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Job Screenings in 2021: What to Expect

Job Screenings in 2021

Ready for enhanced job screenings? The COVID-19 pandemic pushed employers both small and large to innovate their screening processes. Criminal background checks remain the top screening tool employers use. Extra layers of both health and security screenings may show up, and so will screening changes in response to recent regulations, particularly when a staffing firm is involved. Social media background checking is a given now, too. Every employer handles background checks differently and staffing firms usually follow guidelines set by their partner employers.

“As long as employers remain within the law—which, in Texas, is relatively unrestricted—they are screening in all areas that can assure them that you’re a safe hire,” says Mark Turpin, founder and CEO of The HT Group.

Criminal history

You may not realize the great lengths staffing firms and other employers go to conduct criminal background checks. It can require accessing several databases, including civil court records, and even calling county and local courthouses. It’s all in the name of keeping people and property safe.

That being said, more and more states and local jurisdictions are passing fair chance hiring or “ban-the-box” laws that protect job seekers from being asked about their criminal histories until a job offer is made. Austin has had the ordinance in place since 2016. If you’re concerned about how criminal history may affect your employment, follow these tips for job seeking with a criminal background.

I-9 employment authorization

If you’re starting a new job for the first time since mid-2020, you’ll notice a few changes to the Form I-9, which is used to verify your identity and employment eligibility. The process may look entirely different, too, especially if you’re hired remotely.

To eliminate unnecessary surprises, you may want to try E-Verify’s Self Check. Self Check lets you confirm that your employment eligibility information is in order by checking it against the same databases E-Verify uses when employers enter your Form I-9.

Biometrics and other identity verification

Smile! You may be asked to take a selfie on your first day of work if you are hired remotely. It’s not just for the company social channels; it may be for biometric identity verification within the background screening process.

“Traditionally, identity has been verified through the I-9 form, which is typically completed in person on the employee’s first day, after the rest of the screening process has already been completed,” explains study authors with background and identity services provider Sterling and Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA). But now, “solutions are being developed to allow a background screening company to quickly verify the candidate’s identity via an entirely mobile-based solution.”

That solution may include the candidate scanning and submitting a photo ID, then taking and submitting a selfie to allow the employer to use facial recognition software to match the selfie with the photo ID. If the system finds a data-mismatch (you don’t look at all like your photo ID, for instance), you can receive instructions to correct your records with the appropriate federal agency. 

Driving Record

As more and more employers move to service models that include deliveries and at-home visits, as well as allowing more driving instead of flying for business travel, your driving record may suddenly factor into your employability.

But what’s considered an inexcusable record? SHRM offers a sample employer motor vehicle policy that could provide some clues. In the example, the employer considers three or more moving violations in the past 36 months and other definitions of reckless driving or driving under the influence within the past two years as unacceptable. When employers access driving records, they usually request Type 2, which includes a list of crashes (if a ticket was received) and all moving violations within the past three years.

Once you’re hired, the screening may continue. It’s essential to understand the trends in continuous driver monitoring—technology that allows for real-time alerts about any traffic or safety violations you get while employed.


Employers report that when candidate discrepancies are found, up to 38% deal with false or misleading education credentials. That’s a massive number of candidates lying about their education, whether in the form of degrees, schools attended, or certifications. A Hloom study shows that employers consider lying about the college you graduated from, your former employment or work history, academic degree, college major, and GPA are the most severe resume violations you can make.

With AI and even simple internet searches, employers can spot these lies easier than ever before. Educational institutions like MIT are even using blockchain technology to provide secure, tamper-proof digital diplomas that can be presented to employers for immediate and secure verification.

Social media/internet

By 2018 (the date of CareerBuilder’s last comprehensive survey on the issue), 66% of employers admitted using search engines to research a job candidate’s social media presence. They’re looking for positive information: 58% are simply wanting to find information that supports the candidate’s qualifications for the job, while only 22% are attempting to find a reason not to hire the candidate.

Unfortunately, many hiring managers find the latter whether they’re looking for it or not. Candidates have been passed over 40% of the time due to posted provocative or inappropriate photographs, videos or information, for example. But is it legal for employers to research you without your knowledge? That depends.

“At the federal level, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) offer fairness protection to applicants, and 25 states also have laws regarding fair use of candidates’ social media. However, because this area of background check services is still new, the legal landscape is very unclear,” says Jared Rosenthal, CEO and Founder of Health Street.

Drug/alcohol screening

Marijuana is quickly becoming legal—or at least decriminalized—in many states and jurisdictions. Texas is even starting to change its tune. But that doesn’t mean that employers will turn a blind eye to abuse or use while on the job. Utah is a useful example. The state’s recent medical marijuana law includes an amendment allowing private employers to refuse to accommodate the use of medical marijuana, drug screen for marijuana, and implement zero-tolerance policies against marijuana use at the workplace or while on the job. Only two states—Nevada and New York—have implemented “robust protections” for job seekers.

We wrote about this issue several times in the past, and much of the information still stands. While there are complications of drug testing in the workplace, even in a conservative state like Texas, there’s one area that isn’t grey: impairment on the job. In most jurisdictions, discriminating against someone who uses marijuana even for medicinal reasons is a moot point when the drug inhibits work performance. Plus, organizations with federal grants, large government contracts, or safety-sensitive transportation employees must maintain a drug-free workplace per the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988. If you’re concerned about pre-employment drug screenings, take a look at your rights as a Texas employee.

More screening, not less

Screening technology has allowed employers to screen more, not less—even amidst the chaos of 2020. A recent survey from PBSA and found that 90% of employers screened all full-time employees in 2020, compared to 86% in 2019. There’s also a considerable increase in the number of organizations screening other types of “individuals who are not traditional full-time employees,” including part-time employees, contingent/temporary workers, volunteers, and vendor representatives. Employers also include more elements of non-criminal records checks, such as credit reports and professional license verification. We cover some of these other job screening trends here.

If you’re concerned about what may pop up in a background check or another type of pre-employment screening, it’s important to address it before you’re confronted about it by a hiring manager. Again, honesty is the best policy when discussing background issues. Feel free to ask your friendly local recruiter about anything you’re curious about.


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