The Background Process – Article 4: Who Should Conduct the Screening

This series’ first three articles emphasized the importance of background screening as a risk mitigation strategy and the difference between a background check and a background investigation. The next question to consider is who should conduct an organization’s background screening. This article examines the issue and provides the framework for deciding who best to conduct the background screening process.

The decision will be made by appropriate stakeholders, and is a choice between an organization’s internal resources or outsourcing some or all of the process. The first question to be asked is what type of background screening is required? In all decisions related to selection and hiring, either a background check or background investigation is needed. A background check is the process by which information provided by a candidate is verified and other publicly available information is obtained. A background check includes the identification and confirmation of information publicly available or provided by a candidate, without qualitative context or assessment. A background investigation includes all the elements of a background check, but is more comprehensive, probing, and in-depth. A background investigation requires a proactive posture to identifying, obtaining, and assessing all pertinent information related to a candidate. The general rule is the more significant the duties and responsibilities of the position are to the overall success of the organization or employer; the more justification exists for a background investigation to be conducted.

Many organizations rely on their Human Resources or Security Departments to conduct background checks. To conduct a background check in-house, an organization must have access to the public source information and a formalized process to verify information provided by a candidate. This will consist of conducting public source checks via database services located in-house or subscribing to a public record service. If an organization does not have access to public record information either in-house or through a subscription service or lacks a formalized process to verify information provided by a candidate, the background check should be outsourced to an entity with the skill and ability to do so.

Subscribing to a public record service, an organization will need to familiarize themselves with the scope, timeliness, and limitations of the information received. The results are presented ‘as is’ without context and oftentimes there are nuances which need to be understood. By way of example, with a criminal record check, does the check result include the entire country or are the results limited to the state in which the candidate resides? Do the results include arrests, indictments, and convictions? These type of issues need to be understood prior to determining on how best to obtain and review information.

Verifying information provided by a candidate through a systematic and formalized approach is equally important. A candidate’s training or certification can often be confirmed by a governing body’s website or via an on-line verification process. In others, direct contact with academic institutions, previous employers, or others is required to verify the information. The goal of the background check is to obtain public record information, or the verification of information provided by a candidate. If in-house assets are to be used, an organization needs to understand the full scope of their in-house capabilities, the process to obtain and understand the information received, and any limitations on obtaining or understanding public record information.

Likewise, if a background investigation is required, an organization needs to understand the abilities and capabilities of their in-house resources or the entity outsourced to conduct the background investigation. Going beyond obtaining public record information or verifying information provided by a candidate, those responsible for conducting a background investigation should have expanded skills, abilities, and experience. These individuals must be able to provide context to public record information, use the results for investigative lead value, and follow up with additional efforts to provide context and understanding. They must have the skill to conduct investigation, specifically the skill, ability, and experience to search out and learn additional facts. Since the primary way to obtain information is through a formalized interview of those with knowledge pertaining to a candidate’s experience, technical and soft skills, and character, interview skills and experience are required.

An organization needs to develop a full understanding of the knowledge, skills, and abilities of those responsible for conducting their background checks and background investigations. If the background screening process is to be used as a risk mitigation tool, enhancing an organization’s selection and hiring process, those responsible for conducting background screening need to have the corresponding skills, ability, experience, and expertise. Conducted in-house or outsourced, those responsible for conducting background screening must possess the following demonstrated skills and abilities and corresponding experience:

  • Identify and obtain public record information from a variety of sources;
  • Assess and analyze information, identifying gaps in the information, and developing an investigative strategy to obtain additional information to address the gaps;
  • Conduct interviews to obtain fact based information;
  • Provide context, analysis, and understanding to investigative results;
  • Communicate investigative results, to include conclusions and limitations; and,
  • Develop, implement, and complete a multi-pronged investigative approach applicable to a candidate’s knowledge, skills, and abilities as related to an advertised position.

This framework will assist an organization in assessing their in-house abilities and capabilities. In the alternative, an organization can use this framework to justify efforts to outsource their background screening process and to identify the most capable entity with which to engage.
Understanding the need for background screening, the different categories, and the framework for assessing who should conduct the process, we can now explore the next question: What information is required and of most value in the background screening process? Our next article will address the question: The Background Process – What information is most important to include in a Background Check or Background Investigation?

Big and small businesses alike recognize the value of doing background screenings, and The Aggeris Group maintains the ability to do full Background Investigations, Internal Investigations, and Insider Threats  on all of your prospective employees and/or partners.
Kevin James Kline, COO
The Aggeris Group