How Big Data Affects Background Checks and How That Affects You 27 May 2019


You’ve been looking through resumes for hours, but you’re no closer to finding a new hire than when you started. Why is it so difficult to track down the right person for the job?

Skilled job candidates don’t stay on the job market for long. Statistics show that the best talent is usually snatched up within 10 days. If you’re going to get the best new hire, you need to speed up your hiring process.

Big data can help you speed up your background check process and find the right hire quickly. While using big data can make your hiring process run smoother, it could also cause some unintended problems. Let’s explore how big data affects background checks, what problems it could lead to, and how you can use big data responsibly.

Background Checks Use Big Data to Find the Right Applicant

Background check providers need to sift through mountains of applicant data. Using traditional data sources makes this a challenging task. To uncover an applicant’s background faster than a manual background check, screening companies can use big data.

What is big data? Big data refers to large sets of information that can be analyzed to reveal patterns and trends. By setting specific search criteria, screening companies filter job candidates. The use of big data analytics saves time and effort.

Another benefit of data-driven background checks is that it reduces hiring discrimination. Using big data instead of HR staff to filter candidates cuts out initial human bias. It gives all candidates an equal chance by focusing on skills and qualifications. Big data analytics also ignores discriminatory factors, such as race or gender.

Big data is handy if you need to run a background check. But, keep in mind that multiple laws regulate how background checks can be performed. Will using big data get you into legal trouble?

Big Data Can’t Solve All Problems

Big data does speed up background checks. However, using data patterns as the basis for screening employees can do more harm than good if you don’t have safety measures in place.

First of all, the data sets used for big data aren’t always curated or verified. Therefore, search results can sometimes include inaccurate or incomplete information. Using incorrect results to make hiring decisions deprives you of great candidates.

Inaccurate reports can also lead to legal trouble. CoreLogic, a data and analytics company, was sued for including false criminal charges on two background check reports. The false reports caused two job applicants to lose their job offers. The lawsuit also revealed that bad data might have affected the hiring chances of as many as 10 million workers.

Even when big data is accurate, another weakness exists. Big data analytics lack empathy, which can work against you in hiring decisions. For example, a hiring manager may be willing to interview a candidate with an old criminal conviction. Yet, big data algorithms could cut such a candidate from the hiring pool.

Big data patterns can also cause problems when employers put too much focus on them. When patterns become parameters for selecting candidates, the results can reinforce discrimination. For instance, administrators might want candidates that fit their company culture. However, the analysis could rule out female and minority applicants if the majority of existing employees are white males.

It sounds like big data can have serious drawbacks. How can you avoid these problems? By using big data responsibly in your background check process.

Business owner researches how their background check provider uses big data

How to Be Responsible With Big Data

Leaving big data analytics unchecked can make a mess of your hiring process. By researching how to use big data, you can incorporate it effectively into your background check system. Here’s how you can get started with being a responsible user of big data:

  • Investigate how your background check provider uses big data. Look into how they comply with both background check and data laws. Research how they ensure accurate information in their background checks.
  • When you’re designing your program parameters, eliminate bias. Study how bias and data patterns can unintentionally affect your hiring process.  
  • Conduct regular statistical samples. Make sure the results are accurate and nondiscriminatory.
  • Store personal data safely. Limit hiring data access to a need-to-know basis.
  • Research your document retention obligations. Legally, you may need to hang onto hiring data for a specific amount of time.
  • Decide what to do with the data if your contract with the provider ends. Privacy laws may require that vendors delete the hiring data they received from your company.

When you use big data responsibly, it can become the best part of your hiring process.

Big Data Helps You Make Big Decisions

Big data doesn’t have to be a big deal. Using big data in your hiring process makes hiring a new applicant smoother and more efficient than ever. All you need to do is put a few safety measures in place.

Work together with your screening provider to keep big data use in check. Then, it will work for you and not against you. Big data will help you find the right hire before that person disappears, leaving you more time to get your new hire settled in.