How to Set Up Your First Employee Screening Program


Are you about to hire your first employee? Use these steps to devise a smart, compliant, and effective employment screening program.

Post cover image

There are always challenges to the hiring process, like attracting a well-qualified applicant pool; sifting through resumes without getting fatigued; asking the right questions in the interview, and figuring out who you want to hire fast so you don’t lose the candidate to another employer. These steps are sources of difficulty and frustration even for hiring managers who have spearheaded hundreds of employee screening processes.

Still, your first employee is often your toughest hire. When a new business must go through the interview and hiring process for the first time, it’s difficult for two primary reasons. First, there is a learning curve for hiring. If you’ve never hired someone before, it stands to reason that you are going to run into some hurdles you didn’t expect.

Second, you simply don’t have the infrastructure in place. Established businesses have proven processes and policies that they follow when hiring new people. Newer companies just starting to bring in new talent don’t have that foundation. As such, when the time comes to make your first hire, you will have to go through the process of setting up your first employee screening program. Here are a few tips to get you started:

1.Define the role

An employee screening program can’t work if you aren’t using an objective standard of what a “qualified employee” will look like for that position. A lot of the people you meet in interviews are going to have qualities that you like, from fascinating resumes to buckets of charm. What you need to do is figure out who is the best person for the job you are trying to fill. The only way to do that is to define the role in detail. Figure out the responsibilities the job will entail, the skills it requires, and the type of educational credentials or work history you’d like to see from your ideal candidate. This process will help you with virtually every other step of the screening process, from writing the job description to drafting interview questions to picking the right person to hire.


2. Map out your background check process

Running background checks on all the people you hire is a core component of any employee screening process. A background check is a form of due diligence. It’s an important way to learn more about your top candidates and find out if they have any serious red flags on their records. Hiring someone without a background check is risky. It could even lead to a negligent hiring lawsuit if the person you hire attacks a customer, steals from a client, or commits a misdeed that could have been predicted with a proper background search.

It's important to understand that not all companies run background checks the same way. There is no magical “background check” button you can push to screen your candidates and find out if they have any criminal history. Instead, you will need to design a background check policy for your business. Make sure it’s thorough: most criminal history background checks start at the county level, but you may also want to incorporate state and multi-jurisdictional checks to broaden the scope. You can incorporate other types of searches such as civil history checks, driving record checks, and verification checks for work history or education.

You can tweak your background check processes a bit from one job to the next. For instance, if you are hiring someone for a position that involves a lot of driving, you might incorporate the driving history check. For a desk job, having a driving record check isn’t as critical. What you shouldn’t do is change your background checks from one applicant to the next when screening candidates for the same job. You need to be consistent about how you are vetting all the applicants for a specific job. Otherwise, you could run into accusations of discrimination.

If setting up a background check policy sounds complex, that’s because there are a lot of legal restrictions and standards that you need to follow. Before you map out your policy, it would be a good idea to familiarize yourself with EEOC guidance, FCRA rules, and any state laws or local ordinances that are applicable in your area.


3. Figure out how you are going to advertise the job

How are you going to get the word out about your job posting? From public job boards to private industry forums, and from bulletin boards in your place of business to virtual postings on social media, there are a lot of ways you can complete this part of the process. You might even engage the services of a headhunter, particularly for more specialized roles.

Some of these methods are free. Others aren’t. Look at your budget and determine what you can afford. You will inevitably tweak your strategies as you move forward and figure out what works best, but you should still put in the effort to make a strong start.


4. Hone your interview process

One of the best things you can do when t establishing your employee screening program is to recognize that your interview strategies can be fluid. Over time, your interviews are going to evolve. You are going to figure out which questions work and which ones don’t. Then, you will learn how to play off interviewee responses and turn your interviews into true discussions instead of stilted, one-sided conversations. Finally, you will determine whether you need two or three tiers of interviews, or if one will do just fine.

In other words, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get it perfect for your first hiring process. Draw up a list of questions to ask based on the role you defined earlier. Determine what you want to know about your applicants and formulate your interview around the questions that are going to prompt that information. Finally, take notes in your interview sessions—not just about the candidates, but also about how well your interview approach is working. That way, you know what to change for your next hire.


Michael Klazema has been developing products for a criminal background check and improving online customer experiences in the background screening industry since 2009. He is the lead author and editor for He lives in Dallas, TX with his family and enjoys the rich culinary histories of various old and new world countries.

See More Posts

Related post image

Mood Surveys - Secret Behind Employee Wellbeing

Related post image

5 Daily Strategies for Employee Engagement and Retention

Boost employee engagement & retention: gather insights, foster mentorship, create paths for advancement, cultivate recognition, and address disengagement!

Related post image

6 Microsoft Teams APPs that will boost your team engagement

How do you engage employees using Microsoft Teams? We have compiled a list of apps that will help you improve employee engagement on MSTeams.

Related post image

6 Apps that will boost employee engagement on Slack

How do you engage employees on Slack? We have compiled a list of apps that will help you improve employee engagement on Slack.

Show more