How To Screen Employees For Your Small Business

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Small business owners are tasked with a million and one responsibilities, including everything from customer service to customer acquisition, balancing budgets to networking with professionals in the area. It can feel overwhelming, to say the least. 

If you want to hire an employee and take on help, you need to do so carefully. Without diligent pre- employment screening, a bad apple can fall through the cracks, jeopardizing your business and its pathway to success

Here are some tips for how to screen employees at any level and avoid getting scammed. 

Request Their Permission 

Before you do anything, it’s absolutely imperative that you receive your job candidate’s formal written consent to perform a background check. If you don’t, you could be in violation of privacy laws and land yourself in legal trouble. Laws vary by state, so be sure to do your research first. 

Choose A Method 

There are different ways to screen employees. Some business owners might filter through social media posts to get a sense of who their candidate is, but this method can be biased. Others might call past employers or listed references, but there’s no guaranteeing those people are who they say they are. Another method to screen employees is to go down to your local courthouse and request criminal records, but this is time consuming and the results could be inconclusive if the applicant has a record in another state. The best way to screen employees is with a criminal record check online because it allows you to scour through thousands of files from multiple databases and the results are nearly instantaneous. 

Know What To Look For 

If you’re screening through social media, you’re probably looking for displays of professionalism and responsibility. Personal references should enlighten you to a candidate’s work ethic and eligibility for re- hire. In an employee background check, you should look for identity verification, employment history, and presence of a criminal record. 

Note: Here in Queens, under the Stop Credit Discrimination in Employment Act, employers may not inquire into credit history when making an employment decision unless the position falls as an exception listed under N.Y.C. Admin. Code 8-107(24). 


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Establish Clear Policy 

Following your local, state, and federal employment laws is paramount. In the state of New York, it’s illegal for an employer to discriminate against a job applicant who has been convicted of one or more crimes unless the position is directly related to the crimes the applicant has been convicted of or if the applicant could endanger the property, safety, or welfare of the individuals he/she would be working with or that of the general public. 

For example, if you’re hiring for a pizza delivery position but find that your candidate was arrested for tax evasion and deny him the job, it would be considered discrimination. 

Furthermore, “ban-the-box” fair hiring laws may apply in different New York counties depending on where you’re hiring. These laws essentially prohibit inquiry into criminal history until after the first interview in order to prevent unjust discrimination. Talk to a legal representative who can help make sense of your employment laws and mold your screening policy. 

Once your policy is in place, make sure you apply it universally. If you screen one applicant, you must screen all applicants. If one person is disqualified for a certain criminal offense, all other offenders must also be disqualified. Inconsistent screening will make you seem biased. 

Follow Up With Your Candidate 

Once you have the results of your employment screening, you need to follow up with your candidate. Hopefully everything checked out and you found your next team member, but if you decide against offering the job, letting your candidate know they’re disqualified is a must. Nobody likes being put on the backburner, so extending the notice is a professional courtesy—but it might also be a legal obligation. 

If an applicant with criminal record history is denied employment or licensure, he or she has 30 days to request a written statement explaining the reason for the denial. You must provide the candidate with an explanation, which they have the right to dispute. This is when having an air-tight legal strategy becomes essential. 

Keeping these tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to recruiting the best employees and taking your business to the next level.

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