Criminal-Background Checks, Social-Media Screening on the Rise

HR leaders and employers appear to have beefed up their background screening technology strategies in two key areas, focusing more on social media usage and criminal checks, according to a recent report.

A survey by First Advantage, which provides background check and drug screening solutions, found that in the past year, 46 percent more customers ordered National Sex Offender Registry checks, with a 38 percent boost in employers surveyed specifically ordering the National Criminal File Plus option.

When it comes to technology usage, of those employers that screen social media activity of their employees or prospective employees – looking for concerning behavior such as drugs, violence and bigotry – 60 percent screen all employees, 28 percent only screen if job requires it and seven percent are not screening at all, but are considering adding it.

According to CEO Scott Staples, First Advantages’s 2019 Top Screening Trends & Insights State of the Industry report surveyed enterprise customers and cross-referenced those responses with aggregated data from more than 66 million annual global searches. By doing that, the company was able to identify the key trends driving the employment background screening industry. Part one of the report is being provided free on a temporary basis (it’s a five-part series), according to First Advantage.

Staples said the initial findings revealed lessons learned, including the need to balance risk and speed (with healthcare indicating the most concern about risk mitigation and retail requiring speed), and seasonal hiring spikes including increases in the retail, business services and transportation sectors each fall.

Other key findings include:

  • Centralized global background screening is becoming more prevalent to ensure system-wide compliance and consistency;
  • Companies are increasing orders for former employment (10 percent), education (4 percent), credential verifications (13 percent) and references (28 percent); and
  • Almost 12 percent more clients include drug screening for their prospective and current employees.

Staples says First Advantage’s analysis also uncovered global developments, which are especially relevant to multinational organizations seeking to ensure a consistent candidate experience. The upward trend includes: 12 percent more ordering former employment internationally; 16 percent more ordering criminal-record searches; 15 percent more ordering education verifications internationally and 8 percent more ordering government ID internationally.

Finally, employers cited other criminal monitoring trends, mainly those aimed at diminishing the impact of “state jumping.” For example, Staples explains, since the healthcare industry participates in federal programs including Medicare and Medicaid, the need to check for criminal convictions across state lines necessitates a deeper screening process. Yet, respondents across all industries indicated 21 percent only check a candidate’s current address, 10 percent check all addresses for the past five years and 26 percent check all addresses for the past seven years.

“Companies compete aggressively for qualified talent, making screening turnaround time a crucial factor in advancing an offer,” Staples says, adding that at the same time, balancing risk to support workplace safety, reputation management and alignment with legislative and other requirements necessitates comprehensive screening practices.

Tom Starner
Tom Starner is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia who has been covering the human resource space and all of its component processes for over two decades. He can be reached at