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High Tech & High Touch: When Online Background Checks Alone Aren’t Enough

by Ali Gordon

Every year, all kinds of employers run background checks on their teams and on new prospects in the hiring process. Many conduct their own screenings through publicly available information on the internet, and companies are increasingly using continuous background checks through online records after hiring. 

Yet despite the digitized options available to help employers understand their teams before and after hiring, online checks alone often aren’t enough. Employers who want to guarantee they have a quality screening and retention process in place should think more broadly about their personnel decision making strategies.  

High Tech, High Touch: eKnowId's Proprietary Approach

Whether navigating the labor shortage or trying to attract stronger candidates, employers need to ensure they are setting themselves up for hiring success. They need to be competitive to candidates who may have a lot of options and also ensure they are obtaining accurate information to assess qualified candidates. This starts early in the hiring process. 

Employers should first make sure they are using the right types of background check information for different roles. What types of checks are actually needed? Does an employer require a background check company to run an advanced check that thoroughly combs through all records online and off, or is it sufficient to have a background check company look at specific databases to get all the information they need for a position? Answering these types of questions will help employers make stronger hiring decisions: don’t just pay for online background checks generally, but consider what kinds of online checks will be enough to make an informed hiring decision.

The next step is to use a more personalized approach to background checks. Mary O'Loughlin, HireRight's managing director advises, “As organizations become more mature in their screening programs, they realize that fluid information is something they want to have a better grasp on.” While standardizing certain parts of the background check process is important to avoid FCRA or EEOC violations, the entire process should not necessarily be rigid and regimented. 

A fluid process is about more than integrating tech programs for continuous checks or using online systems for verification; it’s also about understanding how screenings through high tech capabilities should be paired with a personalized approach to better understand candidates and current employees.

Jonnette Burke, eKnowID’s operations manager responsible for overseeing validation teams, says that a high tech, high touch approach to hiring means using a 2-step process for candidate verifications: 


“We use our technologies to look through different information from various resources -- online, courthouse information, etc. Once we get all the information back, our team goes through and validates it. That information goes through a 2-step quality check: our investigators self-review the information provided by applicants and obtained during the verification process for accuracy. Then it all goes through a final audit process.”


More sophisticated hiring processes may standardized aspects of pre-screening to ensure FCRA or EEOC compliance, but employers will be more successful in their hiring decisions if they also implement ways for the process to be more personal. Beyond online checks, background checks that consider human insights--investigators who verify information, call candidates to understand discrepancies, and contact courthouses, schools, or former employers directly--will go beyond online checks to help companies feel more confident in their hiring decisions.

Other Ways to Personalize Your Hiring Process

In addition to pairing technological capabilities with a humanized process for verification, employers can also  use other tactics to make their hiring process more personal, competitive, and accurate. These tips can help:

Reassess the job description

Employers should make sure the job description accurately reflects the role and will be personally attractive to the kinds of people the company hopes to attract for a position. If a description is too vague and doesn’t skillfully represent the goals of the company or role, hiring teams may waste time pre-screening a lot of candidates who aren’t truly qualified or a good fit. 

Personalize application and interview questions. 

Another way to go beyond online checks in the pre-screening process is to personalize application and interview questions. For application questions, this means asking about information that is different from what will show up on a background check so the applicant can offer broader insights about themselves and their qualifications. Employers can take this a step further by asking interview questions that humanize the process, and they could even explore the results of a background check and application answers to offer specific questions to candidates they are highly interested in.

Take a Holistic, Humanized Approach to Hiring

The pre-screening and hiring process is all about ‘screening in’ the right candidates, not just screening out applicants that aren’t a good fit. Background checks are a way to assess an individual more holistically in context of the job and determine if qualifications will set them up for success. A holistic approach to hiring should include an openness to who prospects really: humanize candidates by recognizing that information on paper in a resume or data points from an online screening may not fully reflect them as a person, and give them the opportunity to share their story outside of standardized metrics. This is especially important for second chance hiring or when a candidate appears to have unique experience.


Background check and hiring processes should be about “screening in” the right candidates or employees, not just screening out ones that aren’t a strong fit. While online checks can support this process, sometimes they aren’t enough. Companies can ask deeper questions and use more personalized screening processes to figure out what they really want to know from candidates beyond online data points about their history. 

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