check. They must also obtain criminal history record reports through the Pennsylvania State Police.

Applicants who have not been a Pennsylvania resident for at least two years must obtain criminal history record reports from both the State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Previously, the department processed fingerprints manually. It is moving toward a more efficient and effective method that will be compatible with law enforcement and other screening processes.

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Keep policy well defined to comply with EEOC guidelines

The new Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines on background checks for prospective employees was created to ensure nobody is being unfairly targeted or discriminated against due to their criminal past. Basically what the guidelines want to avoid is an employer using someone’s criminal conviction from many years ago as an excuse to not hire them for a job that is completely unrelated to the crime they committed.

To make sure your company is in compliance with the guidelines, avoid blanket refusals to only specific types of jobs (those who work with the finances of your company, for example). Other tips for business owners:

  • Define your policy as narrowly as possible, and don’t stray outside those parameters for any prospective employee.
  • Be specific about essential job requirements for each position, along with the circumstances under which work is done.
  • Set a length of time for which any criminal conduct will be disregarded by your employment screening reports. (For example, if the conviction was 10 years in the past.)
  • Include the justification for the policy and for each procedure. If you end up needing to justify your action regarding a prospective employee, you want your policy to be clearly written.
  • Document any counsel and/or research used in creating the policy and procedures. Let them know there were legal and industry experts behind your decisions.
  • Train managers, recruiters, and other decision makers on the policy and procedures.
  • Don’t ask about convictions on job applications. Save it for the background check.

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Airport security badges issued before background checks complete

Recent news reports that several new airport security employees were given their security badges before their background checks were complete raises concerns about whether other employers take short cuts on employment screening protocols that could compromise the safety of the public and/or fellow employees.

The Transportation Security Administration confirmed that some new employees were issued their security badges even though the third and final step in the background check process had not been completed. The delay was due to a backlog from a computer switchover, the TSA reported.

During the screening process, new employees are required to verify their identity. Then, they are matched to a terrorist watch list. If they are on the list, then they are tossed out. Next is a verification of a Online Blackjack prospective employee’s criminal record. Finally, there is a security threat assessment conducted by the TSA. That check is pending for many of the new employees, but airports have been given the OK to grant the badges without that step being completed. The TSA has said security access is limited for those with the provisional badges, and there is no security threat in issuing the badges prematurely.

However safe the public is despite this lapse in protocol, the public relations nightmare it has caused is reason enough for all employers to make sure that their pre-employment screening processes are followed to the letter. No shortcuts should be allowed, for safety and financial concerns, as well as possible legal ramifications.


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National Consumer Law Center report on background check companies says be careful who you hire

A recent report by the National Consumer Law Center claims that background checks can be erroneous, advising employers to be careful when hiring an employment screening service to conduct background checks on their prospective employees.

According to the report, nearly 75 percent of employers are conducting some sort of pre-employment screening on job applicants. The report claims that errors made by fly-by-night background check companies using shoddy business practices can — and have — cost qualified people good jobs.

“Federal regulatory agencies and states should rein in the Wild West of the background screening industry by holding companies accountable,” said Persis Yu, the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) staff attorney and co-author of the report.

When hiring a screening service to conduct your business’s background checks, research the company’s history and reputation. is a division of American Tenant Screen, which is a leading provider of integrated screening services for businesses in the markets we serve. The company provides screening services globally to more than 3,000 clients, and has been in business for nearly 25 years.


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Failure to perform background check has $1 million price tag for Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York

It’s difficult to put a dollar figure on the value of background checks. But that got a lot easier recently for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York. The value for them turned out to be $1 million – that’s how much a woman embezzled over a seven-year period while working as a volunteer bookkeeper at the famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan.

The bookkeeper was hired in 2003 before had been convicted of grand larceny in one case and had pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in another, according to an article in The New York Times.

This story should serve as a reminder to all those who still believe pre-employment screening is not worth the time and money it takes to conduct them. Criminal records and credit checks are a must for anyone who will be entrusted with the finances of your business. In particular all those who handle money, or care for others, should be thoroughly vetted. 


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