How To Do A Background Check

Background checks have become integral to the modern recruitment process. To have confidence in new employees, businesses need to know that they aren’t dealing with individuals hiding an undesirable history. It’s always possible that applicants are harbouring a criminal past or have simply been dishonest about their qualifications or experience. Proper background checks provide companies with the peace of mind that they are hiring trustworthy staff and an insurance policy in the event that inadmissible personal attributes slip through the net.

Below is an overview of some traditional techniques to conducting background checks, including a 4 step overview of the process. We’ll also be posting links and resources to new techniques with the dawn of social media and Google.

Recommended Approach

The following steps are advisable when performing background checks:

  1. Introducing Procedures & Policies
  2. Getting Ready For The Background Check
  3. Execute The Background Check
  4. Follow-up And Debriefing

1. Introducing Procedures & Policies

Establish a background check policy:

  • No staff should be exempt from background checks, whether they’re executives or juniors, full-time or part time, contractors or volunteers.
  • The extent of background checks should be correlated with positional risk. That is, members of staff in high risk positions demand more thorough background check procedures. Elevated risk positions include those individuals who work in direct contact with minors or other vulnerable people or indeed those working in positions with particular authority over or access to a company’s financials.
  • Results of background checks should be kept confidential other than for access by those who are making the recruitment decisions.
  • Obtain advice from the provider of the background checks on how to manage any relevant documentation pertaining to the results of any checks and subsequent recruitment decisions. Both mandatory and recommended local/state documentation must be retained – different states have different laws surrounding the timescale of retention.

Use a job application that forces the applicant to detail all of their education and employment history:

  • The background check notification and authorization must be completed and retained in a document completely independent from the job application itself.
  • Inform the applicant that they must complete all documentation in its entirety.
  • Demand a signature from the applicant, agreeing that all information provided is accurate.
  • Demand a signature from the applicant, acknowledging the repercussions of providing inaccurate advice.

Only use reputable background check provider:

  • Your background check provider must be accredited by the National Association Of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS).
  • Consult the Better Business Bureau for the provider’s listing.
  • Be wary of providers that provide criminal histories not currently verified by the courts.

For further policy advice, refer to the amof website.

2. Get Ready For The Background Check

To be properly prepared in advance of the background check:

  • The requirements for the position must be clearly detailed.
  • All serious candidates should be interviewed, usually by several people and should explore and reiterate the applicant’s experience, qualifications, expertise and communication skills.
  • Actively pursue any professional references that are provided by the applicant.
  • Make backup copies of any and all documentation that the applicant provides in support of their application.
  • Ensure that the applicant signs all documents relating to the information they’ve provided as well as any authorization documentation related to background checks.

3. Execute The Background Check

The fundamental stage of a reliable and quality background check is the ‘basic background check’ and includes:

  • The applicant’s social security number scan should be performed.
  • The applicant’s county criminal record check should be performed; this should ideally include felony and misdemeanor records and check the counties of residence, school, work etc.
  • Employment and education verification should be performed, especially for management positions.

Further, extended checks can be carried out that are either more specific to the position or are in response to results from the basic check that a company deems requires further research. For example, if the position includes working with minors, a sex offender registry check might be appropriate. Further checks can include:

  • License verification (e.g. professional qualifications/licenses).
  • Motor vehicle report that might be relevant to positions requiring driving on the job.
  • Credit checks to investigate financial responsibility.
  • Employment verification, providing proof of positions held or dismissal reasons.
  • Sex offender registry check, as mentioned above.
  • Workers’ compensation history that may reveal the individual’s ability to carry out the role.
  • In some cases, international searches for individuals who have worked overseas.

4. Debriefing And Follow-up

Some processes cannot be actioned until after a formal job offer has been issued or indeed after the results of a credit check have been received:

  • Check in the applicant’s social security number and name with the Federal Government – several online services are available for this.
  • Health checks relating to the role – must be carried out after offering the job so as not to interfere with fair hiring policies.

Why Conduct A Background Check?

As briefly outlined above, background checks are useful for a variety of reasons. They give a company confidence that they are hiring responsibly, they give the company an insurance policy that they carried out due process in the hiring procedure and they can even give applicants/employees confidence that they are fully trusted by the employer for the position. Background checks are of course of varying use in different industries but it is always recommended that at least the basic background check is completed for a new employee. In other industries, especially those that include teaching of minors in schools or sporting facilities or for caring for vulnerable people in lifestyle or medical avenues, extensive background checks of applicants are mandatory.

Has Someone Run A Background Check On Me?

Companies in the U.S.A. are duty bound to inform, and receive authorization from, individuals on whom they intend to run background checks. That means you have control over whether they actually carry out the checks, once they have informed you of their intention. Bear in mind that refusing to provide authorization will look highly suspicious to most employers. Not only is this initial authorization required by law but should the company subsequently discover something about you that they deem undesirable, they must inform you in writing of what they have discovered and give you a minimum of 5 days to remedy or explain/justify the cause of the red flag. Furthermore, if the company decides not to hire you based on the information that they uncovered during the background check, they must again inform you in writing that they have made this decision. They must also make available to you details of the background check provider they used when running the checks.

How Can I Prepare For A Background Check On Me?

First of all, if a company decides to run a background check on you, it generally indicates that you are a shortlisted candidate for the role so your application is probably going well! If you are intending to provide signed authorization for them to do so, what preparations can you make? You can actually prepare yourself for the background check to be run in advance of authorizing it by essentially running one on yourself – many companies exist that you can purchase personal background checks from. Similarly, much of this information is available free of charge. A company called LexisNexis is a top provider of such information/research. If you gather this information in advance, it’s possible to get a feeling for what kind of history a company might obtain and even to take steps to remedy/address any negative results. This can even be done before applying for a role that you think will run a background check against you.