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What Is an Employment Background Check?

When hiring for most positions, it’s vital to verify your applicants’ identities and ensure they’re genuine. You want to delve into their backgrounds to understand them better and assess their credibility and reliability. That’s where employment background checks come in handy for employers.

From verifying educational backgrounds to checking criminal records, there are various types of searches you can perform to gather crucial insights about a person. Each type of background check provides specific information, allowing you to safeguard your company’s reputation and minimize risks by hiring the right individuals.

Keep reading to discover the different types of background checks, how to conduct them, the warning signs to be aware of, and the typical timeframe for conducting them.

What Is a Background Check?

A background check enables you to confirm a person’s identity using information sourced from public or private databases. Depending on your requirements, such a search can uncover details like past addresses, criminal records, educational history, driving records, employment background, and credit reports.

Moreover, a background check helps authenticate their Social Security number (SSN) and validates their identity. Typically, companies conduct background screenings on potential hires.

When seeking new employees, you’re likely inundated with applications from individuals vying for the available positions.

A background check allows you to verify the information provided on these applicants’ resumes, thereby enhancing your chances of finding a suitable candidate.

Furthermore, background checks serve as a protective measure for your company’s reputation by minimizing the risks associated with theft, misconduct, violence, data breaches, and other criminal activities.

Types of Background Checks Related to Employment

You might opt for pre-employment screenings for various reasons, ranging from verifying past employment details to conducting personal and criminal background checks. In the following sections, we delve into different types of background checks.

Here are some types of background checks:

  • Employment background check
  • Education background check
  • Past employment verification
  • Personal background check
  • Criminal background check

Employment Background Check

An employment background check delves into an employee’s or potential hire’s criminal history, social media presence, and financial records, including credit checks. It might also involve drug tests and verification of identity and education.

This info helps ensure you’re bringing on board trustworthy individuals and confirms their identity. Adhering to specific criteria during hiring can mitigate risks and legal issues for your organization.

However, it’s crucial to conduct these checks following the guidelines of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to avoid discrimination.

Personal Background Check

As you scout for employees, ensuring their records are accurate is crucial. A personal background check allows you to sift through publicly available information about potential hires and confirm its validity.

Understanding how they present themselves publicly aids in assessing their compatibility with your company’s culture and can enhance both your hiring process and employee retention rates. Additionally, it helps weed out inaccurate information, enabling you to focus on qualified candidates.

To conduct a personal background check, start by verifying your candidate’s SSN. Then, delve into their criminal records and scrutinize their work and educational background. Keep in mind that some regions have restrictions on using credit reports for employment decisions. However, depending on local regulations and the job role, considering a credit history check might be beneficial.

Don’t overlook examining candidates’ online presence, including their social media activity. This can validate their suitability for your organizational ethos, confirm the accuracy of their resume, and ensure they’re not involved in illicit activities.

Criminal Background Check

A criminal background check verifies whether an individual has a history of convictions, jail time, or other legal issues. These checks can be conducted through federal, state, or local court databases, revealing details such as felony and misdemeanor convictions, arrests, incarceration records, and court summonses.

Certain industries, including education, healthcare, financial services, and ridesharing, often require criminal background checks for employees. Regardless of the industry, employers have a duty to maintain a safe workplace for all staff, which includes thorough screening of potential hires.

By conducting criminal background checks, companies demonstrate their commitment to providing a secure working environment while staying compliant with legal regulations. This approach not only fosters compliance but also cultivates a positive workplace culture conducive to productivity.

When using information obtained from a criminal background check in hiring decisions, it’s crucial to avoid discriminatory practices. The focus should be on assessing whether the individual is trustworthy and can contribute safely to the workplace.

If you’re uncertain about how to interpret or handle findings from a criminal background check, seeking guidance from an employment lawyer is advisable. They can provide legal insight tailored to your specific situation and help ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations.

How a Background Check Is Done

Running a background check usually involves gathering, verifying, and reviewing information, which can be time-consuming for many companies.

Partnering with background check services can ease the burden, freeing up your organization to concentrate on its primary responsibilities. These services often provide more comprehensive background reports, giving you greater insights into potential hires.

But if you prefer a more hands-on approach, here’s how you can conduct a background check yourself.

Here are the steps for running a background check:

  • Get consent
  • Collect information
  • Verify the details
  • Make a decision

1. Obtaining Consent

A background check usually happens towards the final stages of hiring, once you’ve narrowed down your choice to a specific candidate.

As per the FCRA, employers need to get consent from employees or applicants before conducting a background check. So, make sure you have the right paperwork in place outlining the types of checks you’ll be doing and have them signed by potential employees.

2. Gathering Information

Once you’ve got the green light, kick off your background check by gathering data from public records, online databases, and the candidate’s resume. Scan the sex offender registry, terrorist watchlists, and federal and state criminal records.

