How COVID-19 Has Changed the Way We Look at Background Checks

Our clients are telling us that their human resources and hiring departments are overwhelmed with applications. With such a large portion of the population unemployed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s only natural that every job opening gets an influx of applications. In September 2020, even the California Employment Development Department stopped taking applications for unemployment for two weeks, just to give their clerks a chance to catch up on the application backlog. 

The hiring process is extended and costly enough without a pandemic to complicate things. COVID-19 has not made the process any better. 

Now more than ever, background checks are a must — you certainly do not want to hire the wrong person, then need to quickly terminate them, only to have to begin the whole process over again. While background checks today aren’t that much different than those in February 2020, hiring managers must take a more nuanced approach. Knowing how COVID-19 has been impacting background checks will help your hiring process run more smoothly.

How COVID-19 Affects Aspects of Background Checks 

When analyzing applicants’ background information, keep these unprecedented changes in mind.

Job and Employment History

One of the first things you see on both a resume and a background check is an applicant’s employment history. Brace yourself for gaps. Even healthy companies laid employees off in several industries, with airlines, restaurants, and bars struggling the most. 

In addition, don’t be surprised to find applicants that have picked up odd jobs outside of their normal career trajectory. Many are paying their bills by working anywhere they can pick up hours. This unprecedented time calls for a mindset shift—a departure from the way you regarded resumes before COVID-19. 

Credit and Financial (Life) Lines

A big value of background checks lies in how they can reflect financial responsibility. A shaky economy, however, sends candidates to their credit cards, raising their usage, and lowering their score. Keep in mind that for many families, expenses — including those that were once easily paid by an incoming paycheck — may be on credit cards now. Loan information that appears on background checks, too, may look dicier on more reports. When this data crops up, an applicant’s personal situation may weigh into your decision. The candidate may be hoping you’ll ask about specifics. 

Housing and Landlord Discrepancies

Beyond sweating over credit scores and loan payments, applicants today are struggling to keep a roof over their families’ heads. COVID-19 has caused a housing crisis. 

Background checks reveal current rent and mortgage payments . . . and a lack thereof. While irresponsible finances may have been a deal-breaker in the past, again you may want to ask about the specifics before disqualifying the candidate. Millions of Americans have been economically devastated in recent months. Contacting the landlord and speaking with the applicant further may give a clearer picture.

Personal and Professional References

Poor payment history could be a recent trend for a candidate, but references who have known them for years provide a more complete picture. Brace yourself: personal references may be easier to reach than professional ones. 

Reference email and phone numbers from businesses that have closed or laid off workers may no longer reach the intended party. Plan to put a little more effort into contacting professional references. If they don’t reply to your initial email, you may be able to find them on LinkedIn or other online platforms. Consider asking the candidate if he or she has personal email or phone numbers for the reference to increase your odds of connecting with them.



Are Companies Still Using Background Checks During COVID-19? 

Companies are indeed using background checks during COVID-19 . . . and at a heightened rate at that. A single job opening may draw thousands of applicants, and feeling confident in a hiring decision when so many choices exist is no easy feat. Using background checks narrows the applicant pool saving employers both time and building peace of mind.

Do Background Checks Tell the Whole Story? 

Simply put, not always—particularly during a pandemic. Background checks following the wake of COVID-19 may make honest, hardworking people look less impressive on paper, even if a year ago they would’ve been your top applicant. The best way to understand an employee’s background check is by issuing a follow-up interview and gaining more insight into the data you’ve collected. We advise giving potential employees the chance to discuss and explain information found on their background check.

How DataCheck Accommodates Phenomenons Like COVID-19 

COVID-19 has changed the landscape for job hunting, affecting both hiring departments and applicants. We know that having the full picture of an applicant is necessary for making a hiring decision, especially with such a numerous number of applicants per job listing. 

Make the process easier with DataCheck’s comprehensive pre-employment screening services, which can be customized to fit your business’ individual needs. Learn more by reading through our services, or contact us today to see how you can receive top-quality background checks quickly and affordably. 

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