In applicant screening, applicants are carefully screened for recruiting purposes. Means: HR specialists analyze the application documents and other available information from the candidates in detail. In this way, employers want to prevent avoidable risks and incorrect appointments. But how far can access to personal data go? What an applicant screening includes and your right to data protection as an applicant …
Definition: what is an applicant screening?
An applicant screening is the legal verification of an applicant before the employment contract is signed. Like the synonymous terms Pre-Employment Screening (PES), Reference Check, Background Check, Background Investigation, Applicant Review, Applicant Check or Background Check, most of the terms come from English. They mean something like “previous screening”. In other words: This check takes place during the application process, before or after an interview.
The results of the applicant screening are intended to provide conclusions as to the extent to which the information in the résumé actually corresponds to the truth. They are designed to protect the employer from fraud through false information. According to the Recruiting Trends study, applicant screening resulted in applicants being rejected in almost 12 percent of all cases.
What does a background check include?
Applicant screening has its origins in the USA and Great Britain, where it is used as a common method for every applicant. In the USA, according to the American screening organization “National Association of Professional Background Screeners” (NAPBS), employers are allowed to use the following sources, for example: registry office registers, license reviews, reports, driver data and records from past employment relationships. They check these documents for any criminal record. A particularly thorough applicant screening even includes drug tests or psychological reports – for example on handwriting.
An applicant screening can include the following measures:
Comparison of documents
A first step should filter out discrepancies based on the applicant’s own information. For example, if text fields in an online application contain different information than the uploaded documents. In the interview, employers also have the opportunity to have original documents presented to them.
Research on the Internet
If the candidate has their own homepage or even a separate application homepage, the information there can be compared with that in the application. Social or business networks (see box) also often allow insight into personal data.
Talks with ex-employers
A call to the reference provider or former employer quickly reveals whether someone has worked there as specified. The information obtained can also be used to find out whether someone fits into your own corporate culture.
Information from credit agencies
Information from authorities or so-called credit agencies can also be informative. The latter includes, for example, the Schufa. A flawless Schufa information can be important if a position to be filled is accompanied by high budget responsibility.
Use of selection process
Screening for applicants may include psychological tests and / or selection processes such as assessment centers. Companies can use these methods to find out whether someone really has the necessary soft and hard skills.
Applicant screening through networks
To a certain extent, each applicant has it in their own hands what information they reveal about themselves. If there is a previous conviction and someone applies for a position related to the crime, as described above, then the scope is of course correspondingly limited.
What access an employer has to your data depends on the source. There is publicly accessible data that everyone can look at, data accessible to network members and data accessible to friends or contacts on the Internet:
Data available to the public
Data is publicly accessible if your personal data can be researched using a search engine such as Google, Bing or Yahoo! Article 5 paragraph 1 sentence 1 of the Basic Law guarantees everyone freedom of information. At an earlier point in time, the applicant must have consented to the use of his data without restriction.
They are therefore general and therefore accessible to the employer. His interests are to be weighted in the same way as those of the employee. According to Section 28 Paragraph 1 Clause 1 No. 3 BDSG, the employer may also collect personal data, provided that these are generally accessible via the search engines.
Data accessible to network members
With social networks such as Facebook or Xing, you can choose your security settings so that your data can only be viewed by logged-in members. You can also exclude certain contacts from certain information by grouping them accordingly. If an employer wants to access information from the applicant here, he must first network with him. However, leisure-oriented networks such as Facebook expressly prohibit business use in their terms and conditions.
In the case of job-oriented networks such as Xing or LinkedIn, on the other hand, whoever is at least considering recruiting from potential employers usually registers. The use of the profile allows professional self-presentation. Section 32 of the BDSG permits the collection of personal data from applicants for the purposes of the employment relationship if this appears necessary for business reasons. For example, if there is evidence of a criminal offense.
But even if “the employee’s legitimate interest in the exclusion of the collection, processing or use does not outweigh, in particular the type and extent are not disproportionate with regard to the occasion.” Access data. So his interest does not prevail. According to Section 32 Paragraph 1 Clause 1 in conjunction with Section 4 Paragraph 2 No. 2 BDSG, the employer may collect and use the accessible personal data for his business purposes.
Data accessible to contacts
Another special case is when an applicant consciously makes his personal data available to his own friends or contacts in networks. Here, for example, an employer would first have to send a friend request on Facebook in order to be able to view details of the potential applicant. As already stated, the general terms and conditions of the network operators exclude commercial research.
However, there is one exception: the collection, processing and use of the data is permitted if the applicant has expressly consented. For this, the employer must point out the intended data collection. There is no consent if an employer conceals his true identity and his concerns and the applicant accepts, for example, a friend request from a fake profile.
Are background checks allowed?
Basically yes. But it depends. An applicant screening, which, like in the USA, targets an applicant’s police clearance certificate, is generally prohibited. Both the applicant’s personal rights and the Federal Data Protection Act (BDSG) protect the employee. On the one hand. On the other hand, there are certainly cases in which a police clearance certificate can be requested, depending on the activity.
Extensive applicant screenings are allowed if there is a legitimate interest of the employer that needs to be protected. This applies, for example, in the following cases:
Checking for drug offenses
Checking for property crimes
Sex crime screening
However, if the employer’s surveys or investigations go too far, an applicant does not have to answer truthfully. This applies to previous, completed procedures and those that have no relation to the position.
Reasons for Applicant Screenings
Depending on the effort involved, an applicant screening is costly. However, the point is to save even higher costs, also in the form of time and trouble. Because that is exactly what companies that fill their positions incorrectly have to face – not so rarely. According to studies, 40 percent of specialists and almost 30 percent of managers are wrongly hired.
These can quickly cost a company between 30,000 and 100,000 euros. When it comes to managers, the costs are even higher. It is understandable that companies prefer to protect themselves beforehand. But what do screenings like this look like in this country and what are the associated consequences? Does the glass of wine in the vacation photo cost you the potential job? And above all: How far back or how long does such research go back?
People change and harmless youthful sins should not be smeared on bread years later. It is therefore critical when an applicant screening reveals completely outdated or even incorrect information. Decisions based on this make both the applicant and the company look bad. In the vast majority of cases, companies review the résumés. At the latest since various political scandals involving false doctorates, such information is checked in the résumé, as well as if someone has indicated management positions.
Tips for Companies When Screening Applicants
Regardless of whether an employer researches an applicant himself or hires a company to do so: only trained staff should carry out an applicant screening. This should be subject to quality control and research in accordance with data protection and privacy. As soon as a company violates legal regulations when searching for information, this has civil or criminal consequences, not to mention its good reputation.
In order not only to meet legal requirements, but also to be comprehensible for applicants, companies should set up guidelines for applicant screening. This increases acceptance among potential candidates. It would be possible to communicate the procedure via appropriate dossiers or briefings that clearly list the information obtained. This also includes giving applicants the opportunity to comment on possible critical results and to be able to explain or correct them.
Criteria for applicant screenings
A company must be able to explain the context in which the researched information relates to the job. The assessment factors according to which personality and social skills are measured must also be clarified.
What companies should definitely consider: Where does the relevant information come from? That means, it should absolutely check the truthfulness and the seriousness of a source. Otherwise, unsubstantiated claims can have far-reaching consequences.
Companies should note that applicants have the right to refuse certain statements or access to sources. For example, if someone does not accept a friend request on Facebook or the applicant makes the appropriate settings in their profile beforehand.