Creating Better Hiring Standards With Pre-Employment Screening


Ontario’s Bill 168 is now in effect and mandates that all Ontario workplaces with more than five employees must implement a work safety review. This includes a risk assessment to determine potential sources of violence or harassment. Failure to do so can result in a hefty fine.

The legislation requires employers to develop violence and harassment policies and programs, employee reporting and incident investigation procedures, emergency response procedures, and a process to deal with incidents, complaints and threats of violence.

Before developing a program, employers are required to complete a risk assessment identifying where there is a potential for violence due to the nature of the workplace, the type of work or the conditions of work. The specifics of this task are left to the individual employer.

Bill 168 adopts an approach similar to other federal or provincial violence and harassment laws by providing clarity about employer accountability, taking a process-driven approach to compliance and sending a “take action” message to supervisors and middle-managers.

Pre-employment screening is a vital piece of a risk assessment policy, whether you conduct business in Ontario or not.

While not specifically mentioned in the bill, implementing a screening policy for new hires has many benefits.

Learning about your candidates’ background prior to hiring them not only increases productivity and employment retention, but also reduces workplace harassment and the possibility of making poor hiring decisions.

An important way for employers to reduce hiring risks and costs is by choosing the right employee first. An effective pre-employment screening practice helps employers to make proper hiring decisions, which, in the long run, benefit both the employer and employee.

Consider these facts the next time you decide to hire an employee without a proper pre-employment screening practice in place:

  • A recent personnel management survey stated that two million individuals are victims of work-related violent crimes every year.  Employer costs for crime victimization are 751,100 lost workdays and $55 million in lost yearly wages.
  • A human resource survey states that 45 per cent of applicants have criminal records, poor driving records or bad credit histories and nearly 34 per cent of applicants exaggerate their experience or education, while 10 per cent lie about their background.
  • Workplace theft exceeds $120 billion annually in North America. Fraud costs $20 billion. Embezzlement runs $4 billion and other employee crimes total $45 billion. Employee theft causes 30 per cent of business failures.
  • Bad hires cost thousands of dollars more than a pre-employment background check.  It costs business $7,000 to replace a salaried employee, $10,000 to replace a mid-level employee, and $40,000 to replace a senior executive, according to Recruiting Times.

Does pre-employment screening invade privacy?

No. Employers find out about only those things that an applicant has done in their public life. Checking for criminal convictions or calling past employers and schools does not invade personal privacy, as long as the candidate has given consent.

Is it difficult to implement?

For overburdened managers or dealer principals, outsourcing pre-employment screening can be done quickly and effectively. A screening company can set up a program and provide all the necessary forms in a short period of time.

Are there privacy concerns?

Employers have an absolute right to conduct lawful pre-employment screening in order to hire the best-qualified candidates. Few applicants are surprised when asked to agree to a background check, although they may not fully appreciate the rationale behind it.

The key is informed consent. Depending on what your background check includes, once an offer of employment is given, the applicant will be required to sign a consent form providing personal information.

Employers should tell job candidates early in the process that they require a background check if they are successful in advancing through the process.

Most who have something to hide will self-select out and move on to the increasingly difficult task of locating a company where screening policies are less stringent.

Both employers and applicants have learned that pre-employment screening is an absolute necessity in today’s business world.  More importantly, they have learned that conducting due diligence in hiring is a way to keep firms safe and profitable in these difficult times.

Tim Hardie is the president of Hire Performance Inc., a Canadian pre-employment screening company located in Toronto. For more information, contact 1-888-874-1114 or e-mail tim@hireperformance.ca.