By Mike Wiley


Background screening has become a routine part of many hiring processes. Unfortunately, by treating it as routine, many human resources professionals accidentally engage in behaviors that actually delay a background screening.

Since a delayed background screening can, in turn, delay a hiring process or result in lower-quality hiring decisions, it is important to approach background screening with the attention it deserves. Here are several common mistakes human resources staff make that can result in a delayed background screening.

Dismissing Background Checks as “Administrative”

Many items during the hiring process seem like they’re just tasks on a to-do list. For many human resources professionals, it becomes easy to think about background checks as just another administrative task: Get the information, then cross it off the list.

In fact, treating a background check as a tedious administrative chore can result in a delay, as well as undermine the hiring decision itself.

Tasks that seem to be lower priorities tend to fall to the bottom of the to-do list. Human resources staff tend to be extremely busy, so a task that seems like a mere formality of paperwork can be one that gets addressed late.

A background check, however, does more than just ensure legal or regulatory compliance. It also provides critical information that can support better hiring decisions. By treating the background check as a vital informational tool, human resources staff can give it the priority it deserves – and ensure they get the results on time.

Staying Stuck in the Past

Background checks have been used in the hiring process for decades. Traditionally, background checks focused on reviewing education and employment history, relevant credentials, and any criminal background or history. Information on these topics was relayed to employers in the form of a paper report, which often wound up in the candidate’s file.

If this process sounds exactly like the one your human resources department follows today, however, it’s probably introducing unnecessary delays into your hiring process.

The best background checks today leverage the digital revolution in a number of ways. They use access to unprecedented quantities of data in order to find the answers to essential questions more quickly and to verify this information. Many background check tools can even review candidates’ social media footprint in order to help hiring managers better understand the candidate.

It’s easy to stick with what feels familiar, especially for busy human resources professionals. If a background check process feels familiar because it hasn’t changed in decades, however, it is also slowing down your hiring process.

Clicking “Send” on Incomplete Requests

Even if a human resources team uses up-to-date software and services for background checks, they may be inserting unnecessary delays into the process if they aren’t sending all the information the background check provider needs when they request a report.

Most human resources staff provide all the information they have available when they request a report. If the team doesn’t have all the information it needs, however, making the request becomes a waste of time, and a delay results from the scramble to find more information.

Here, it’s important to look at the hiring process from the applicant’s point of view. When looking for the source of delays due to lack of information, ask questions like:

  • At what point in the process is the applicant asked for the information necessary to start the background check process properly?
  • Is it easy for the applicant to provide this information?
  • Can the applicant provide the information in a number of ways (such as through an online application form, in submitted documents, or via a mobile app)?
  • When the HR team receives the information, what happens to it? Does it need to be collected from various sources (application, resumes, etc.), or is it automatically gathered into one place by the ATS?

Combing your application process in search of reasons for incomplete or delayed information necessary to start the background check process can feel like a lot of work for little reward. Done properly, however, this effort can provide a number of rewards. Not only will background checks go faster because all the necessary information will be available, but your team may find other ways to streamline the hiring process so that applicants don’t become frustrated and quit before they’ve even clicked “Submit.”

Not Relying on the Right Tools or Support

A background check may be delayed if human resources staff rely on outdated tools or on background check services that make the mistakes listed here.

It’s important to review background check processes from time to time in order to ensure they’re providing the best information in a timely manner. In a technologically-saturated world, that may mean checking on how well the software is performing, as well as checking on the performance of background check companies or services. Finding the right partner for workforce monitoring, background checks, and re-screening is a must.

Likewise, it’s important to think of background check services as more than merely vendors providing a bare-bones service. The right background check provider will partner with its customers, taking the time to learn about their needs and offering solutions. This provider can even provide information on how to better streamline the hiring process, eliminating unnecessary delays for both employers and their candidates.

Finally, choosing the right tools and support is essential for proper legal and regulatory compliance. By skimping on your background check software or provider, your organization may face even greater delays in the form of potential liability. Partnering with the right team for background checks, however, can ensure that human resources staff get the information they need in a prompt, complete, and compliant way.