Pre-Employment Screening

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The hiring process is a time-consuming, costly HR task. Bad hires can lead to high turnover, negatively impacting your organization and requiring you to expend resources hiring.

Pre-employment screening provides a thorough evaluation of candidates and improves your chances of making the right decision. This detailed article will help teach you what applicant screening is and how to incorporate pre-employment screening into your hiring process to ensure your organization hires the best individuals for open roles.

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What is Pre-employment Screening?

Pre-employment screening involves gathering all the information required to make a good hire. This includes identifying candidates that meet predetermined job qualifications and verifying the information they provide.

The pre-employment screening process spans from application review to the final hiring decision. Throughout that time, candidates are screened for the following items:

  • Relevant skills and abilities required to be successful in the position they applied for
  • Personality traits and cultural fit
  • Legitimate information provided on their resume

When the time comes to make an offer, thorough pre-employment screening leaves you confident that you’ve selected the most qualified candidate and the best fit for the organization.

Why is Pre-employment Screening Important?

Recruiting new employees takes time and bad hires can lead to ramifications within the company, such as wasted expenses and decreases in productivity. This is why pre-employment screening is essential to pinpoint qualified candidates in a pool of applicants. In fact, there are 3 key benefits that pre-employment screening offers your organization:

  1. Protect your organizational health: Bad hires diminish morale and reduce productivity within the company. Thorough pre-employment screening helps you make the right hire and reduce your organization’s turnover rate.
  2. Avoid wasting resources: Significant time and finances are spent recruiting and onboarding new hires. Selecting the wrong candidate is costly – bad hires drain an average of $14,900 from the budget. Screening applicants can help avoid unnecessary expenses and wasted time.
  3. Validate information critical to candidates’ success: Unfortunately, candidates lie on their resumes. Performing due diligence assures that you hire someone with accurate, verified credentials for the role.

By taking proper steps to pre-screen applicants, you perform due diligence in sorting out those who don’t match the job requirements and organizational culture. How do you conduct a thorough applicant screening to identify unqualified candidates?

Types of Applicant Screening Tests & Methods

There is no one-size-fits-all for pre-employment screening and the process varies by industry. In general, screening is broken into three phases:

  • Pre-interview screening: Screening applications and resumes, preliminary phone or video interviews, personality/aptitude tests
  • Official Interview: Interviewing candidates deemed qualified through prior screening
  • Post-interview screening: Reference checks, background checks

Learn more about each pre-employment screening method in the sections below.

1. Pre-Interview Screening Methods

Application and Resume Screening

The first step in identifying qualified candidates is screening online applications and resumes. Using applicant tracking software (ATS), you can filter for resumes with keywords relevant to the position’s criteria.

After pre-screening applications with an ATS, you may manually review resumes for basic requirements, such as:

  • Relevant working experience
  • Minimum education requirements
  • Other mandatory components essential to the role.

Although screening applications and resumes eliminate candidates that do not meet the bare minimum qualifications, be mindful: this process does not account for intangible qualities and traits that could make a strong cultural fit.

Phone or Video Interview

Once there is a group of candidates that meet minimum requirements, screen them through a preliminary phone or video interview. Determine criteria that reflect the requirements of the role and develop questions that display the candidate’s ability to meet them. Use this time to clarify any inconclusive information on their resume.

Preliminary interviews provide enough information to determine whether a candidate warrants an official interview. Be cautious not to provide specific information about the hiring criteria that applicants could use to prepare disingenuous responses for their official interview. Only give general information that the candidate could find in the job description.

Aptitude Tests

Aptitude tests measure an applicant’s ability to complete the demands of the position. They ask specific questions related to the job requirements and results are quantified to objectively evaluate the candidate’s answers.

Assign aptitude tests following the preliminary interview before extending an invitation for an official interview. This gives you an idea of their skill-level and ability to be successful in the role before committing to a second interview. Alternatively, you can incorporate this into the official interview.

Personality Tests

Along with aptitude tests, personality tests assess individual characteristics and traits. Tests like the Myers-Briggs and the Big Five provide information that helps determine whether a candidate’s soft skills fit.

Personality tests can be assigned after the preliminary interview or during the official interview. Though they provide a high-level assessment of soft skills, personality tests are not always reliable and applicants may select inaccurate responses based on what they think the employer wants.

