How to take an Ethical Approach to Employee Screening

Justice balancing scales

The amount of data collected and aggregated each day is astounding, and rapidly growing. To be precise, by 2025, it is estimated 463 exabytes will be generated each day. And this only includes the data collected and processed by private companies. Public records, such as civil or criminal records held by courts, have a life of their own.

While all this data exists, in some cases indefinitely, the question becomes: should it be available to private parties, such as employers, to review and assess?   

Picture yourself in a virtual meeting with your colleagues and your clients. Do you feel comfortable that everyone on your team, especially those you commonly associate with, is an asset to the organization? If ‘yes,’ it's likely because you've grown to trust your colleagues. But while trust is earned over time, how can employers quickly ascertain if they’ve made a sound investment in their most significant asset and their biggest source of risk, their workforce?    


Man with earbuds in front of laptop

Pre-employment background screening can help reinforce your hiring decisions by verifying your candidates have the experience and qualifications they claim to. However, designing and implementing a way to effectively manage your organization's hiring risk is a balancing act between commercial realities and the moral high ground.

An organization places itself in a vulnerable position if they rely solely on gut instinct when making hiring decisions. Yet asking your candidates for too much information before offering them the job could be seen as invasive, may put off the best candidates, and could even be illegal depending on your location and the type of information you are asking them to provide.

However, in today’s world, where brand reputation lives in real-time online, a single worker's actions can wreak havoc for an employer. You’ve seen the stories – a worker makes a salacious post that gets attributed to the employer, forcing the employer to react, for example. Which often results in the worker’s termination of employment and a public apology or distancing statement from the employer.

While these types of behavior can be difficult to predict, there are steps a business can take to check a candidate’s background to see if they have a known record of acting this way. But how can this be done effectively and responsibly, while also maintaining the highest levels of integrity and transparency?

The answer lies in the organization’s risk tolerance. Background screening should be relevant and proportional to the worker's role. The types of information a company checks can also depend on what local legislation permits. Highly risk-averse companies are more likely to conduct a comprehensive screening program. Conversely, less risk-averse businesses may be comfortable verifying fewer aspects of their candidates’ information. But however, a business approaches it, transparency is critical to ensure a friction-less candidate experience.

Data privacy laws are evolving at breakneck speed. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), should consider itself well-admired. It is the benchmark by which other data protection laws are measured around the world. Consider macro-legislation, such as Japan’s Act on the Protection of Personal Information and Brazil’s new General Data Protection Law, or localized legislation such as California’s Consumer Privacy Act. All are modeled on the GDPR.

These laws tell us that covert gathering and processing of an individual’s data may be wrong absent a business’s legitimate interests. These simple doctrines are universal tenets that should be recognized regardless of whether they are required by law.  

Many employers conduct identity verifications and reviews of previous employment and references of all workers. How much further your business decides to take background screening depends on any local compliance restrictions, industry regulations which may require a broader range of checks and regular employee re-screening, and where they draw the line in the sand between business risk and their candidates’ rights to privacy. While compliance can help guide businesses as to what they are permitted to check, it’s ultimately down to each employer to decide what they feel is necessary and appropriate – a decision not to be taken lightly, as getting it wrong could prove costly.

Risk mitigation is critical to your hiring strategy, and HireRight's screening methodologies reflect a strict adherence to industry-recognized standards. Through the UKG Technology Partner program, HireRight and UKG help companies bring clarity and confidence to vetting and hiring decisions through integrated, tailored solutions.  HireRight’s productized integration with UKG Pro™ Recruiting consolidates critical recruiting and background screening requirements into one solution to deliver convenience, control and compliance.


The content of this blog is courtesy of Alonzo Martinez, Associate Counsel-Compliance at HireRight. Empowering employers with innovative solutions for smart hiring decisions. To learn more about the UKG and HireRight partnership and integrated solution please visit the UKG Partner Marketplace.