January 3rd, 2018 | Sterling

Importance of Background Screening


One of the biggest investments a business can make is to their new employees. With each new hire, companies invest time, training, money and resources. When recruiting new employees, companies need additional information to help them verify they are making informed hiring decisions. Every company has its own approach, preferences and requirements for conducting background checks. However, employers in all areas are looking for the most comprehensive picture of their candidates.

Deciding which type of background screening check an employer needs to run to find the best candidate can often seem like a daunting task. There are many components to background checks, but the fundamentals include criminal records checks, employment verifications, education and credential verifications and reference checks. Each type of check has specific practical considerations and compliance matters that must be followed.   It is crucial to understand the various rules covering Canadian privacy, human rights and consumer reporting laws. Employers need to have a written policy that is vetted by legal counsel and followed consistently throughout the candidate hiring process.

The Importance of Background Screening

Background screening is important because it protects an organization’s property, assets, reputation, brand and ultimately its biggest asset, its people. According to HR.com, 53% of job applications contain inaccurate information, with 34% of all application forms containing outright lies about experience, education and the ability to perform the basic functions of the job. Resume lies include exaggerated job titles and responsibilities, falsification of education credentials, inflated salaries, misrepresentation of dates and employment and falsifications stating candidates are eligible to work in a particular country. According to Bradford Smart in Topgrading 201: How to Avoid Costly Mis-Hires, the average cost of a mis-hire is four times the annual salary for supervisors and up to 15 times the annual salary for executives. The numbers could go even higher if the employee commits fraud on the job.

The workforce is changing in Canada. The contingent workforce is growing and impacting the Canadian economy. Job candidates expect a great experience. Every single touch point that occurs between a job prospect and organization will define a candidate’s unique experience. Touch points include career website visits, application processes, conversations with recruiters, interview scheduling, career fairs and job offers. Organizations aim to deliver both a consistent and positive experience for everyone. Background screening helps firms hire a rapidly evolving workforce.

Types of Background Screening

Sterling Talent Solutions created the Background Screening 101 Guide to share insights into the most common types of background checks in Canada from criminal checks to social media screening:

  • Criminal Checks — Criminal record checks are the most widely used background screening tool, but they are the most complex and misunderstood. There are three distinct criminal searches that bring information and value to the screening process: Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) National Repository of Criminal Records, Local Police Information and Pardoned Sex Offender Database. Not every candidate should be screened using all three searches. For example, a search of the National Repository may provide employers with the adequate level of information.
  • Employment Credit Checks — An employment credit check is used to determine if a candidate is financially responsible and to verify identification information. It is not designed to determine debt service ratio nor will it have a negative effect on a person’s credit score. Credit checks should be appropriate for the position, transparent to the applicant and only requested when necessary.
  • Reference ChecksReference checks are a well-known technique for screening job candidates. They enable employers to speak with former supervisors and managers to reveal a candidate’s strengths, weaknesses and overall performance. For a thorough reference check, proper timing to reach the supervisor and a well-designed list of questions are essential.
  • Resume Verifications — In a competitive job market, some candidates may do anything they can to get potential employees to notice their resumes. Unfortunately, some of what appears on their resumes may be questionable. Education and employment verification services contact the past employer’s human resources and payroll departments to make sure that the candidate’s information is factual and without personal bias.
  • Social Media Checks — Social media screening is very valuable to recruiters, hiring managers and employers. It humanizes the candidate and makes them more than just the words on their resume. Vetting social media profiles can provide unique insight into a candidate and may reveal potentially unlawful, violent, racist, intolerant and sexually explicit behaviours that would not appear during the interview process.

Creating a Background Screening Policy

With the variety of federal and provincial privacy and human rights laws in Canada, it is highly important to have a consistent and compliant background screening policy for your company. Having a process in place to request, receive and evaluate background checks will allow you to better defend your screening program.

A background screening policy is a living and breathing document that needs to be reviewed as human rights and privacy laws change. It is recommended that employers speak to a screening vendor directly for guidance as well as legal counsel. Using a third-party provider will not only mean that you can benefit from their expertise when setting up a robust program but also ensure your hiring decisions are more reliable, consistent and—thanks to the more efficient turnaround times—result in a faster time to hire. Find out more insights and critical background check information by downloading the eBook, Background Screening 101.

Background Screening 101

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.