Employee screening is a process in which a prospective employee is investigated to verify qualifications and confirm that the person would be a safe and appropriate match for the workplace. This screening can be performed by an external company, or it may be conducted by the potential employer. The practice of screening employees before making an offer of employment became very widespread in the early 20th century. Many people who apply for jobs can expect some degree of screening to occur as part of the application process.
There are several goals to employee screening. The first is to confirm that an employee is actually qualified for the position. The second is to identify any potential safety risks, including threats to physical safety in the workplace and the security of data the employee might handle. Screening is also designed to spot personality traits which may be beneficial or problematic.
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Companies which contract out employee screening services can select between a range of screening products. A screening company may conduct a criminal background check, test the applicant for drug use, perform a medical evaluation, and screen for competence. Companies which provide screening services can access public records which may provide relevant information about an employee's qualifications and trustworthiness. This information is packaged in a report which can be used when making hiring decisions.
Other companies may prefer to conduct screenings on their own. Some administer their own competency and personality tests in addition to performing background checks to gather information about potential employees. A private investigator may be hired for some parts of the screening process if a company wants more information on a job applicant, or the company may retain such an investigator on staff.
Such screening is performed for sensitive jobs and long-term positions where competence, qualifications, and personality can become important. In industries with high turnover, the interview and a quick check of references may be the only screening performed. Investing in employee screening in these cases would be impractical because of the cost.
There are some legal issues which surround screening. Companies which screen must be careful to avoid anti-discrimination laws. The screening should be relevant and consistent in nature, and companies may be barred from looking up certain types of information. To comply with the law, it is advisable to use a lawyer who specializes in employment law to evaluate the employee screening process and confirm that it does not violate any privacy or anti-discrimination laws.