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Federal Hiring Issues Highlight Importance of Comprehensive Background Screening


Recent news reports have uncovered the actions of a deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. State Department who is accused of embellishing her educational and work credentials. She even promoted herself on a fake cover of Time magazine and used it to back up her inflated background and experience. It was only when she began the vetting process for a promotion to a more senior post in the State Department that the inaccuracies came to light.

This story is not unique to government. Any organization can encounter candidates who fabricate qualifications and experience. In fact, research reveals that most do. In a recent study by TopResume, 78 percent of surveyed HR and hiring managers reported catching lies on candidate resumes, and a Robert Half survey found that nearly half of employees know someone who has included false information on their resume. Hiring candidates who have overstated or lied about education or work experience doesn’t just increase the risks associated with hiring unqualified people—it can also negatively impact an organization’s stakeholders and reputation.

In today’s digital age, technology has enabled companies to conduct detailed background checks on job candidates, uncovering everything from past criminal acts to falsified educational credentials. However, technology alone isn’t the answer. Comprehensive background screening requires more than running a Social Security number through a host of national databases. Here are three ways to make sure your company is protected:

1. Understand Compliance Responsibilities and Limitations

Conducting background checks can feel like crossing legal minefields if you don’t fully understand the applicable regulations. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and federal and state employment laws apply to background checks, as do industry-specific regulations imposed by bodies such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) claims in a recent case that a background screening provider “violated the FCRA by failing to employ reasonable procedures to ensure the maximum possible accuracy of the information it included in the consumer reports it prepared.” The case illustrates the severe penalties—up to millions of dollars in fines—that can be dealt when background screenings fail to meet legal and professional standards, not to mention the damage that can be done to an organization’s reputation. Additionally, navigating compliance do’s and don’ts requires understanding state laws related to asking candidates about their salary history (more and more states are outlawing this) or criminal history (“Ban the Box” laws) during the application process. FULL ARTICLE