Know Before You Hire: Employment-Screening Trends in 2022 (2023)

​The COVID-19 pandemic and the roiling labor market resulting from it are still putting pressure on employment screening, even in thethird year of the health crisis. More job hoppers and a hypercompetitive talent market are pushing for pre-employment background checks to be done faster—or delayed and even dropped from the hiring process altogether. Meanwhile, bottlenecks in the operational aspects of screening and drug testing—court access, collection site availability and staffing shortages—are still being felt, albeit sporadically.

Another trend employers will see this year is the choice to eliminate marijuana from pre-employment screening, due to expanding marijuana legalization and enduring labor shortages. But the year's biggest challenge to the background-check process could be the redaction of identifying information provided by courts in two states—and the possibility of more jurisdictions doing the same.

[SHRM resource hub page:Background Checks]

Background Screening Strains Under Pandemic Pressure

As millions of workers have quit their jobs during the Great Resignation and employers compete to fill open positions, the subsequent surge in hiring has led to a boom in employment background checks.

"The end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022 have been strong for demand," said Tim Dowd, CEO of Accurate Background, a screening firm in Irvine, Calif. "There's usually a slowdown in hiring around the holidays, but because there has been an ongoing struggle to fill positions, companies have kept their foot on the gas."

"We are definitely busy," said Christine Cunneen, CEO of Providence, R.I.-based background-check company Hire Image. "And with such a competitive hiring market, we know that employers want their results faster."

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Les Rosen, an attorney in the San Francisco area and founder of Employment Screening Resources, a background-screening firm recently acquired by ClearStar, said employers need to re-examine their hiring processes to make sure that the best talent is hired as quickly and easily as possible. "That means an increased focus on the applicant experience, including screening, to make sure that the process is friendly, intuitive and easy," he noted.

Many employers in 2021 told SHRM Online that because of the competition for talent, they would scale back and even forgo some aspects of their hiring process, including background checks. Some companies said they would eliminate them altogether, while others said they would delay them until after the new hire had begun working.

"Some employers may lessen the criteria they use in order to get reports back quicker," Cunneen said. "They may want to reconsider searching for high school transcripts for front-line workers, for example, or how far back they go in employment history. But I would recommend against reducing criminal searches."

Rosen said some employers are practicing "instant hiring," where front-line workers are essentially hired on the spot at recruitment fairs. "This practice may continue in a tight labor market before it normalizes," he said. "But I don't see this as a long-term practice. I don't think employers see it as ideal. These are jobs where employers are not investing a lot of time in training. And for positions with more responsibility, or more potential of risk or harm to the company, it's a different story."

Dowd said he has not seen employers dropping screening requirements. But there have been some lingering restrictions and staffing issues due to the pandemic. "Where there is still manual data collection at some of the courts, you do run into issues that affect availability or access to records," he said. "We're also seeing it at the clinic level in reference to drug testing."

Melissa Sorenson, executive director of the Professional Background Screening Association, said the background-screening industry continues to see occasional setbacks due to periodic local COVID-19 outbreaks that may temporarily close a court or jurisdiction.

The organization has been working with courts throughout the pandemic to identify ways to maintain access, and some courts have upgraded remote access capabilities to limit delays due to closures, she said.

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Staffing shortages among screening firms can also impede hiring. "It's still challenging when people call in sick, but the situation is resolving," Rosen said. "One fundamental shift among screeners is the widespread acceptance of remote work. Before the pandemic, most screening companies were reluctant to offer remote work because of access to sensitive PII [personal identifiable information] and questions about productivity. That's changed."

Drug-Screening Dilemma

As more states and localities legalize and decriminalize marijuana, employers are faced with the question of whether or not to test for the substance.

"In 2021, we saw Philadelphia join New York City and Nevada with the implementation of a ban on pre-employment testing for marijuana," said Laura Goble, director of compliance at Hire Image. She advised employers to work with their screening providers to remove marijuana from their drug-testing panels in those areas. All three laws do have exemptions for safety-sensitive positions.

"Additionally, while marijuana remains a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, making it illegal for any reason under federal law, to datethere are nearly 40 states that have legalized marijuana for medical purposes and nearly 20 for recreational purposes," she said. "And of course, each of these laws also have their own nuances."

