Background Checks in the Age of Millennials and Gen Z: What Employers Should Keep in Mind

Millennials (those born between 1981 and 2000) have taken over (and have transformed) the workforce. Gen Z (those born between 1996 and 2012) will soon follow. The way employers recruit and hire Millennial and Gen Z job candidates has changed as well—and will continue do so. So if employers want to remain competitive and attract the best and brightest talent from these generations, they must keep the following points in mind when it comes to pre-hire screenings.

Make the Background Check Process Easy—and Mobile

People from these generations spend more time on their smartphones than anyone else, a trend that will only continue to grow. If you're still using a paper-based or email process for background checks, stop. Millennials and Gen Z will expect to do everything via their phone.

Think of it like this: if they're deciding between you and another company, but yours still does everything the "old" way (paper-based or email applications and background checks) and the other company does everything on mobile, which company do you think the applicant is going to focus on? The dinosaur or the fresh, forward-thinking company that speaks their language and sends them what they need via text?

Don't lose out on great people simply because your organization is doing things the old way. (Psst. Need help transitioning to a mobile process? We make it easy.)

Don't Stress Over Basic Employment Verifications

Millennials are known as the "job-hopping generation," which can make employment verification harder—and perhaps even unnecessary.

As an employer, would you care if the applicant's employment dates on their resume were "off" by 30 or 60 days? Probably not. But you would want to know if the person exhibited racist, intolerant, or illegal behaviors, which brings us to our next point.

Focus on Social Media & Other Online Activity

No one would argue with the claim that Millennials and Gen Z love hanging out online. But seeing the actual numbers can be quite startling.

According to Statista, 76.8% of U.S. Millennials used social media in 2018. And 90% of 18- to 29-year-olds have at least one social media account. North American teenagers between 16-24 "spend the most time online via mobile, more than any other age group, spending nearly 200 minutes per day on a mobile device."

The big social media networks are certainly in play—think Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram—but the online world is a vast place, and young people are true adventurers, seeking out new platforms, leaving comments on public message boards, and publishing personal blogs and websites that highlight everything, like their worldviews and the minutia of their daily lives.

average-person-social-media-accounts
[Source: Statista]

Welcome to the Culture of "Oversharing"

This culture of oversharing can be problematic, of course, especially when you combine the missteps and inexperience of youth with the permanence of the Internet (once you put something "out there" it remains "out there" forever).

For example, consider how the provocative and inappropriate comments a person made online at the age of twenty could follow—and hurt—them for years to come, even if the person has evolved by the age of 26 and now recognizes the problem with those statements from the past.

(Note: we're not suggesting that only Gen Z and Millennials make missteps online, just that the chances are greater for them to do so, given not only their youth, but also the amount of time they spend online compared to other demographics.)

Because of all this, employers would be remiss if they didn't consider a candidate's social media and public online activity since a thorough screening could provide insights that a resume simply can't.

employers-not-hired-from-social-media-activity
[Source: CareerBuilder]

Reasons for not hiring included racist posts, posts about illicit drug use, and posts with sexually explicit content—in other words, information that an employer wouldn't get from a basic background check or criminal background check. Yet information that we'd argue is even more important than, say, a person's employment and education history.

At Good Egg, our compliant social media screening will consider four categories of content (and when presenting results, we always redact protected class information):

  • Racist or intolerant
  • Sexually explicit
  • Potentially illegal
  • Potentially violent

A thorough social media screening will offer important insights and provide you with even more confidence in your hiring decisions.

Do the Math: Save Mega Dollars Associated with Bad Hires

While social media screenings do cost more than basic background checks, the investment easily pays for itself because it will save you from making a costly bad hire.

Our experience suggests 1 in 10 people fail their social media screenings based on the categories we've outlined above. So let's go with an incredibly conservative estimate regarding the cost of a bad hire: $3000. If over the course of hiring 100 new employees, 10 fail their social screens and you don't hire them as a result, you're saving your organization $30,000 (not to mention things that you can't measure in dollars, like brand damage, litigation risk, and low morale).

Because Millennials and the generations behind them spend so much time online, it makes smart business sense to use social media screenings as part of your pre-hire screening process. And it makes sense to conduct for the same reasons.

An important caveat: Resist the temptation of doing social media reviews on your own. You'll be unable to conduct them in a compliant manner because you can't "unsee" protected class information and you can't prove that this info didn't influence your hiring decision. Not only that, but it's impossible for human beings to conduct thorough social media checks on their own because the online world is a vast space. You should always outsource this process.

Conducting Ongoing Drug Testing is Also Smart

While every generation has its problems with drugs, Millennials are far more likely to be drug abusers than members of previous generations.

Why is this relevant? For many reasons. Workplace drug abuse can decrease productivity (think tardiness and sick time), lead to accidents, lower morale, and adversely affect the culture, not to mention a variety of other issues noted here and here.

And if you're at all skeptical that workplace drug use is a problem in your organization, think again. More people have used drugs at work than you might think—nearly 7 in 10 Americans.

For these reasons, conducting ongoing drug testing would be a wise investment in general, but especially if you employ many Millennials.New call-to-action

Stephanie Haft

Posted by Stephanie Haft

Stephanie is the Marketing Manager at Good Egg, and avid quoter of Mel Brooks movies.

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