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Background checks are a necessity, but they don’t have to be a chore. Because of advances in technology, information and records are much more accessible than ever before. Verifying work history and credentials is just the beginning of the results you can expect. Consider these guidelines for the process of running thorough background checks.

Ground Rules

Above all else, your company must follow certain rules when running a background check. These include laws concerning discrimination and fundamental civil rights. Key elements you must know:

  • First and foremost, you must have permission to run the background check in the form of a signed waiver.
  • You are not allowed to discriminate based on race, gender, sexual orientation, age, personal beliefs, or physical disability.
  • You must protect the confidentiality and privacy of the applicant’s data.
  • The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) governs all background checks, so get familiar with their guidelines.
  • The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) also provides guidelines to follow.
  • Don’t forget to verify basic ID, aliases, and tax status for a person’s legal right to work, including social security validation.

Always discuss the results in a private one-on-one with the candidate, regardless of your hiring decision. Doing so gives the candidate a chance to speak on their own behalf.

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Criminal Background Check

A criminal records check is a background check basic. The criminal background check includes convictions for felony and misdemeanor offenses. However, these may including pending cases. This background check will scan criminal databases like such as the sex offender registry and terrorist watch list. Some background checks will include mugshots. You should bear in mind that these photos are taken upon arrest and do not prove the conviction of a crime.

Certain things don’t appear in standard criminal records checks. These include:

Credit Background Check

A credit check is completed through one of the “big three” credit agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Data includes the candidate’s credit score, loan default reports, collections activities, and public records on tax liens and bankruptcy settlements.

It’s important to keep in mind that as many as 25% of the population has a mistake in their credit report history. Take time to share any concerns that arise with the candidate for further discussion and explanation.

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Drug Screening

Part of your hiring process may include drug screening for illegal and controlled substances. This is not a part of background checks. In reality, drug screening can be a deterrent to potential candidates. In fact, many candidates bristle at the idea and won’t apply to positions requiring a drug screen. 

Additionally, laws regarding some substances are changing in North America. Cannabis laws are actively changing in Canada, parts of the US, and Mexico. You should consider whether to continue to screen for a legalized substance. Proceed with care!

Social Media Profiles

Surveys claim 70% of employers refer in part to potential candidates’ social media personas. However, the information you gather is less-than-ideal. Online identities can be aliased. As a result, you may never be sure that what you read was, in fact, posted by the candidate.

Viewing a candidate’s online behavior exposes you to all kinds of information which you’re not at liberty to consider, such as discriminatory information. In short, it’s better to focus on the background check than on speculate based on what you read in social media postings.

Nobody’s Perfect

This is a good axiom to keep in mind. The goal of running background checks is to find a candidate in whom you can place your confidence. They do not have to be the perfect model citizen. You are looking for character and sound judgment. Background checks are tools to enhance your ability to find the right candidate for you and your business. Use them well and responsibly as part of a larger process of hiring your best team.