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How to Conduct an Employee Background Check for Employment

Text reads: "What is included in background checks?: Social security verification, Criminal record, Drug testing, Employment history"

Hiring the right candidates is a key component of business success. A background check for employment is one of the most powerful screening techniques employers can use to narrow down their candidate pool. It’s not only important for business owners to understand what resources are available to help them hire the right candidates, but they also need to know how to use them. Continue reading to learn more about background checks and their value and how to conduct one.

Learn more about Pre-Screening Your Employees.

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What is a background check for employment?

A background check is a candidate screening tool employers use to determine the validity of the information a job candidate provides in their application. It highlights any potential red flags with a candidate before further consideration for a job position.

According toa recent study, 92% of employers conducted some type of background check during the hiring process. This same study shows that 15% of employers also rescreen current employees annually, while 10% rescreen employees prior to job promotions.

Benefits of running business background checks

Employers conduct background checks to ensure they choose the right candidate for the position. They also need to protect their business from individuals who may display fraudulent or reckless behavior in the workplace.

State and federal regulatory compliance is another major benefit. While it depends on the specific industry and type of position, you can use background checks to show you did your due diligence during the hiring process. Finally, background checks can protect your employees by improving workplace safety.

Types of background checks for employment

There are several types of background checks employers can use to screen candidates, such as:

Social Security verification

By verifying a candidate’s Social Security number (SSN), you determine if they are truthful about their identity and whether they have the right to work in the country. If you’re verifying 10 or fewer Social Security numbers simultaneously, you can receive immediate results through the Social Security Administration’s website.

Criminal background check

A criminal background check is one of the most common new hire screening tools. This check verifies whether the candidate has a criminal record. If they do have a criminal record, this report shows all prior arrests, convictions and sentences as well as information about any active cases.

Drug testing

Drug testing may be a necessary component of a background check to prevent a lack of productivity in the workplace and increased employee turnover rates. This testing is typically done at a local clinic, and the results are sent directly to the employer.

Credit check

A credit check can shed some light on the financial stability of a candidate. It not only allows you to verify basic information, such as their name, address and contact details, but it also helps you determine how responsible they are with money.

Employment history

You can also use background checks to verify the candidate’s employment history. Typically, the hiring manager contacts previous employers via phone or email to make this verification. Some employers only offer basic information, such as position and date of employment.

Education verification

Depending on the job requirements, you may need to verify completion of an educational program or course. In some cases, you may also need to make sure the candidate has the right certifications or licenses.

Motor vehicle record

If a candidate will drive a vehicle as part of their job, it may be necessary to review motor vehicle records. This report checks for infractions, such as speeding tickets or DUIs.

How to conduct a background check for employment

Some businesses choose to outsource background checks for employment to a professional service, but you can also conduct one yourself. Here’s a list of steps to help you run a background check for a job candidate.

1. Review state laws about background check regulations

Before you begin conducting a background check for employment, be sure to check your state’s specific laws and regulations regarding what information employers can check. You can usually find this information on your state’s Department of Public Safety website.

2. Set clear policies regarding background checks

Conduct all background checks in a fair, impartial and professional manner. Developing clear policies detailing your background checking process can avoid the risk of prejudices and biases playing a role and protect your company against legal issues.

3. Notify candidates you will be conducting a background check

To remain in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you must notify candidates that you will be conducting background checks. Many employers make this notification part of the application process and also secure the candidate’s signed permission.

Learn more about the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

4. Contact candidate references

Ask candidates for two to three references to verify their qualifications for the job. Email each reference to set up a phone call to discuss the candidate. Prepare a list of questions to confirm or deny their skill sets and work ethic. You may even decide to meet their references in person or via video chat to verify their identity.

5. Use a background check website to review records

You can hire a professional background-checking service to find evidence of criminal and civil public records, but you can also do the research yourself by enlisting the help of an online background check website. You may need to pay a fee for these services.

6. Ask the candidate to take a drug test

If the job you offer requires employees to drive a commercial vehicle, care for children or work in a potentially dangerous environment, a drug test may be necessary to determine the safety of your other employees and customers. Employers often use certified clinics, and the test results are sent directly to the employer.

7. Review the results to determine a candidate’s validity

After you gain access to background check documents, review them to determine if the candidate is worthy of working at your company. If you don’t feel comfortable based on the information you uncover, proceed with other candidates who may be a better fit.

Read more: Screening and Assessing

Frequently asked questions about background checks for employment

How long does it take to get a pre-employment background check?

The amount of time it takes to receive the results of a pre-employment background check depends on how many items you want to include, such as a credit check and criminal background check. For this reason, it could take between 48 hours and five days to get results.

What causes a red flag on a background check?

Here are some examples of potential red flags:

  • Consistent gaps in employment could point to an inability to keep a job.
  • There’s evidence of previous criminal history that a candidate didn’t tell you about.
  • There’s a lack of proof that they attended a college or university, despite listing it on their resume.
  • There are discrepancies in their previous employment history.

What is considered a clean background check?

A candidate’s background check is clean when it doesn’t have any major felony convictions or misdemeanors. You may also consider a background check acceptable if the candidate confirms previous criminal activity, but it isn’t relevant to your industry or the job role.

How do you run a background check on an employee?

Before you begin a background check on an employee, notify them. From there, you may decide to use a professional service or do your own research.

What are social media background checks?

Conducting a social media background check involves reviewing a candidate’s publicly available social media pages to better understand their opinions and views. Over 70% of employers use social media as a screening tool, and over half either won’t hire candidates they can’t find online or based on what they do find online.

How much does a background check cost?

The cost of a background check ranges from under $10 to over $100, depending on the type and depth. Criminal searches are the least expensive, but if you want to add credit checks or outsource the process, the cost will increase.

What type of background check do most employers use?

Two of the most common types of background checks are a criminal background check and a credit check. A criminal background check allows you to find out if the candidate has a previous criminal record, including arrests, convictions and sentences. Credit checks, on the other hand, provide information regarding the financial stability of the candidate. For example, it shows if there are previous bankruptcies in the candidate’s past or if the applicant has a lot of outstanding debt.

How does HR verify past employment?

HR typically contacts past employers, either through a phone call or email. Most past employers are willing to provide basic information, such as dates of employment and job title. Some past employers may also explain what the candidate’s job entailed and provide details about their performance record.

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