Learning & Development, Recruiting

2023 Background Screening Trends in North America

The path of background screening is well traveled in North America, with most workers accustomed to participating in a background check as part of the onboarding process. However, background screening programs often evolve as businesses’ needs and risks—and their attitudes toward those risks—change over time. With this in mind, it can be helpful to keep a watchful eye on what your peers are doing regarding background screening and keep up to date with recent innovations that could prove to be invaluable additions to your company’s screening program. 

In HireRight’s 2023 Global Benchmark Survey, conducted between February 15 and March 12, 2023, we gathered responses from over 2,000 HR, risk, and talent acquisition professionals worldwide, with 1,465 of those responses from North America. Using our survey data, this article compares this year’s survey findings from North America with previous years to uncover some trends in background screening practices in the region.

Choosing a Screening Provider

Speed is the quality most employers look for when choosing a screening provider, according to over two-thirds, or 68%, of this year’s survey respondents from North America—an increase from 53% in our 2022 survey.Whether businesses are expanding their head count or replenishing staff turnover, time to hire is usually an important factor for hiring organizations, so it’s no great surprise to see how many businesses consider this an essential quality in their screening provider.

Conversely, one year-over-year change that wasn’t expected was a drop in the number of businesses that consider accuracy of results a high priority, dipping to half (49%) of North America respondents in this year’s survey from three-quarters (75%) in 2022. This drop was also seen in our responses from Asia-Pacific (APAC) and Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA). Meanwhile, cost remains consistent with last year’s survey results, with around half of businesses in North America saying this is important when choosing a screening provider.

Most Common Preemployment Checks

The most common checks conducted by our survey respondents from North America are criminal record checks (86%), Social Security number (SSN) verification (69%), employment verifications (54%), drug and/or alcohol testing (52%), and Sex Offender Registry checks (47%). Each of these is reportedly conducted by approximately the same percentage of North America businesses as in our previous year’s survey.  

Interestingly, education verification, the most common preemployment check in APAC and the third most common in the EMEA, is still far less common among North American employers. Under half (46%) of North American employers said they use preemployment education verifications compared with 71% of EMEA businesses and 87% of APAC businesses.

However, cases of high-profile individuals being caught with fabricated educational qualifications are far from uncommon in the U.S. media—for example, George Santos, the U.S. representative for New York’s third congressional district, admitted to having fabricated education credentials and other items on the résumé he submitted before being elected to public office. Perhaps it’s time more North American employers considered the impact that candidates with fake, forged, or fabricated academic credentials could have on their organization’s productivity and brand reputation.

Social Media Screening

Social media screening has recently been, and continues to be, a hot topic in the world of background screening. Despite this, according to our survey findings, its adoption has spread in every region this year. One in 10 (10%) North American companies conduct social media checks as part of their preemployment screening program—up from 6% in last year’s survey—and there are even higher rates of adoption in APAC (17%) and the EMEA (20%) this year.

However, while some organizations are already using social media checks to further mitigate their hiring risk, 31% of North American businesses that don’t conduct social media screening admitted they didn’t know enough about it to include it within their background screening programs. Additionally, 31% of North American survey respondents said a lack of regulations requiring social media screening was an influencing factor, and a quarter (26%) had legal concerns.

Social media screening may not be the right fit for every organization, and it can be time-consuming—and difficult to keep up to date with federal and state privacy laws—if you are attempting to do it in-house. Partnering with a reputable background screening provider to add social media checks to your screening program could help minimize your HR workload with robust workflows that are designed with compliance in mind.

Mary O’Loughlin is Managing Director of the Americas at HireRight.

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