One often overlooked but critically important step in the recruitment and hiring process is proper written communication. From the interview to the offer, issues can arise from not doing what is required in a consistent, fair manner and “to the letter of the law.”

Improper or untimely communications can impact compliance with laws, rules and regulations when it comes to hiring practices, particularly as it involves the employment background check process. For example, lawsuits can arise when a company fails to obtain an authorization in writing from a candidate prior to conducting a background screening, or when a company does not send an “adverse action” letter at the right time during the hiring process. Such communications are simple and often inexpensive ways to avoid costly legal action against your workplace.

Here are some best practices to follow when it comes to written communications and background screening:

  • Review your applications – online and in hard copy – on an annual basis at a minimum to ensure they are compliant with current laws. It is strongly advised that you consider removing the box that questions applicants about being convicted of a crime. Many states and local jurisdictions have already “banned the box,” with more states as well as the federal government expected to follow suit.
  • Make sure your applications and all related documents and forms are professional looking and worded so they are easy to read and understand. These documents should provide the applicant with a good impression of your company.
  • Provide a stand-alone disclosure in writing to the applicant that he/she will be subject to background screening. Make sure this disclosure is free of any extraneous information such as “release of liability” and other such language.
  • Obtain a signed authorization from the applicant, indicating his/her consent to conduct a background check.
  • If you are considering not hiring an applicant based on the results of the screening report, provide them with a copy of the report and a copy of “A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.” This paperwork must be sent in a timely manner, generally 5-10 business days.
  • If you are not planning to hire a candidate based on what was revealed in a background screening report, the applicant must be notified via a two-step “adverse action process.” The applicant has a right to dispute the results.
  • In addition to federal requirements, background screening requirements can be found in state law, international law or regulated industries that also need to be taken into consideration. Make sure that your hiring documents and process takes this into account.

A few more points to consider:

CONSISTENCY: It’s important that your background screening process be applied consistantly to all applicants being considered for the same job title. For example, while your program may include variations in the type of searches that comprise a background check based on the positions at your company, all candidates applying for the same position must undergo an identical screening process. From the application itself to the pre-employment paperwork, uniformity is key in avoiding discrimination issues.

SOCIAL MEDIA: Dealing with social media as it pertains to learning information about applicants can be particularly tricky. While many employers check an applicant’s social media sites, what they learn about the applicant just by viewing the site even briefly could open a company up to discrimination lawsuits and violations of privacy laws. Consider leaving investigations into your applicant’s background to an accredited background screening firm so you do not unwittingly stumble into an area that puts you and your company at risk.

An effective hiring process is one in which the communication between the employer and the applicant is a two-way street. A professional and accredited background screening company – working together with their legal counsel and yours – can help you navigate that street and steer clear of any costly pitfalls.

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