Employment background screening has gone from being a “nice to have” function to being a “have to have” function for many companies, including dealers and integrators who hire employees on a regular basis. Eighty percent of organizations now perform some kind of criminal background check and the number is growing. Central stations and other alarm companies that might have performed only criminal checks in the past are adding checks of past employment, education, credit and driving histories, sex offender registries, restricted parties lists (like those of the Office of Foreign Assets Control or OFAC) and more.

Employers are driven to background screening by the desire to provide an efficient and safe workplace, by the need to hire better people and by many fear factors including violence in the workplace and the presence of sex offenders, terrorists, substance abusers, or other types of criminal behavior. Companies are particularly sensitive to potential litigation for negligent hiring in which the average court award is roughly $1 million.

But while background screening becomes more and more ubiquitous, many organizations still tend to make many mistakes in their screening procedures and practices. These oversights can leave alarm companies vulnerable to the same negative events that they are trying to avoid by doing background screening. Following are six key mistakes companies routinely make:

Mistake 1: Not establishing a standard background screening policy

Just because a company conducts some form of background check does not mean that its recruiters or security professionals are performing the checks consistently or using the data appropriately. Having a standard written policy for every job title ensures that the same types of checks are always performed on like individuals and that data is used in compliance with all company, industry, state and federal regulations. It also avoids any appearance of discrimination.

Mistake 2: Not verifying employment and education

Sometimes the desire to quickly secure a seemingly good candidate can lead an alarm company to accept resumé data at face value. This can be a big mistake. Roughly one-third of all resumés contain some kind of misrepresentation in terms of employment history, education or experience. In addition, “diploma mills” have grown to a $200 million industry and continue to expand. Even for jobs where education or experience is not critical to success, a purposeful misrepresentation can signal problems of character in a potential hire.

Mistake 3: Not checking vendors, contractors and temporary employees

One security director of a large multi-national company commented that it was illogical that he had to have a background check and an escort to see his CEO, since the man who serviced the green plants could walk into the CEO’s office any time unchecked and unescorted. One of the greatest vulnerabilities of companies today is among the large number of unchecked suppliers and temporary employees. The sad fact is that people with questionable backgrounds will eventually gravitate to industries where background checks are seldom performed on employees. Making background screening for temporary, contract and vendor-employed workers a standard policy for your company should be part of your company’s policy of internal controls.

Mistake 4: Not conducting international checks when required

Today’s talent pool is global. Even candidates who are U.S. citizens may have some portion of their education or experience that has occurred outside the country. It is just as important to verify international backgrounds as that which occurred locally. International background checking, however, is more complex and governed by many different local statutes, policies and procedures. Security professionals should seek out a competent international screening partner to leverage their country-specific knowledge and expertise and to ensure a quality, compliant process.

Mistake 5: Not protecting against negligent retention

If an employee causes damage or harm in the workplace and recent criminal activity, such as driving infringements or drug abuse could have been discovered by the employer prior to the workplace incident, the employer may be found liable for negligent retention. Conducting checks on all new hires, prior to duty, is essential. Keep in mind, also, that a lot can happen in the years after a new hire comes aboard. Security companies should consider protecting themselves with periodic post-hire criminal checks and drug testing.

Mistake 6: Relying on manual internal processes

The more times a candidate’s background information is hand-entered into different forms or systems, the greater the chance for human error. Today’s companies can overcome these problems by seeking out a background screening process that is integrated into their recruitment software. Data from the recruiting solution can automatically populate the background screening request form of your screening provider and checks can be ordered at the touch of a couple keys with no need for faxing or duplicate data entry.

It is important to note that effective background screening requires human intervention and intuition on the screening provider’s side of the fence (criminal checks, for example, often require manual checks of court records and files), so be wary of fully automated systems that provide instant checks. Finding solutions that combine the best of automation and human investigation gives optimum return on investment.

Employment background screening is a far cry from the mom-and-pop detective service of old. Background screening services today are truly an extension of an organization’s security and recruitment departments. Avoiding these common oversights will help organizations get the full benefit from their modern background-screening program.