2. Interview Screening

Official Interview

After you’ve narrowed down the top qualified candidates through pre-interview screening, conduct official interviews for a thorough assessment. Gather the most important skills and qualities required for success in the role through strategic interview questions.

Use behavioral interviewing methods to determine if a candidate’s previous experience and character meet the job requirements. With the increase in remote employment opportunities, official interviews can be conducted in person or virtually through video conferencing.

3. Post-Interview Screening

Reference Checks

Contacting references provides an opportunity to ask follow-up questions and confirm that responses from the interview are accurate. References are often previous employers and co-workers, so you can confirm previous work experience and job functions. Reference checks are conducted after the official interview as one of the final steps before making a decision.

Many companies restrict previous employers from providing any information outside of confirming that the candidate worked there and the duration of their employment, so you may not gather all of the information required to make a decision.

Background Checks

Comprehensive background checks are imperative in pre-employment screening. They protect against dishonest employees, negligent hiring lawsuits, and any false information that passed through the interview process.

There are several types of background checks including:

  • Social Security Number (SSN) Trace
  • Verification (Employment, education, etc.)
  • Criminal Records 
  • Credit History
  • Driving Records
  • Drug Test

Background checks should be completed after the interview as the final step before hiring. You can conduct your own background check or outsource to a third-party provider. Some online background check services pull incomplete or outdated information, so confirm the information is relevant and timely.

Which Screening Tests Should I Use?

The specific industry and role determine what qualities to screen applicants for. Pre-screening applications, reviewing resumes, and conducting interviews are essential screening methods to use for any role.

Some form of background check is standard across most jobs, though the specific type of test depends on the position. Aptitude and personality tests vary by industry and role as well.

Legal Considerations During Pre-employment Screening

There are laws and regulations you must adhere to throughout the screening process. The cost to defend against employment discrimination claims can exceed tens of thousands of dollars. Worse, they can damage your organization’s brand and reputation.

Specifically, you should never ask candidates about their:

  • Race
  • Gender
  • Color
  • National Origin
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Veteran Status
  • Marital Status
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Religion

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reviews how information is used and the intent of the interviewer when assessing potential employment discrimination. To avoid legal issues, always have a job-related necessity for asking any question.

Pre-employment Screening Tools

There is an abundance of pre-employment screening tools at your disposal and several are free of charge. The following tools can be used to screen applicants.

Search Engines

A search of the candidate’s name on Google, Bing, or any other search engine will populate public information, images, and social media profiles. Include the location of the applicant to increase the chances of finding the correct person’s information.

Social Media

Outside of the impression from interviewing, social media offers insight into the personality of a candidate. Each platform can provide different types of information:

  • Delve further into their professional persona on LinkedIn
  • Locate short posts or photos of their personality outside of work on Instagram or Facebook. If your candidate has a private account, you may not find much use in these platforms.

Public Records

Government websites at the local, state, and national levels provide public access to different types of records. Through these resources, you can find criminal records, motor vehicle records, and more without paying.

TransUnion ShareAble

TransUnion ShareAbles for Hires helps small business owners conduct timely, thorough pre-employment screening. Shareable includes transparent pricing on their website, so you know exactly how much a background check will cost.

Conclusion

A thorough pre-employment screening process can save you time and money when hiring for a new role. You may not complete every step included above, depending on the role, but you should gather enough information to make a confident hiring decision.

By reviewing applications, screening initial candidates, interviewing top applicants, and conducting thorough reference and background checks, you have the best chance of pinpointing the right fit for the job.

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Questions You’ve Asked Us About Pre-Employment Screenings

How long does pre-employment screening take?
The pre-employment screening process varies in length, depending on how thorough the organization’s process is. Background checks can take between two days and several weeks to complete, though faster background checks don’t always provide complete and accurate information. You’re better off waiting longer for more accurate background checks.
What is the purpose of pre-employment screening?
Pre-employment screening ensures that a candidate meets the required educational and professional requirements of a job. It also allows hiring managers to verify that information provided is accurate and that the candidate is a good fit culturally for an organization.
How much does it cost to screen applicants?
Background checks can range from less than $10 to $500 or more. The cost increases as additional information is accessed.
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