When it comes to marijuana use and testing, employers are clearly between the proverbial "rock and a hard place," Rosen said. "On one hand, the pendulum has swung rather clearly in the direction of legalization. On the other hand, these laws do not mean a worker has a right to be under the influence in the workplace."

In the wake of these laws, many employers are considering removing marijuana from their pre-employment drug-testing panels.

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"With global talent shortages reaching a 15-year high, many employers in the United States and around the world believe that something must change—and for several companies, that means eliminating marijuana drug tests," said Shirley Akrasih, an attorney in the Atlanta office of Troutman Pepper. "Employers are taking a hard look at barriers to the recruitment process, and they are loathto reject an applicant because of a positive marijuana drug test. Naturally, not all employers are willing to make such a change and have valid concerns related to job performance, potential impairment, safety and liability."

Rosen said that ultimately, employers need to rethink blanket testing policies. "If an employer feels marijuana testing is relevant to a particular job, especially if it is a safety-sensitive position, then HR will need to very carefully craft a narrow and specific policy that is both legal in the local jurisdiction and has a clear and demonstrable nexus to the risks involved in a particular job."

Goble said that with an increase in remote workers and the ambiguity surrounding what is legal and where, uncertainty regarding marijuana will continue. "Issues such as accommodating marijuana use, drug-free workplaces and the possibility of being sued for terminating an employee for a drug test that is positive for marijuana will plague employers in 2022," she said.

But not testing for marijuana is opening the organization up to negligent hiring and retention claims if something bad happens related to that decision, said Angela Preston, senior vice president and counsel, corporate ethics and compliance at Sterling, a screening firm based in New York City.

The Patchwork of State and Local Laws Grows

Numerous cities, counties and states continue to pass laws limiting the information that can be obtained by employers during the pre-employment screening process.

"We have seen a variety of fair-chance laws emerge," said Chris Christian, director of compliance at Sterling. Also known as "ban-the-box" laws, these mandates are designed to give people with criminal records a better chance at getting a job.

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"State and local jurisdictions are coming up with their own unique requirements, and we also see jurisdictions expanding on existing ban-the-box laws, imposing more stringent requirements," Christian said.

About 37 states and 150 localities have adopted fair-chance and ban-the-box laws. The only federal fair-chance hiring law—which applies to federal workers and contractors—went into effect in January. Over 20 states and multiple localities have passed statutes that prohibit asking applicants about previous salary.

"Multiple jurisdictional employers need to consider whether to have multiple policies or a universal policy based on the most-strict laws," Preston said. "Even if you don't have a physical location in one of these jurisdictions, you still need to consider whether or not the person you're hiring lives in one of these jurisdictions, because often the law applies to the person, who may be working remotely."

While employers have mostly gotten used to ban-the-box restrictions, a new threat to full and accurate employment screens has emerged—the practice of redacting identifying information.

"Limiting access to criminal records, or completely sealing them, is nothing new, and we are expecting it not only to continue in 2022, but to increase," Cunneen said. "But there has been a disturbing new trend limiting access to information typically used in preparing background-check reports. This isn't just about criminal convictions—in some instances, any personal identifying information is removed, making it difficult to determine if the record even belongs to the applicant."

Sorenson explained that in 2021, screening firms lost access to the full date of birth as an identifier in both California and Michigan. "We have employers asking for criminal records searches and if a potential hit is found in one of these states and the courts don't allow access to other identifiers—most importantly date of birth—background screeners are often left in an impossible situation," she said. "It's very hard to know if a record that has the same name as the applicant being screened in fact belongs to the applicant if you don't have any other identifying information to match on."

Cunneen said it is expected that similar laws will be enacted throughout the country in 2022. "And unfortunately, we will also likely continue to see the larger implications of making hiring decisions without having complete information about the individual."

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Dowd said the patchwork of laws regulating employment screening makes it challenging for employers to keep up with compliance. "And the data redaction laws, while well-intentioned, create more problems than they solve," he said. "They make it harder to ensure accuracy in the search, add delays to the hiring processand create more disputes in the process."

FAQs

Can you fail pre-employment screening? ›

There could be several reasons why a candidate might fail a pre-employment background check. If that were the case, how should the hiring organisation or HR team deal with the challenges this brings? It is crucial to understand some common reasons why someone might not pass a company's specific background checks.

