July 23, 2018

What Background Checks Are Missing (That Online Screening Has Found)

Where does online screening fit into the universe of employee screening methods, and why do I need it?

Standard background screening methods can help uncover and verify some valuable info. They help ensure that a candidate actually went to certain schools, worked for certain companies (with the correct titles and at the correct times), and didn’t commit criminal offenses. Depending on applicable state laws and company interests, they may also help spot drug usage and excess spending. With all these methods in the toolbelt, why are we still on edge about who we’re hiring?

Try as we might to figure out “fit” early in the talent pipeline, there is only so much standard assessments can do. Even in companies known for rigorous interview processes, candidates have been able to harbor and hide prejudices until it manifests into a company-wide scandal. If you’re a large company with a high volume of applicants, chances are your background checks have missed some falsified job history, criminal records (even though you ran a criminal background check), or identified the wrong person altogether (listen to John Oliver’s horror stories on that here).

The reality is that these background checks don’t catch everything they should. Even when all of your background checks have done their jobs correctly, none of these checks will accurately predict a proclivity for criminal, toxic, or unprofessional behavior—and that means a clean ‘background check’ may still miss indicators of trouble to come.

Online screening catches things that other checks won’t

Think of online screening as a digital safety net to the organization, used both before and after hiring as a complement to the other background checks important to your company. In fact, between January 1, 2018 and the time of this post, Fama has caught over 130,000 instances of misogyny, bigotry, criminal behavior, violence, and charges related to sexual harassment that standard checks had previously missed.

Recently, we began working with a large sports retailer in the US (14,000 employees making $935M annual revenue) who had been conducting background screening and video-based assessments for all of their candidates. They felt that they had a very secure process and that their exposure to risk was minimal. However, once social media screening came into the picture, they noticed that one of their managers had been posting some troublesome content about abusing prescription drugs and driving while intoxicated, two very big red flags for their HR team. Our AI-based screening tool was able to analyze over 36,000 publicly available posts and flagged several types of adverse content that had been missed through their existing screening methods. Although the candidate cleared the background check, he failed the Fama check and was let go before he had a chance to cause any brand damage.

While the Fama solution typically screens for predictors of workplace behaviors like sexual harassment or insider threats, it can also find unique, industry-specific indicators that can lead to brand risk. Earlier this year, while partnering with a government based client that has over 70,000 employees and $2.5B in revenue, we found clues online that indicated one of their employees might be an active supporter of a terroristic group. As an international government contractor, the customer’s existing method was rigorous. Every employee had been run through a leading background screening provider, a skills-based assessment, and a 12-stage interview process. After implementing an online screening solution, the company found that this candidate, despite maintaining security clearance, had posted anti-Western content on Twitter and had interacted with content in support of terrorist uprisings. The subject was terminated immediately and the authorities alerted, which saved the company from a potential disaster.

While you might feel that your screening methods have been sufficient, the truth is there might be more falling between the cracks than you realize. In a time when companies in all industries are at risk, standard background checks are no longer enough. Companies need a new safety net for their hiring process to capture massive volumes of user-generated content, and internal systems to manage a complex workforce that can make or break their company.

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