The Basics of Background Checks

The Basics of Background Checks

Are you interested in improving your hiring procedures by adding background checks? If so, here are eight things you need to know that will help you develop a solid screening process:

  1. There’s no such thing as a comprehensive criminal record database. 

Many people have the mistaken idea that there’s a single database “out there” that contains information about everyone’s criminal history. This is simply not true. State searches are different from federal searches, and not every jurisdiction keeps digital, searchable records. 

  1. Reliable, accurate, thorough checks require accessing multiple sources.

Background screening vendors spend time developing systems that reference multiple sources in order to compile a complete criminal background report. Checks are typically run across all jurisdictions where the candidate has lived and worked.

  1. Background checks aren’t just about criminal records.

Criminal background checks are just one of many types of screening tools businesses can use to evaluate candidates. Other tools include credit checks, motor vehicle reports, identity verification, and reference checks. 

  1. Social media and reference checks aren’t the same as background checks.

While social media searches and personal and employment reference checks are often part of a comprehensive background check, the typical background check includes investigations of verifiable information such as dates of employment, degrees earned, and criminal charges. 

  1. Resumes regularly contain inaccurate or false information.

The statistics are alarming; some estimates assert that more than 60% of all resumes contain stuff that isn’t true. Background checks uncover most of this misinformation and protect you from onboarding someone who lacks the integrity or the skills necessary to be an asset to your organization.

  1. Getting past employment history is not as easy as you think.

While you could just pick up the phone and call a candidate’s past employer for information, chances are this technique won’t get you very far. Some employers will only verify the facts like dates, titles, and salary data. Some employers won’t say anything but will direct you to their third-party screening agency, for which you’ll need to pay a fee. You’ll have much better luck working through your own screening partner who can elicit everything you need to know. 

  1. Timing is everything.

Because background checks cost money, most employers choose to request them only after a contingent employment offer has been made. But check your local laws carefully for guidelines about when requesting a background check is legal. 

  1. Candidate must consent. 

You can’t run a legal background check without the candidate’s written consent. 

Beyond these basics, you’ll find that an effective screening policy includes position-specific and candidate-specific evaluations to determine what information is actually relevant. Ultimately there are two equally important goals to satisfy: protecting your business and treating each candidate fairly. The best policies do both.