pre-employment screening process

As an Employment Screening company, we’re often asked by our clients to distinguish between completely automated online-database background screeners and a company like ours that integrates online tools with people behind the desks.

Well, here are a few key differences:


Information Reported

Companies that are completely online based receive their records automatically from different web-based databases without using employees to edit, confirm or double check the results. Searches conducted in this manner are usually quick, but sometimes at the expense of accuracy. Computer programs and instant checks don’t take into account different identifying factors of the individual-in-question, and can often mistake one person’s criminal record with another. Also, this system of screening can report outdated or legally unusable information to the employer, which puts the organization’s compliance at risk.

On the other hand, companies that integrate online information sources with individual employee’s expertise and editing use a different approach. Smart companies today make sure that only the best information is reported by incorporating both approaches in their records search process. Their reports may take slightly longer to run, but the turn-around-time is still very reasonable and quick, and the personal cross-referencing and double checking is worth it in the end. Background Screening is truly a balancing act—incorporating these newer web-based systems while not over using them or sacrificing adequate due diligence to make sure they are accurate and complete. 


Price vs. Quality

A common incentive to use automated online-database background screeners is their advertized low cost. They may be less expensive, but in this business, cheaper is not always better. Unfortunately, often quality and comprehensiveness are sacrificed in this process which lowers the report cost. Although it may be cheaper in the short run, these background screeners could cost you more in the future when an employee turns out to be a bad hire.

Background checks are truly an investment in your company and your employees. The main difference between automated online-database background screeners and companies like Sterling is that we take use of personal cross referencing and editing that may take a bit more of an investment up front, but the quality, detailed and legally compliant reports make that investment worthwhile in the long run. Smart companies today find the median between online and personnel reports, and between price and quality.


Disputes & Client Services

Another big difference between the two is the dispute process, and the customer service that goes along with it. Disputes are often more difficult for online-only companies to manage because it is more difficult to identify and solve an incorrect report. A recent article in the The Oklahoman Newspaper gives a vivid example of what can go wrong with this process. A man is now filing a $1 million lawsuit against 2 internet-only background checking companies for reporting false information and failing to follow a correct dispute process. Click Here to read the full article.

Applicant disputes are very important in background screening—failing to comply with them violates employee rights as stated under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and makes your company vulnerable to lawsuits. Screener’s should have a Client Services Department to make sure that disputes are handled promptly and correctly. In the event an applicant is refused work based on a background report, they are notified correctly (and compliantly) using Adverse Action.

Those are just a few important differences between online-only background checks, and checks run through physical establishments that integrate web-based reports. We’d love to hear your experiences using either type of service. Let us know what you think about it!

Oregon, Pennsylvania and 11 other states have legislation pending that would make it illegal for most employers to require a job candidate to consent to have their credit or bank accounts checked.  Washington and Hawaii already have such legislation in place.

Running credit checks as part of a pre-employment screening process is standard operating procedure for a number of companies.  According to a survey by Human Resource Management in December of 2009, 60 percent of the 433 companies surveyed currently run credit checks on employees or potential employees. Only 13% of those companies run credit checks on all applicants, however.   

Those arguing for legislation banning credit checks as part of a pre-employment screening service say that the recession has altered the credit scores of people struggling to make ends meet and those credit scores do not accurately reflect their ability to be a reliable, effective employee. 

No doubt, this argument will only heat up in the months to come. To help you understand both sides of the argument I’ve included links to a few stories from around the country.

We’d love to know where you stand on the issue. 

Many people believe Drug Testing to be an expensive pre employment screening test and do not include it in their background checking package. The following is a quick article from the HR Daily Advisor, a BLR publication that was worth re-posting here.


“Why do we have substance abuse testing programs?” asks Dr. W. Smith Chandler. The answer is simple—they save money.


Chandler, an SPHR and physician who is board-certified in occupational medicine, has helped many employers develop substance abuse programs. His comments came during a recent audio conference sponsored by BLR®.


How Do Substance Abuse Programs Save Money?

To get to the answer to this question, says Chandler, we have to make some generalizations about substance abusers.


Generalization #1: Accident Prone

Although some substance abusers are good workers, in general, they are not. For example, with regard to workers’ compensation claims, it is generally accepted that as a group, substance abusers file five times as many complaints as nonabusers, Chandler says.


Generalization #2: Health Care

One commonly voiced ratio is that abusers cost twice as much for health care as nonabusers.


Generalization #3: Attendance

As a group, substance abusers are absent from work more often than nonabusers. One generally accepted figure is that they take three times as many sick days, Chandler says.


Generalization #4: Unproductive

When at work, substance abusers are less productive.

So in the end, Chandler says, employers initiate substance abuse programs to improve safety, control costs, control absences, and improve productivity.


Testing Is Extremely Effective

Workplace testing is extremely effective at curbing drug use in the workplace, and it is highly cost-effective as well, says Chandler.

Some folks will do just about anything to get a job. 


In fact, USA Today reported that

“Over 33% of all applications and resumes are misrepresented or falsified.” 


The FBI reports that,

“A half million Americans falsely claim to have a college degree.”


Two of  our team members backed those stats up while helping us get through those Monday Blues with a couple of strange but true pre-employment screening stories that I hope make you chuckle.   


Under the “Enough About Me, What Do YOU Think About Me” 

“A member of our team was doing an employment verification. The man doing the verification had nothing but good things to say about the applicant. Our team member got to the point where they asked for his name and title and he finally admitted that he was the applicant! Some people…” 


Under the “Nutty Professor” category here is another story…

“We had a customer with a research group that hired people with PhD’s. They had an applicant who told them he had a PhD in Physics from one of the Californian Schools.

He had been working for a number of years as a researcher but our customer required verification of the degrees. So we checked the school that he had indicated gave him the PHD. We could find no evidence of his having gone to that school.

When confronted he said he’d told us the wrong school and indicated another of the many schools in the UC system.  We checked that one too – same answer.  He then tried to claim that there were so many schools in the UC system that he could not remember which one he exactly went to. So much for being smart enough to get that PhD!  

Needless to say he did not get the job.”



Hopefully, you can tell we enjoy a good laugh now and then. But we also take our job of helping you make informed hiring decisions faster seriously.  So whether our stories today jogged your memory of a great experience, or you are having some real background check challenges, join the conversation and become part of our growing community.