Guest Blog: Top Mistakes When Screening Job Applicants

July 30, 2014

One of the biggest keys to doing good business is having great team members in place. Despite this, too many companies overlook the importance of smart screening methods. Be sure to avoid these common mistakes. 

Limit Your Search Criteria. Think a criminal background check alone will give you the answer you need? Wrong. First, basing a hiring decision solely on a criminal record is discriminatory and will land you in hot water. Second, evidence of criminal history is no proof that the candidate will bring problems to the job. Third, other background searches are likely to tell you more about a person’s capabilities and weaknesses.

 Consider many details when screening, such as employment history, proof of residence and education verification for additional clues. Was the candidate able to keep a job for a steady amount of time? Did he or she bounce from one address to another? Does the resume show educational background matching the records of their school or university?

 Sift Through Social Media. Some information from Facebook, Instagram and other social channels is illegal for employers to view when considering candidates, according to guidelines set by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Hiring executives may be tempted research applicants on social media, however they have no way to filter the illegal information from the acceptable.

 Social media screening is a good idea, so prevent harsh legal consequences by handing that task to a professional, third-party that can sift through the info in advance.

 Auto-Reject Applications. It might seem efficient to use software to weed out candidates who tick an undesirable box on an application form. In fact, it's unfair. Standard forms restrict the amount of detail a person might otherwise share, especially when respondents are asked to “check this box” or answer yes/no. Nobody wins when businesses automatically eliminate candidates too early in the application process.

 When a straightforward candidate admits to a criminal history of any kind, an auto-reject feature misses his or her effort at honesty and also discriminates according to the EEOC. Those individuals may have been cited for issues that do not apply to the position in question, may have long been rehabilitated, or possibly been ticketed for a minor issue that seems blown out of proportion. Candidates should be considered wholly rather than for one talent or misgiving.

 Restrict Communication. When there is a question or concern, too many businesses toss an application without offering an opportunity for that applicant to explain. Hiring executives can often find resolution simply with more conversation.

 Laws also require companies to release information that is obtained through some types of background checks. This ensures that a job applicant has the opportunity to defend against errors or discrimination.

 The safest way to conduct a thorough and legal background check is to employ a professional agency with a proven track record and deep understanding of EEOC guidelines. No matter how you proceed, screen each applicant consistently to ensure that all are treated fairly.

 Chris Dyer is the Founder and CEO of PeopleG2, a human capital due diligence provider supporting business’ most strategic people-related decisions. He is also host of Talent Talk, an Internet radio program on the OC Talk Radio Network, featuring interviews with top executives regarding their strategies for hiring and promoting talent.