Is it OK to ask the status of background check? ›

Let's start with the former. Employees – You can ask to see the results of your background check report at any time from the agency who conducted it. The name of the agency was likely on the consent form you signed during pre-hiring.

What is the most common employment drug test? ›

Urinalysis – A urine test is the most common form of pre-employment drug testing and is typically conducted once a conditional offer of employment has been sent. A urine test can show traces of drug use even after the effects of the drug have worn off and remain in the body for an extended period of time.

Is pre-employment drug testing legal in California? ›

Pre-Employment Testing

California law allows an employer to require a "suspicionless" drug test as a condition of employment after a job offer is tendered but before the employee begins working.

How do I pass an employment screening? ›

How to Excel
  1. Find out as much information as possible in advance. ...
  2. Request information about how your test results will be used. ...
  3. Take some practice tests. ...
  4. Answer questions honestly and consistently. ...
  5. Be confident. ...
  6. Make sure the job is really what you want. ...
  7. Follow up afterwards. ...
  8. Think positive!

Does pre-employment screening mean I got the job? ›

The pre-employment check process can determine whether an applicant is ultimately offered the job or may be relevant if there are discoveries made after the employee is employed.

Should I be nervous about a background check? ›

Should I be worried about a background check? A background check is a prerequisite of the hiring process and cannot be avoided. As long as you are honest on your resume and understand your rights, you will not have anything to worry about. Be sure to review the background check laws in your state before applying.

Do background checks miss things? ›

Criminal records are filed alphabetically by last name, not by Social Security number. Depending on the search method, even a minor deviation in spelling could cause a researcher to miss a record that belongs to your subject.

What happens if background check fails? ›

Usually, failing an employment screening will mean that you need to find a different job. An offense or red flag that leads to disqualification from one hiring process might not have the same impact everywhere. Some employers are more lenient and are willing to give candidates second chances.

How far back does a urine drug test go? ›

Drug testing specimen types

Illicit substances are detectable for only five to 10 days in urine; whereas, hair drug tests can detect drug or alcohol use for up to 90 days. Blood testing is very accurate, but costly and invasive. It does have a shorter detection period (minutes to hours), however.

How far back does a 10 panel urine test go? ›

Drug Detection Duration

Cannabis: 2 to 28 days depending on how frequently the person uses the drug. The more often you use it, the longer it's likely to remain in your system. Benzodiazepines: 3 days if you are using them as prescribed. 4 to 6 weeks after extended use or misuse of greater quantities.

How long will drugs show in a urine test? ›

Opioids like heroin and oxycodone are detectable for between 1 and 3 days after last use. Stimulants including cocaine, meth, and ADHD medications are detectable for about 2 or 3 days. Benzodiazepines and MDMA generally flag a urine test for up to 4 days after last dose.

Can I get fired for failing a drug test in California? ›

As a general rule, an employer may terminate your employment (or refuse to hire you) if you fail a drug test. Depending on the facts of your case, you may be able to challenge the drug testing as a violation of your constitutional right to privacy. There may also be other legal issues that arise from drug testing.

Can you refuse a drug test at work California? ›

Employers need to ensure their requirements are reasonable and not overly invasive. While one can refuse a drug test, there may still be repercussions, such as being denied employment or fired.

Do you have to give notice for a pre employment drug test? ›

Your workplace is not required to give you any notice unless your specific employment contract and workplace policies state otherwise.

What shows up on an employment screening? ›

Generally speaking, a background check for employment may show identity verification, employment verification, credit history, driver's history, criminal records, education confirmation, and more.

How do you pass a pre hire assessment? ›

Tips to Clear a Pre-Employment Assessment
  1. Research the Job Role.
  2. Identify the Industry and Domain.
  3. Speak to the Hiring Team.
  4. Use Mock Pre-Employment Tests.
  5. Check System Requirements.
  6. Stay Calm.
  7. Be Aware of Job Context in Your Answers.
  8. Read Questions Carefully.

Is pre-screening same as interview? ›

Pre-screening interview questions are usually the first stage of an interview process. Once contacted, you need to familiarize yourself with the relevant answers to likely questions. This ensures you can provide well-structured answers to questions and get to the actual interview stage.

