How to Hire Smarter with Pre-Employment Screening

April 16, 2024

Unlocking the potential of your team starts with finding the right fit. Let’s look at pre-employment screening and examine how asking the right questions can make your dream workforce a reality.

Ever hired someone only to realize later they weren't the perfect fit?

We've all been there. You're going through resumes, conducting interviews, thinking you've found "the one," only to discover that they're not quite what you expected when they come on board.  

It's frustrating. And it can really cost your company in the long run. That's why screening candidates before you send out the offer letter is important for the modern recruiter. 

In this guide, we'll explore the different types of employment screenings and how to craft one that fits your business needs.  

Key Takeaways

  • Pre-employment screening involves vetting potential candidates through checks such as criminal background and skills assessments.
  • Screening reduces the risk of hiring unsuitable candidates by uncovering potential red flags in their background.
  • Federal and state laws regulate pre-employment screening. These laws are designed to prevent discrimination and protect candidate privacy.

What is Pre-Employment Screening?

Pre-employment screening is a step in hiring where the recruiter checks if a person has the right baseline skills, experience, and culture fit for the job.

"Screening" encompasses a variety of pre-employment investigations, from background checks, education verification, skills assessments, and more. 

Screening candidates before hiring helps organizations protect their assets, maintain their reputation, and create safer workplaces. It helps ensure the information on a candidate’s resume is accurate, and that they're likely to be a great addition to the team.

Learn More: Employee Recruitment Strategies: Hiring the Top Talent

How Long Does Pre-Employment Screening Take?

Pre-employment screening can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to complete. But the time it takes can vary depending on the scope, candidate availability, and the complexity of screening needs.

Types of Pre-Employment Screening

There's no one-size-fits-all approach for pre-employment screening. Let's break down some of the more common types:

Criminal Background Checks

Background checks search national and local databases to uncover any criminal history. Employers use this information to assess potential risks associated with hiring a candidate. Criminal records can include felonies, misdemeanors, and any ongoing legal issues. 

Employment History Verification

Employment verification checks confirm the accuracy of a candidate's work history, including their job titles, responsibilities, and duration at each position.  

It helps employers understand the candidate's professional trajectory and verify that they have the experience they claim. It also detects any possible discrepancies in the resume.

Note: This is different from the mandatory Form I-9, which checks a candidate’s employment eligibility.

Educational Verification

Employers may check the candidate’s degrees and certificates with educational institutions to confirm they're valid. This verification is crucial for roles requiring specific educational qualifications.

Credit Checks

Credit checks provide insight into a candidate's financial health and responsibility. This screening can be indicative of how responsibly a candidate manages finances, which is particularly important in financial sectors.

Drug Testing

Drug screening ensures the candidate doesn't use illegal substances. Drug tests are especially critical in industries where safety is paramount, such as transportation, healthcare, and construction. 

Reference Checks

Some recruiters may contact former employers, colleagues, or academic mentors, to gather more detailed insights into the candidate’s work ethic and interpersonal skills.  

Reference checks can reveal aspects of the candidate's character and professionalism that aren't always apparent in interviews or resumes. 

Skill or Aptitude Tests

Skills assessments are designed to assess a candidate’s ability to perform specific tasks that the job demands.

They can range from practical hands-on tasks to computer-based simulations, providing employers with a clear measure of the candidate’s proficiency. These are either conducted during an interview or given to a candidate to complete on their own time.

Personality Tests

Personality tests help determine if a candidate's personality traits align with the company's culture and the demands of the role. These assessments can predict how well a candidate will integrate into a team. But they’re also somewhat subjective. It's best to use personality tests in conjunction with other assessments.

Some examples of personality tests include the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire, and the HEXACO Personality Inventory

Health Screenings

Health screenings are sometimes required for physically demanding roles to ensure that candidates can perform their duties. These tests can include physical exams, hearing tests, and other medical evaluations. 

Social Media Checks

Some employers review a candidate’s public social media profiles for additional context on their behavior, interests, and social interactions. Employers must navigate these checks carefully to respect privacy and avoid discrimination, but they can offer useful insights into a candidate's character and values.