You can broaden your scope by conducting international background checks to uncover any felonies, convictions, or jail time served in foreign countries. Keep in mind, though, these checks may take longer and cost more.

Personal references listed on the candidate’s resume are also valuable sources. They can offer deeper insights into the individual’s character and capabilities. Often, personal references can vouch for the candidate’s work experience, skills, and qualifications.

3. Verification

In the previous step, you gathered crucial details about a job applicant, such as their professional certifications, work history, and educational background. Now, it’s time to verify those records to ensure their accuracy.

Past employment verification is essential to confirm the applicant’s previous workplaces, job roles, and tenure. By doing so, you can verify that the candidate possesses the experience and skills listed on their resume.

As an employer, you have the option to verify past employment by reaching out to companies directly or engaging a third-party background check service, which can save you time and effort.

It’s also vital to validate your employees’ academic credentials to ensure they’ve earned the qualifications they claim. This step helps you hire trustworthy and competent individuals while safeguarding your company’s reputation.

To conduct an academic background check, you may need to contact high schools, colleges, and universities to authenticate the provided academic records. Requesting graduation lists for specific years allows you to verify if the applicant graduated from the stated educational institution.

Additionally, reach out to relevant organizations or official websites to verify your employees’ professional licenses and certifications. This ensures that they hold the necessary credentials for their roles.

4. Adjudication

The adjudication phase involves deciding whether a candidate is suitable for a specific role, can handle classified information, or represents the company effectively. Once you’ve gathered and verified the information, review the results, interpret them, and make a decision.

Compare the background check findings with your company’s hiring standards to assess if a candidate meets your criteria. You might need to exclude candidates who don’t pass certain checks.

However, be cautious to avoid discrimination accusations or violating federal and state laws. It’s essential to understand local and state labor regulations for proper procedures.

Establish clear adjudication policies to ensure fairness, consistency, and compliance. 

Take the time to carefully evaluate the background check results and their relevance to the job.

Sometimes, background checks may reveal minor issues that don’t impact job performance, like a traffic violation for a customer service representative.

What Are Some Causes of Red Flags on Background Checks?

Here are some significant red flags to watch out for when conducting background checks on job applicants. Keep in mind that certain issues may need deeper investigation to fully understand an individual’s character.

Poor Credit Scores

When hiring for financial roles, it’s worth checking candidates’ credit scores. Screening out applicants with a track record of financial decisions that could harm your business may be necessary.

Criminal Convictions

If a background check uncovers past criminal convictions, it’s important to consider them as red flags and delve deeper into the matter. Assess how these convictions might impact job performance and safety. Analyze how the applicant’s criminal history aligns with their responsibilities and potential risks. However, proceed with caution to ensure compliance with the laws outlined by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Failed Drug Tests

Consider failed drug screening tests as a red flag because they may indicate that the candidate is using illegal substances, which could impair their ability to work effectively or make sound decisions.

Traffic Violations

Traffic violations might raise concerns, depending on the nature of the job you’re hiring for. For instance, if you’re considering candidates for positions involving driving trucks or heavy equipment, hiring individuals with frequent traffic violations might not be the best decision.

Inconsistencies in Employment History

Any discrepancies found during past employment verification should raise concerns, as they may suggest that the candidate is hiding something. This could imply that the applicant had a problematic history at a previous job or that they misrepresented their work experience.

Inconsistencies in Education

Businesses aim to draw in and recruit skilled and seasoned employees. It begins by verifying the authenticity of prospective employees’ educational backgrounds. Discovering discrepancies during education background checks could indicate that the candidate is either unqualified or dishonest.

Bad Reviews From References

As an employer, reaching out to a candidate’s references can provide valuable insights. References can shed light on an applicant’s work history, skills, and performance. Be cautious if you receive negative feedback from references, as it might suggest issues like strained relationships or poor performance.

Background Screening FAQ

Background screening often involves collaborating with various organizations and professionals to uncover important information. Below are some responses to common questions you might encounter during the background check process.

How Long Do Background Checks Typically Take?

Background checks can vary in duration, spanning from a day to a few weeks or even months, contingent upon the depth of information sought. Factors such as the volume of details screened and the accessibility of public databases can influence the timeline. Additionally, holidays, weekends, and website maintenance may contribute to potential delays in processing.

Are Background Checks Legal?

Yes, background checks are indeed legal. However, it’s important for companies or individuals to adhere to the relevant laws and regulations when conducting them.

Can an Employee Dispute Inaccurate Information in a Background Check?

Absolutely. An employee can definitely dispute the results if they feel there’s any inaccurate information included in their background check.

Can a Background Check Include Social Media Profiles?

Certainly. Some employers do include social media profiles in background checks to better understand potential employees. However, it’s crucial for these employers to adhere to relevant laws and regulations, including anti-discrimination laws, during the process.

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