THE ESSENCE OF EMPLOYEE SCREENING PROGRAMS
Trustworthy, qualified employees are an essential part of any business. This is especially true of businesses, where every employee counts and where interpersonal dynamics often assume heightened importance. As a result, pre-employment screening programs have become an increasing visible part of the business landscape. Screening programs generally also include some combination of references and credit checks, verification of employment, investigation into criminal activity (whether allowed by law), and physical/drug testing. After all, the time to ensure an employee is trustworthy and qualified is during the hiring process, rather than on the job.
Screening programs can assist in ensuring a proper fit between employer and employee. A pre-employment test that costs less than few dollars can sometimes save a company the thousands it costs to replace a bad match, or the legal fees to defend against liability lawsuits for negligence in hiring a troubled or troublesome employee. Tests range from evaluating cognitive skills to identifying personality traits, and can help employers avoid bad apples and match good ones to the right jobs.
Despite the potential value of screening programs, not all companies are equally needful of such initiatives. For example, some businesses engaged in industries with traditional high turnover rates, such as restaurants, may determine through cost-benefit analysis that the benefits of such program do not warrant the upfront expenditure of money that could be pocketed or used for other aspects of the enterprise.
If your company does not choose to employ workforce screening, it can follow two different routes: create and carry out your own test or use an established test and/or screening company. Some companies are so specialized; it makes sense to tailor their own instrument to the unique features of their organization. But that usually requires a company with a human relations team skilled in test development. In addition, some business owners choose to execute their own screening programs, but use existing tests to do so. Finally, many businesses prefer to outsource the entire program to companies that specialize in screening.
When hiring a screening company to check out prospective employees, it is important that the company itself be trustworthy, competent, and capable of shaping its testing programs to the client’s specific needs. A business would be well advised to find out what services the company offers, how the company goes about getting its information, and whether or not the company uses its own services. It may be helpful to speak with some of the company’s long-time clients.
Companies that utilize screening programs should also have a thorough knowledge of local, state, and federal laws against discrimination. These may impact both the questions you ask of prospective employees as well as additional investigations (reference checks, etc.) of them. It also makes it important for companies to ensure that their aptitude tests are related and implemented uniformly. Many local and state governments have laws on the books which prevent an employer from asking questions about criminal convictions. A business should know the difference between an arrest and a conviction; merely being arrested proves nothing.
In addition to ensuring qualifications, proper screening of prospective employees supports a business’s hiring practices in the face of possible lawsuits. With the tort of negligent now recognized in a majority of the states, employers have been forced to defend a growing number of suits seeking redress for crimes committed by employees, usually thefts or assaults that victimize customers or co-workers.
Courts may hold companies for injuries their employees inflicted on others while on the job. Companies found liable in a negligent hiring suit may be held responsible for punitive damages, medical bills, lost wages, etc. For a small business, such a suit could be potentially devastating. But it should be noted that if a prospective employee has a criminal record, a company’s liability in a law suit after employment depends on the relevance of the crime to the job.
Fortunately, legal experts says that the legal liability on either of these two fronts is unlikely, provided the company in question takes care in creating, maintaining, and monitoring the various aspects of its screening program. To best ensure protection against legal trouble, business owners are urged to consult a specialist in employment law before establishing any of the following potential elements of a screening program:
Previous Employment and References
Employers should review resumes and employment histories for gaps in employment. In regards to references, the employer should be sure to contact specific business references as opposed to merely friends and families of the prospective employee.
Finally, companies may choose to contact other individuals not listed as references such as previous co-workers, who may provide additional background on the employee. This check may be subject to local or state laws or require the consent of the applicant.
As noted, these may be subject to local or state laws against discrimination. Small business owners and managers also must weigh whether the applicant’s previous arrest or crime would have a direct bearing on the work that he or she would be doing.
IQ or Personality tests
Increasing numbers of businesses are choosing to use personality or IQ tests in addition to interviewing, in order to round out or verify their impressions of a prospective employee. Outside agencies can run a battery of tests on applicants, providing employers with profiles on each of them. A small business can also take advantage of current software or standardized tests to handle at least a portion of these, which can be more labor-intensive. Many companies choose to outsource testing and narrow down the number of applicants, reserving valuable time for personal interviews with candidates deemed most suitable.
Physical Screening or Drug tests
These are either handled by a qualified clinic or laboratory. Prospective employees provide blood and urine samples to the contracted agency. The company is then sent results that can make a determination regarding employment.
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