By the time you’re running a pre-employment background check, you’ve probably decided that you want to hire your candidate. (If not, we recommend learning the best time to conduct pre-employment background checks). For many organizations, all that stands between a conditional job offer becoming an official job offer is a background check.

While the background check may be an easy and routine part of the hiring process for you, it’s not for your candidate. In fact, they may know nothing about the process — and that can cause headaches for everyone.

The good news? Proactive communication about the background screening process can go a long way with your candidates. Here’s why you should communicate with your candidates and what to tell them.

Why You Should Talk to Your Candidates About the Background Screening Process

Being proactive and transparent about the background screening process is beneficial for both you and your candidates.

Here’s why.

You’ll improve Your Candidates’ Experiences
Your candidate filled out an application, submitted their resume and nailed their interview (maybe even multiple times). At this point in the process, many will have gotten a conditional job offer, proving that all of their time and effort was worth it.

Make no mistake, though: they’re anxious to make this a done deal.

Even if your candidate has a perfectly clean background, the wait between submitting a background check and learning the results can feel like a lifetime — even if it’s really only a day or two.

Put yourself in their shoes and think about all the reasons this wait could be anxiety-inducing to your candidate. They may have been down on their luck and desperately need this job. Perhaps they need to give two weeks’ notice to their current employer the moment they get your official job offer and are anxiously waiting to find out when they can do it. Maybe they have another job offer on the table, and they need to make a decision — fast (did you know that 60% of candidates will continue talking to other employers while they wait for background screening results?).

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for a candidate to submit a background check and hear nothing from their prospective employer about what happens next. So, what else can they do except sit, obsessively refresh their email looking for a sign that they passed their background check, think about everything that could have gone wrong and wait?

No one wants to be stuck waiting, especially when the stakes are so high. Even if they end up getting the job, they won’t look back fondly on their experience.

If your candidate has had an otherwise positive hiring experience with your organization, this may put a small damper on their overall experience. If they’ve had a neutral or negative experience, this could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It could even make them lose confidence in your organization, potentially causing them to decide they don’t want to work there.

Thankfully, being transparent about the process is a simple way to calm nerves and improve your candidate’s experience with your organization.

Why does this matter?

60% of job hunters say they’ve had a bad candidate experience. What’s more, 41% who’ve had a negative experience say they’ll no longer support that company — whether it’s by no longer purchasing their products or ending their relationship with the organization.

This can have a real impact on your business.

Take, for example, a study that found Virgin Media lost £4.4 million (over $5.3 million) in 2014 because of negative candidate experiences. Over 7,500 job candidates — who were also customers when they interviewed for a job — cancelled their subscription because of the bad taste the hiring experience left in their mouth.

While your organization may not be as large as Virgin Media, it’s easy to see how a poor candidate experience can be detrimental to your organization. Luckily, proactive communication is an easy way to help reduce the number of unhappy candidates.

You’ll Spend Less Time Answering Questions from Candidates
It’s easy to take your knowledge of the background screening process for granted when it’s a part of your normal hiring process. Unfortunately, that means it’s easy to forget that your candidates probably know nothing about how the process works.

Try to think about the things that are obvious to you, but are probably unknown to your candidate, like:

  • How long it usually takes to complete a background check, and reasons it could take longer than normal
  • How you’ll communicate their results with them
  • What candidates can do if they believe the information in their background check is incorrect
  • What happens after you complete the background check

Your candidates are nervous, and they don’t know what you know about the background screening process. So, what will many of them do?

They’ll reach out to you to learn about the process.

Don’t get us wrong: providing a point of contact that can offer helpful, speedy answers to questions that arise during the hiring process is a great way to offer a positive candidate experience.

However, you can save time for both you and your candidates by answering their questions before they even have to ask. Not only will this reduce your workload, but it’ll give your candidates confidence in the process and how your organization’s HR team communicates in general. The hiring process can offer a glimpse into what their experience will be like with HR once they join the organization, so being proactive and transparent early on can set a positive tone of things to come.

What to Tell Your Candidates About the Background Screening Process
We recommend sharing the following information in writing, either before they submit their information for the background check or immediately after they submit their information.

Here’s what you should include:

  • How long it normally takes to complete a background check, and reasons that could cause it to take longer than normal. If your background checks are normally completed in one to four business days, we recommend erring on the side of sharing the longer normal turnaround time. For example, tell candidates that “background check results are normally completed within four business days.” This will be helpful to candidates that could become anxious if their background check isn’t completed within one or two days.Because there are legitimate reasons why a background check may take longer than normal, now is the time to explain what they are. For example, if you’re conducting reference checks and your candidate’s references haven’t yet picked up the phone, you’ll likely see a delay. Including information like this will help candidates understand why a delay could occur.
  • How you’ll alert them once it’s completed. Will you email your candidates to let them know your background check results have come in? Will you call them? Set an expectation of how they’ll be alerted to the completion of their background check.
  • How they’ll be able to view their report. Let candidates know how they’ll be able to see their background check report. Oftentimes, candidates will receive an email with a link to review their report at the same time they’re notified of its completion.
  • What happens if they want to dispute information in their report. What if your candidate reviews their report and sees information they believe is incorrect? You must let them know they’re allowed to file a dispute, and who they can contact to start the process.
  • What’s next? This is the one your candidates will care about most. Once you have the background check results, what happens next? Let them know about what to expect if the background check results are clear and if they return red flags.
    • If they have a conditional job offer that will become official if their background screening results come back clear, let them know who’ll contact them — and when — to complete the offer. For example, “If your background report comes back clear, our HR Manager will contact you within one business day to finalize your job offer.”
    • If you hadn’t sent a conditional job offer, but their background check shows no red flags, let them know what will happen next — whether it’s another interview, a skill-based test or a job offer. If a positive background check doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll give them an offer, but there are no other steps they must take, let them know that their background check results will be considered as you make your final decision. Be sure to give them a timeline of when they can expect to hear from you, one way or the other.
    • Finally, if the background check returns results that make them ineligible for the position, let them know you’ll contact them to share what information disqualified them and give them an opportunity to dispute the information.

All of this information can be shared in a short email to your candidates, so you don’t need to worry about spending a great deal of time crafting this message. It’s a small task that can yield positive results for both you and your candidate.