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From Data Facts: Screening Summer Hires and Volunteers

May 21, 2012

Ah, summertime. Bring on the hot, lazy days by the pool, the smell of a fresh cut lawn, and cool lemonade in a frosty glass. 

Another summer time activity for many is volunteering or working during the summer months. Camps, pools, recreational companies, and many more businesses will be gearing up to bring on extra people either in paid or volunteer positions. Millions of people will be aiming to attain these summer positions, and companies need to be ready.

  And, as with any other person who is hired, these people need to be thoroughly screened.

While the majority of companies perform some sort of pre-employment screening during the hiring process, summer hires and volunteers often slip through with no screening whatsoever. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. They won’t be there long. People who only work for a company for a few months are sometimes perceived as less of a potential threat to the safety of the workplace. This is NOT the case. Summer employees and volunteers are just as likely to be dishonest and damaging as a full-time employee.
  2. They were referred by another employee. A friend of a friend is often the way summer hires get their jobs. Believing that the friend is as honest as the current employee is a dangerous assumption for the employer to make.
  3. Screening is perceived as too costly. Summer jobs are often lower paying jobs (and volunteers are not paid at all), and that, coupled with the fact the job is temporary, makes lots of employers decide against screening.  While background checks do cost money, it is important to realize the importance of checking out an employee’s background, especially if they are working with vulnerable populations, such as children or the elderly.
  4. Screening is not required.  Very few states require summer hires and volunteers such as camp counselors to be screened.  Many employers feel if it is not required, there is little benefit from the effort.

In order to protect the safety of the company’ working environment, its clients, and its reputation, employers need to realize that a screening policy does not begin and end with full-time, permanent staff. The following procedure can be put into place to minimize the chance of a dishonest or dangerous person being hired or allowed to volunteer: 

–          Establish a policy for screening summer hires and volunteers.  Decide which background screening tools will be utilized for each screen, and stay consistent with that plan.

–          Become familiar with the laws. States may have laws that govern what is and is not allowed during a background check.  Employers should make certain to be up to date and compliant on all pertinent laws.

–          Obtain the applicant’s authorization. Each and every applicant should authorize the background check, and also needs to receive a disclosure that a background check is being conducted.

–          Utilize relevant screening tools. Design the pre-employment screening procedure to be in line with the job’s responsibilities. For example, a camp counselor would need to be checked against a sex offender’s registry, but would not necessarily need to have a credit report pulled. 

–          Follow the FCRA requirements if you decided to deny employment. An adverse action letter must be sent to the applicant if it is decided not to hire based on whole or in part from the information found in a background check.

A thoughtful, written out plan should be a top priority for employers who hire summer workers or recruit volunteers. Hiring the right people can greatly minimize risk to the workplace, reduce the chance of litigation, and protect the company’s reputation. 

And that makes for a great summer. 

~~Susan McCullah is the Product Development Director for Data Facts, a 23 year old Memphis-based company that provides employment screening solutions to companies nationwide. Check our our website for a complete explanation of our services.

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