Driving Record Checks

Important for roles that involve operating a vehicle, driving record checks ensure that candidates have a clean driving record and have the necessary driver's licenses. It helps mitigate risk and liability for the company by confirming the candidate's history of safe driving practices.

Choosing the Right Pre-Employment Screening Tests

With so many tests out there, all costing time and money, how do you pick the ones that are truly useful and relevant for your hiring decisions?

Consider the Job Description

Picture the ideal candidate for the position. What skills do they need to excel in the role? What kind of qualities and personality do they have? Once you've got that in mind, you can pinpoint which tests will help you find that perfect match.

These tests, used in conjunction with an interview cycle, can help flesh out the candidate's profile for easier decision-making.

Example: Logistics Coordinator Screening

Let's say you're hiring for a logistics coordinator role. You know the best fit is someone who's responsible, organized, flexible, and has expertise in logistics software.

In this scenario, an employer might use:

  • Technical assessments. A scenario-based assessment that simulates logistics challenges, such as scheduling deliveries, optimizing shipping routes, or managing inventory. They also test the individual’s ability with their current logistics software.
  • Personality test. A test to assess traits like attention to detail, stress tolerance, and adaptability — qualities that are crucial in a fast-paced, problem-solving environment.
  • Background check. Given the responsibility of handling goods and managing part of the supply chain, the employer conducts a thorough background check to verify the candidate’s previous employment in logistics, along with checks for any criminal history.

Watch Your Wallet

These tests come with varying price tags, so you need to consider your budget. How much are you willing to invest? Remember, cheaper isn't always better, and sometimes, spending a bit more upfront can save you a lot of stress later.

But it's not just about money. You also need to think about the time and labor required to administer and analyze the results effectively. Do you have the bandwidth to handle it all in-house, or will you need to outsource some tasks?

By weighing the time and financial investment against the value each test brings, you can make informed decisions that align with your budget and hiring goals.

Pre-employment screening is subject to a variety of legal guidelines and regulations that aim to protect both the employer and the candidates involved. Here are some of the key legal frameworks and guidance principles:

  • Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA): This act regulates the collection and use of consumer credit information, including how to conduct employment background checks. Under the FCRA, employers must obtain explicit written consent from the candidate before conducting a background check.
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. It provides guidance on how to conduct background checks and make employment decisions in a manner that doesn't discriminate based on race, color, national origin, sex, religion, disability, genetic information, and age (for candidates 40 or older).
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. It sets limits on how and when employers can inquire about applicants' medical histories.
  • Ban-the-Box Laws: Many states have enacted "Ban the Box" laws, which remove the checkbox asking if applicants have a criminal record from job applications.
  • State-Specific Laws: Many states and local governments have their own laws regulating employment screening. For example, some states have laws about when it's permissible to conduct credit checks for employment purposes, often limiting them to certain positions.

To avoid falling afoul of these numerous regulations, employers must keep up to date with changing laws, and consult legal counsel.

Attract and Retain Star Talent with Paylocity

Pre-employment screening is all about getting a full picture of potential hires — from their background and skills to their personality. This thorough approach helps employers make smart, informed decisions, and pick the right person for the job.

Recruiting is often a complex, multi-layered process, and adding screening steps can further complicate matters. Fortunately, HR software can help streamline these processes, allowing you to concentrate on strategic decision-making.

With Paylocity’s recruiting features, you can automate hiring processes, amplify outreach, showcase your culture, and build stronger candidate connections to help swiftly fill positions. Enhance your recruitment efforts with capabilities such as:

  • Pre-qualify candidates with integrated candidate assessments.
  • Track all candidates' information and communication in a single record.
  • Foster compliance with integrated background checks.

Request a demo today and see how we can help!


Keep Your Workforce Ready 

Finding the right talent for your team can be challenging in today’s market. But with the right tools, it doesn’t have to be a strain on your internal resources as well. Our recruiting platform streamlines the process, bringing you an intuitive way to search for and engage with top candidates. With communication methods like texting and video, and data that helps you track progress, attracting and winning has never been easier.