What are the Latest Recruiting & Background Screening Trends in 2021?

A staggering 22 million Americans in the country’s labour workforce lost their jobs between January and April 2020 due to covid closures, pushing the unemployment rate up to almost 15% – the highest rate ever recorded in the 72 years since data collection began in 1948 – and a year on, the rate hasn’t changed much but is gradually coming down. 

The employment landscape in Europe is a little different with fewer Europeans suffering job losses; totalling about 10 million people laid off in the 12 months between April 2020 and April 2021. Even though European countries constitute about 100 million workers in total (many more than the US), they have experienced fewer job losses thanks to numerous government-implemented job retention schemes.

Looking ahead towards the second half of 2021, the gradual growth in job opportunities on both sides of the Atlantic promises to remain steady but the terrain has changed dramatically after the bulldozing of many small-to-medium enterprises, most significantly in the leisure and hospitality sector. 

So as the world’s workforce re-emerges from its catatonic state and gets back to work, here are our predictions for the shape of things to come for employers and recruiting agencies over the coming months in the second half of 2021.

More Background Screening for Temps & Freelancers

The uncertainty of the economic climate brought about by capricious government measures during the covid panic has massively impacted the way businesses of all sizes employ staff. The sporadic closures and tentative reopenings, especially of eateries and entertainment venues, has seen employers laying off swathes of permanent staff and then having to quickly replace them with new recruits, often on a temporary or freelance basis.

Taking short cuts when hiring temporary staff in a hurry is tempting but could spell disaster if you skip on important steps in the background screening process. So even though temps and freelancers aren’t permanent employees, screening them is equally as important as screening permanent staff, because they still represent your company to customers and the public but they might not have such a high level of commitment or sense of responsibility as that of a full time staff members.

Ongoing Screening of Existing Employees

You might not have considered screening existing employees as they would have been vetted when they first joined the company and until now they might be doing a fantastic job but a lot can change in the private lives of employees that could lead to problems in the future if they are not spotted in time.

Regular criminal background checks and drug tests are commonly adopted by companies that need to keep tabs on their staff, especially when employees are driving vehicles or using heavy and dangerous equipment. The benefits of regularly screening employees are twofold. Firstly, you can snip in the bud any behaviours such as drug taking or pilfering that threaten to jeopardise operations and staff morale. One of your staff team could be going through a tough time, perhaps financially or emotionally or maybe they need help overcoming an addiction, where intervention would be the preferred course of action to retain that employee. 

The second benefit of regularly screening existing staff is that it acts as an effective preventative measure. If employees know they could be tested randomly or regularly then they are more likely to think twice before turning up to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Making candidates and prospective employees aware that you have a regular drug testing or criminal screening policy in place before and after employment helps weed out potentially troublesome candidates that would otherwise try and get away with criminal activity in the work place if they knew they wouldn’t be screened or tested after getting the job.

Artificial Intelligence Improvements

Advances in Applicant Tracking Systems help HR departments in large corporations process the thousands of applications they receive. The software automates much of the recruitment process, dramatically reducing paperwork and the time taken to go through big stacks of applications. Keyword trackers, for example, are tools that look for certain words in applications so they can be narrowed down to a more manageable selection. With keyword trackers you filter out applicants that didn’t read your recruitment notice properly and just spammed you with a generic application by specifying in the recruitment ad that applicants must include a unique word or phrase on their application letter to ensure it will actually get read by a human.

Enhancing Equal Opportunities with Background Screening Tech

Black, Hispanic and young workers aged under 25 have experienced the greatest number of job losses in the US workforce during the corona crisis so there is now a prominent focus on ensuring employers are providing equal opportunities.

In that regard, technological advancements in Applicant Tracking Systems are playing a significant role in providing HR departments with easily accessible centralized platforms pre-populated with AI for equal opportunities compliance.

Women, too, have battled for decades against a convention of discrimination that sees men historically being paid more than women for doing the same job. A survey conducted in 2020 among wage earners in the US found that most female employees earn about 20% less than their male counterparts: women getting about 80 cents for every dollar earned by a male in the same role. As a counter measure, some locations have introduced laws to prevent gender discrimination based on pay scales so as an employer, you may be prohibited from asking candidates about their previous salaries.

Ban the Box Adoption Grows

At least half of the states in the US have now adopted ‘Ban the Box’ since the campaign was launched in the 1990s to remove the check box on application forms asking the applicant to confirm whether they had a criminal record.

The campaign began in Hawaii and gained traction across the United States during the recession between 2007 and 2009 because increasing numbers of otherwise law-abiding Americans were being handed tough sentences and blacklisted with criminal records for minor drug offences, preventing them from finding work and causing a rise in unemployment.

Awareness among employers of the adversely negative impact of candidates having criminal records for minor offences means there’s a growing trend in leaving criminal background checks until later on in the application process so that candidates are first assessed on other noteworthy merits such as skills, experience and qualifications without being prejudged or eliminated for a crime that could be no worse than being arrested at a party where people were smoking pot.

Increasing Compliance with Credit Reporting & Protection Acts

Complying with data protection laws is more imperative than ever before, especially with the way data exchange is tracked on the Internet. Each state in the US has its own data protection and privacy laws governing the collection and use of private information but they all come under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the Consumer Credit Protection Act, which protect information collected by consumer reporting agencies such as credit bureaus, medical information companies and tenant screening services.

As usual, employers must notify candidates of their privacy rights and get their permission to perform any background checks but as we roll on into the 21st century, prospective employees will continue to have legislation bolstered in their favour with investigation mechanisms in place that allows individuals to dispute information they suspect may have prevented them from getting a job.

FCRA guidelines recommend that employers keep records documenting each stage of the background screening process to ensure that all candidates are treated fairly and that hiring decisions are made in line with Fair Labor Standards. While striving to ensuring fairness is a positive departure from various forms of discrimination, these increasingly stringent recruitment rules also put HR personnel’s necks on the line as they can unexpectedly find themselves in the firing line if they don’t do their due diligence to ensure the hiring process adheres to the ever-changing laws.