What happens after pre-screening interview? ›

You can contact the employer for a hiring update after the pre-screening interview if you haven't heard back within a week. Send the hiring manager a brief follow-up prescreening interview email if you aren't sure whether you're still being considered for the position.

What can cause you to fail a pre-employment physical? ›

Failing a pre-employment physical or HPE can happen for a number of reasons, though often failing a drug or alcohol test can be the reason a candidate does not pass. This is particularly common for jobs involving driving or operating heavy machinery where sobriety is of paramount importance.

What causes people to fail background checks? ›

There are plenty of reasons a person may not pass a background check, including criminal history, education discrepancies, poor credit history, damaged driving record, false employment history, and a failed drug test.

Do people ever fail background checks? ›

If you have a criminal record, it may cause you to fail a background check. Depending on the nature and severity of your crimes, having a criminal history is a common disqualifying factor.

What do employers really care about on a background check? ›

The most common types of background checks search for criminal activity, verify employment and education, including identity verification, and request driving records. Some employers also review credit, and social media, and conducted drug tests.

What slows down a background check? ›

Inaccurate and/or incomplete data

When employers and candidates make mistakes or provide only partial information during the background check data entry process, such as entering an inaccurate digit in their social security number or misspelling a name, the entire screening process can be delayed.

Do background checks show if you were fired? ›

Can a Background Check Reveal if a Candidate Was Fired? It's possible that a job candidate's previous employers will reveal if he or she was fired from their previous job and the reason for the dismissal. However, in most cases, don't expect to receive this information.

Do employers check work history? ›

Can employers check your employment history? Most employers have a verification process to determine the authenticity of your employment history. The most common forms of verification are referencing, employment history and gap analysis, and job title verification.

Can I ask why I failed a background check? ›

Ask for a chance to explain

If the employer has not already offered, ask if it's possible for you to explain any discrepancies. Some background checks may fail for minor reasons, like small inconsistencies in your resume or an inability to contact a previous employer.

Can a company rescind a job offer after background check? ›

Many times you'll find a job offer rescinded after the background check. Or the job offer is rescinded after a credit check. Basically, employers rescind job offers because you failed some contingency. That is, that your employer had some legitimate reason to pull the job because you failed some step in the process.

How often are background checks wrong? ›

Most are likely applying for new positions and getting background checks in the process. If the above-cited 99.97% and 99.99% accuracy rates are taken as industry standard and applied to the number of quits in 2021, some 3,400 to 10,200 applicants may have had errors in the records generated.

How soon after taking drug will there be a positive drug test? ›

DrugHow soon after taking drug will there be a positive drug test?How long after taking drug will there continue to be a positive drug test?
Marijuana/Pot1-3 hours1-7 days
Crack (Cocaine)2-6 hours2-3 days
Heroin (Opiates)2-6 hours1-3 days
Speed/Uppers (Amphetamine, methamphetamine)4-6 hours2-3 days
7 more rows
27 Sept 2018

What's the farthest back a drug test can go? ›

Which Drug Test Goes Back the Furthest? Hair tests go back 90 days or more. Hair follicle testing doesn't test the hair follicles (roots), but rather the first 1.5 inches of growth. Since drugs are detectable in hair for a long time, testing hair determines prior use of drugs.

How long do drugs stay in hair and nails? ›

How far back can a hair drug test detect drug use? Hair drug tests have the longest detection period, and can typically detect drug use for up to 90 days. Depending on the drugs used, a hair sample can sometimes help determine when drug use occurred and whether it's been discontinued.

How long before a urine test should I drink water? ›

The only thing that affects a dilute sample is the amount of fluid taken in within a short period of time prior to providing the urine sample. If you are seeing results that show you are getting close to a dilute sample, try to stop drinking any fluids 2-4 hours prior to providing the sample.

Can alcohol be detected in a urine drug screen? ›

Urine tests can detect alcohol in your system much longer after you've consumed alcohol. On average, a urine test could detect alcohol between 12 to 48 hours after drinking. Some advanced urine tests can detect alcohol even 80 hours after you've had a drink. Alcohol can stay in your hair for a period of up to 90 days.

What shows up on a 10 panel urine test? ›

Standard 10-panel test: typically looks for cocaine, marijuana, PCP, amphetamines, opiates, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, methadone, propoxyphene, & Quaaludes. 12-panel test: often administered as an extension to the 10-panel test.

