Trends in Background Checks to Watch in 2021

How will employee background checks change and evolve in 2021? Few people could have predicted the ways that hiring and work would shift in 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic pushing remote work and hiring to the forefront for countless businesses around the world. Many of the background check trends of 2021 will be influenced by residual effects from this 2020 sea change, as well as by long-running shifts, such as the rise of the Fair Chance Hiring movement.

Here are three key trends that we expect to be critical to hiring and background checks this year.

  1. Employers will get more comfortable hiring from afar

In 2020, employers scrambled to respond to a global catastrophe that caught most people off guard despite the months of COVID-19 outbreaks in Asia and Europe that predated the virus’s arrival in the United States. 2021 will be different. While COVID-19 vaccination efforts are underway, the expectation is that the pandemic will be a fact of life for most of the year—and this time, employers won’t be caught off guard.

Many businesses spent 2020 pivoting toward remote work, first as a stopgap measure and later as a potentially permanent shift. 2021 will include more companies settling into a long-term plan and embracing the idea of hiring remote workers from anywhere.

Part of that transition will be employers coming to terms with hiring from afar. Expect businesses to perfect their phone screening and video interviewing strategies, tweak background checks with remote workers in mind, and adopt new onboarding techniques that work better for out-of-office training.


  1. Ban the box legislation will continue to restrict background checks

Ban the box legislation isn’t a new trend in background checks, but it is one of the most essential trends for employers to follow this year. 2020 included new ban the box laws on the books for jurisdictions throughout the U.S., and 2021 will be no different.

Based on how this trend has progressed—and refused to slow down—the endpoint is a new nationwide norm in which employers are not allowed to ask about criminal history on job applications, or conduct background checks before making a conditional employment offer. This nationwide policy could come together through patchwork legislation in different cities, counties, and states or as part of a new federal statute. In the meantime, employers should look out for legislation that might alter their background check compliance.


  1. Continuous screenings will take root

In employment, it’s not uncommon for an employer to run a single background check on each employee at the time of hire. This check can provide a snapshot of that person’s background at that moment in time, but it can’t detect any criminal convictions that might occur afterward. At, we offer an ongoing criminal monitoring service. This service allows employers, landlords, and volunteer organizations to keep a consistent pulse of their employees, tenants, or volunteers.

Ongoing monitoring, also known as continuous screening, provides monthly background check updates, reducing the likelihood that an employer will overlook a critical piece of information related to a worker’s background. As remote work becomes more common, employers will embrace continuous screening as a means of keeping tabs on workers that they no longer see in person every day.

There are plenty of other trends that employers should monitor. Bans on asking about salary history are becoming more common, as are laws restricting credit history background checks. As marijuana legalization continues to spread throughout the U.S., employers will also have to reconsider drug testing, including whether a failed drug test due to legal marijuana use is a reason for disqualification from job consideration or termination. Finally, compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) will continue to be a hot-button issue in hiring as FCRA lawsuits result in more large verdicts against employers.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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