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Looking to figure out who’s who in your sea of applicants? If you’re using search engines or social media, you’re in good company.

More and more employers are going online to learn more about their job applicants before hiring them, casting their nets to surface the information that can help distinguish between a top recruit and a catastrophic hire. Employers today know that online or offline, every employee represents your brand no matter what role they play. With employer liability insurance now costing more than $2.1 billion per year and entire merger outcomes changing due to toxic employee behavior, the number of employers looking for a digital deep-dive on their candidates is swelling.

Today, over 70% of employers are manually screening applicants. In other words, over 13,000 large U.S. businesses and 4.2 million small and medium enterprises are searching candidates online, but few have considered the costs. How much will it cost to screen all these candidates by hand? How do you make sure each profile matches the individual in question, and how do you make sure you don’t miss the critical detail that makes all the difference? Manual screening can lead employers to spending thousands of dollars on research, only to misidentify a critical profile or make a costly oversight.

Beyond being a financial and logistical burden, manual screening can also land your business in legal hot water. Without a properly documented process, for example, it becomes easy to exclusively research certain candidates without realizing they all fall under a protected class. This is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Whether you are later charged for discrimination under the EEOC or for negligent hiring under the FCRA, manual screening can lead companies to join the ranks of those who have paid big for non-compliance. In the last three years, these six companies have lost a collective $18 million:

Companies have paid millions of dollars for improper screening of candidates

To ensure full compliance, companies need to adopt a set of best practices for online screening that includes involving the candidate in the hiring process, avoiding protected classes of information, and making principled hiring decisions. If not, they risk getting caught in a storm of mass employment lawsuits. Manual online screening has grown by over 500 percent over the last 12 years. Along with it, FCRA litigations have quadrupled, growing over 400 percent without a decrease in over eight years.

  Manual online candidate screening and FCRA lawsuits are rising at breakneck speed (Sources:    CareerBuilder   ,    WebRecon   )

Manual online candidate screening and FCRA lawsuits are rising at breakneck speed (Sources: CareerBuilder, WebRecon)

As both toxic employee behavior and employment lawsuits continue to trend upward, applicants are not only wreaking havoc once they get into a company—they are now so highly attuned to non-compliant practices that some will submit defective applications for the sole purpose of litigation before they ever walk into an interview. When it comes to pre-employment screening, companies must find a way to screen at high volumes with rigid compliance or face the consequences.

In an age where the tide of litigation is rising and punitive damages are awarded on semantics, employers must do everything they can to protect their brand from bad hires while bringing the right people on board. But to navigate the harsh legal currents, we need stronger, sharper, and more compliant tools to deal with an ocean of online content and properly sail the digital seas.

Disclaimer: Please note that the materials available in this post are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.

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