What Employers Need To Know About Background Checks In The Hiring Process

In an ideal world, employers could hire employees based on the facts presented by each candidate through a resume and a few reference checks. In the real and imperfect world in which we live, people sometimes hide important details that could negatively impact a business and its reputation.

Background checks have become a key tool in discovering critical facts that employees may actively try to hide — such as whether they have a poor driving record or have committed a felony. Employers may use the information found on relevant employment screenings as the ultimate decision-making component. Alternatively, depending on how much they like the candidate otherwise, employers could use this knowledge as a foundation upon which to start an open conversation about their findings.

Perhaps you have hired individuals based on their stellar “on-paper” qualifications to later discover that their name appeared on a terror watch list or a sex offender registry. If so, you likely felt betrayed and worried about how such information would appear to your customers, industry peers and the public.

If you are concerned about making a poor and costly hiring choice because of a candidate’s omissions and lies, you are far from alone. A 2018 study revealed that digital resources and trusted background check firms have spurred 73% of HR professionals to run criminal background checks on job candidates.

Like many dutiful employers, you can ease your mind and protect your customers and business by conducting investigative employee screenings.

What Do You Need to Know About Performing Background Checks?

If you plan to run background checks for your organization, it’s crucial to know all the facts. You may want to know what types of background checks you can perform, the proper protocols, all legal considerations, and any negative ramifications you might face and how to avoid them.

Take a few moments to review five pieces of essential information about background checks, verifications, and other vetting and investigative services.

1. Establish a Consistent Written Policy

One issue you do not want to encounter when performing background checks is an accusation of bias, which has as much potential for damage to your business’s reputation as hiring a questionable candidate. Work with legal counsel to develop a specialized section in your organization’s hiring manual.

You could also present your policy as a flowchart that is easily accessible to your HR staff members. Make sure you can always present solid reasoning for performing background checks.

Conducting background checks that appear selective and biased — particularly without an established and posted policy — can cause legal issues. Such an approach can make it appear that you are applying these important due diligence steps to some candidates for questionable purposes. For example, conducting credit checks on certain employees and not others might suggest that you are singling out specific backgrounds for elimination from the hiring process.

2. Determine the Employment Screening Tools Needed for Your Organization

There are several employment screenings and verifications that you can perform to learn more about candidates. If you run a delivery company that relies heavily on transportation, for example, driver record services are essential.

You may need other services that include:

  • Background checks
  • Criminal record services
  • Credit checks
  • Driver record services
  • Drug tests
  • Education verifications
  • International verifications
  • License verifications
  • Reference verifications

You may need one type of screening or several, based on factors such as how much your employees work directly with the public, handle cash, need a specific educational background, or want to work for your organization as an international employee.

3. Maintain FCRA Compliance

Make sure you comply with Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) rules for conducting background checks, credit checks and other verifications for employment. The FCRA makes its policies on credit checks especially clear to respect the candidate’s rights:

  • Obtain written authorization from candidates prior to running a background screening, allowing them to opt out if they prefer.
  • Candidates are entitled to learn whether the findings of a credit check are used against them in the decision-making process for hiring or declining their candidacy.

Even background checks not governed by the FCRA feature laws attached to them to protect job candidates’ privacy rights. It is important to work with legal counsel and your selected employment verification firm to know all the specific laws in your state that may affect the way you conduct various employee screenings.

4. Understand the Basic Components of Background Checks

Background checks offer a wealth of information about candidates you are eager to hire, allowing you to do so with confidence. These screenings give you a preview of each candidate’s overall values — based on objectively conducted employment screenings — to see if they align with your organization’s principles.

Here are the main components of a background check that give you a better idea of who your candidate is:

  • Criminal background check
  • Social Security validation
  • Address history verification
  • U.S. terror watchlist check
  • Sex offender registry review

5. Use the Results of a Background Check As a Conversation Starter

A background check offers an objective picture of a candidate’s history. If you still feel that candidates may fit into your organization — in spite of questionable background screening results — invite them to discuss any concerns that arise from your screenings.

For example, if potential employees have a poor credit rating, you may ask them if they are comfortable sharing the reason for it — especially if they work with money or must serve the public’s trust. They might have gone through a complicated divorce or a failed business. Once you hear all the facts from candidates, you can make a better assessment of the situation and decide if you should take the risk of hiring them.

Background Checks Are an Important Part of Your Larger Hiring Strategy

In today’s fast-paced and competitive world, you can’t have too many tools to help you make the best hiring decision for your organization. Background checks complement your existing strategy to offer you new, vital and concrete perspectives to foster increased confidence in everyone you invite to become a part of your organization.

Author bio: Christian Moore is COO at Global Verification Network. He has more than 20 years of investigative and business experience with competencies including surveillance, competitive intelligence and pre-employment background checks.


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