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October 19, 2017

‘Tis the season to be hiring. With the holiday season in the United States just over a month away, retailers and other related service industries will soon ramp up their hiring efforts for thousands of temporary positions. All of this recruiting is taxing on the personnel charged with interviewing, screening and hiring the new employees. And while the pressure to speed up the onboarding process is great, Pinkerton’s Marsha Hernandez, Managing Director, and Nancy Alt, Director of Global Compliance, warn that cutting back on due diligence procedures can be detrimental in the long run.

More Hires, Shorter Time

Holiday hiring presents unique challenges for human resources departments; they are required to maintain the organization’s standard hiring protocol while dealing with a significant increase in the number of open positions and applicants. All for employees who may only be with the company for one to three months. 

“The HR staff is used to the normal recruiting flow and timelines,” explains Hernandez, “but when they are moving triple or more the volume of applicants through the same process, they need to be very efficient. Having a very good repertoire with their background information provided to ensure all are in tune with the timelines and requirements is critical.”  

Alt adds, “Both HR and Consumer Reporting Agencies, like Pinkerton, are subject to many different regulations, and compliance with these regulations does not change with volume.”

Companies may try to truncate their normal hiring and screening process due to the short-term nature of the position. Hernandez warns that this is a potentially costly mistake. “These employees have access to products and assets. They have contact with customers and employees. They represent the brand and can damage the company’s reputation just as quickly as full-time employees. Not doing enough to vet these applicants can come back to hurt the company.  Unfortunately, this is something we have seen happen all too often.”

Critical Elements of a Seasonal Hiring Plan

Hernandez and Alt recommend that the following elements be included in any seasonal hiring plan. “The goal is to have as much information as you can to make an informed hiring decision, even for temporary workers,” says Hernandez.

  • HR will need to be sure that they have very solid staffing models and know what their average fallout rate is from background checks. This will let them know, on average, how many people they will need to recruit to hit their staffing number for this time period.
  • For each jurisdiction they need to recruit in, they will need to know what are their typical turnaround time on background reports. They should be able to work with their background provider to get those averages. Based on the answer, they should adjust the recruiting schedule accordingly to ensure they start early enough to get the number of new hires they will need for this period.
  • The company needs to look at their current background package for their full-time, regular employees and decide if the same background package is necessary for this seasonal position. They need to look at the job position and the risk associated with that position. If they are able to reduce the scope of the package without sacrificing safety, regulatory obligations, etc., then it may be beneficial to look at the scope to reduce the turnaround time of the background report.
  • The HR teams need to know the “Ban the Box” and “Fair Chance” policies where they will be recruiting. The “Box” is the part of an employment application that asks if the applicant has a criminal record. As of August 2017, according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), 29 states, the District of Columbia, and over 150 cities and counties have adopted Ban-the-Box or Fair Chance policies. These policies were enacted to force employers to remove the conviction history question from the hiring application to ensure they look at all applicants for their qualifications first, prior to running the backgrounds. Once an offer is made, the company can run a background on the applicant. If a background returns derogatory information, it will be at that time that they can ask the applicant about the criminal history. While these policies ensure an equal opportunity for all applicants upfront, it ends up adding to the turnaround time and cost of recruiting if derogatory information is found later in the interview. This is a critical issue when you are trying to ramp up quickly.
  • Companies need to be mindful that the provisions of the FCRA do not distinguish between full-time and seasonal workers. HR departments need to be disciplined to apply the appropriate adverse action response procedures to avoid costly violations.

In addition, there are many more regulations that the HR Departments must adhere to along with their own hiring policies and company requirements. However, following policies and procedures ensures consistent treatment of applicants and is critical to staying out of regulatory space and lawsuits.

Anticipate Delays in the Seasonal Hiring Process

Another challenge HR teams face in seasonal hiring is that the process for a background investigation can take longer simply based on the sheer volume of applicants that companies try to process during that time. “Retailers, warehouses, delivery services, and others are in the peak at the same time,” says Alt. “The courts are inundated with volumes that are substantially more than their staffs are manned to handle. This can cause delays, which should be anticipated.”

When processing backgrounds during holidays, courts are often closed and personnel limited due to holiday vacations. That can affect turnaround times for background checks. In addition, Ban the Box and Fair Chance, if applicable in the State where the applicant will work, extends the process since companies are not allowed to ask the conviction question up front. “These expected delays are one reason some companies give for not following their normal hiring process,” says Hernandez, “but they shouldn’t.”

Red Flags and References

Compliance with HR regulations is a broad area that is constantly changing. There are many different regulatory bodies, federal, state, and local jurisdictions that all have different requirements. To maintain compliance, a company must know all of the regulations that the organization is subject to and to comply with them. There is no shortcut to compliance. While all the rules may differ between regulatory or jurisdictional bodies, companies must be aware of them and follow them, or know that they have the potential to suffer penalties or lawsuits. For example, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, consumers can file suit against both businesses and individuals for both intentional and negligent l non-compliance..

Keep Background Checks in Mind

So, while maintaining compliance, how can an interviewer determine if a candidate poses a risk? “When interviewing, it’s important to always have a background check in your mind,” Hernandez explains. “People know their own life really well. If something they say doesn’t match with their application, that’s a red flag to be investigated. So, too, is if they can’t answer some basic questions about their professional life like the title of a past position.”

Then, she says, you have to perform the necessary checks, such as contacting references. “Reference checking is one of the most often ignored steps in the hiring process.  Conventional wisdom says that applicants will only provide references certain to give positive reviews, however, the reality can be very different. While checking references can add cost and potentially be time-consuming, valuable information can be obtained during this process. ”

Hernandez and Alt stress the importance of doing comprehensive background checks on all candidates whether for full-time or seasonal, temporary positions. Though the cost of time, money and resources is greater than a scaled-down hiring process, Hernandez warns that being pennywise can be pound foolish. “The cost of not doing a proper screening and background check can be huge, both financially and to a company’s brand. The peace of mind of knowing you did all you can to ensure the safety of your customers and employees should be worth the investment.”