Can you fail a urine test for drugs? ›

False positive results on urine drug tests can happen. A false positive is when a drug test shows the presence of a medication or substance that you didn't actually take. Multiple medications can cause false positive results. Some examples include NSAIDs, dextromethorphan, and some antidepressants.

Do drug tests see how much is in your system? ›

Drug tests look for concentrations of these substances. Since everyone metabolizes drugs in the same way, metabolization is a predictable process. Cut-off levels cannot determine when a worker used a drug, how much of a drug they used, or even how potent it was.

What can cause you to fail an employment background check? ›

6 Common Reasons for Failing a Background Check
  • Criminal History. A candidate's criminal record is one of the most crucial sections of the background check. ...
  • False Credentials. ...
  • Poor Credit History. ...
  • Failed Drug Test. ...
  • Social Media Red Flags. ...
  • Poor References.

What does it mean to pass pre screening? ›

Prescreening is the process of evaluating the quality of a candidate before interviewing them. The process starts by evaluating the candidates' application, then moves on to their cover letter, and resume.

What are the disadvantage of pre-employment testing? ›

Cons
  • Validity. Though many assessments are well-endorsed and reputable, not all tests are accurate indicators of the traits they claim to measure or of future job performance. ...
  • Consistency. Pre-employment tests are not always reliable and consistent measures of a given skill. ...
  • May violate federal and state laws.
10 Jun 2015

Should I worry about my employment background check? ›

Should I be worried about a background check? A background check is a prerequisite of the hiring process and cannot be avoided. As long as you are honest on your resume and understand your rights, you will not have anything to worry about. Be sure to review the background check laws in your state before applying.

What could ruin a background check? ›

You were convicted of a crime relevant to the job's responsibilities. Employers have a legal obligation to keep their workplace safe, but they also can't discriminate based on an applicant's criminal record. In fact, they can only deny you the job if the offense is relevant to the job's core responsibilities.

Can you lose a job after a background check? ›

Most employers won't look at misdemeanor offenses or older convictions as deal breakers, Violent criminals, sex offenders, notorious repeat offenders, or embezzlers are just a few of the groups that will repeatedly lose job offers due to criminal history background checks.

How do you answer a screening question? ›

Thoroughly answer each question without providing too much detail, just as you would in an actual in-person or phone interview. If the questionnaire includes space in which to answer each question, don't exceed the space given. Keep your answers concise but complete.

How do I prepare for a pre-screening interview? ›

4 Tips to Ace the Pre-Screen Phone Interview
  1. Emphasize your brand. ...
  2. Communicate job interest. ...
  3. Clearly express why you are the best candidate. ...
  4. Clarify any possible negatives.

What are 3 red flags that employers look for when screening potential job candidates? ›

Face-to-face job interview red flags
  • Being late to job interviews. Sometimes a candidate will be late for an interview, things happen. ...
  • Lack of eye contact. ...
  • Unprofessional appearance. ...
  • Rambling. ...
  • Throwing a former or current employer under the bus. ...
  • Lack of accountability. ...
  • Guarded body language.
24 Jun 2022

What do employers typically look for in a background check? ›

An employer might check on information such as your work history, credit, driving records, criminal records, vehicle registration, court records, compensation, bankruptcy, medical records, references, property ownership, drug test results, military records, and sex offender information.

What happens after a job screening? ›

After a Recruiter Screen

Typically, the hiring manager will determine who will move forward into the hiring process based on the information the recruiter gathers. It can take time for recruiters to get time on hiring managers' calendars, and then for managers to make those decisions.

Why is pre screening so important? ›

Prescreening (pre-evaluation) of applicants is a fast and efficient way of assessing potential employees way before an interview takes place. For many employers, this process allows interviewers to understand job applicants better and in a way that is not possible through cover letters or resumes.

Why do employers give pre-employment tests? ›

Pre-employment tests introduce an element of objectivity into the hiring process by providing concrete results that can be standardized across all applicants. Employers can then use these data to make better informed, more defensible hiring decisions.

What are the benefits of pre-employment screening? ›

Pre-employment tests can assess candidates in terms of cognitive ability, emotional intelligence, skills, personality, honesty and integrity and physical ability, among other aspects. Pre-employment assessments can be one of the most objective ways of predicting job performance and company fit.

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