Employers spend a lot of time screening resumes, interviewing people, and creating shortlists of potential hires. But through it all, the information gathered needs to be validated. That’s why the most critical step in a well-designed recruitment process is to conduct background checks.

A leader in the background checking industry, BackgroundHawk claims that properly conducted background checks identify candidates who will add value to a company and align with the company’s values.

Two Kinds of Background Checks

Pre-employment background checks occur during the application process and will reveal any criminal convictions in the applicant’s past. Post-employment background checks occur yearly and usually entail a brief screening to see if anything has changed in your employees’ lives, but you need to inform employees ahead of time of these checks.

Why Conduct Background Checks?

One of the critical reasons to conduct a proper background check is to ensure that no harm comes to your business’s reputation and customers. For example, if you fail to run a check, you might find out too late that you hired unverified people with a shady past, and you could face potential lawsuits and damage to your entire company. Paying attention when conducting background checks is crucial to ensure accuracy and avoid costly mistakes.

Types of Background Tests

If an organization wants to take background checks seriously, there are a few things to understand to conduct them successfully. Everything on a resume is allowed to be verified once a candidate signs a pre-employment authorization. Regular pre-employment screenings can include:

  • Criminal history
  • Verification of address
  • Sexual offenses
  • Employment history 
  • Driving history
  • Education history 
  • Reference verification
  • Drug tests
  • Professional license verification
  • Social media screening
  • Credit checks

Not all items in a background check are relevant to every vacancy. For example, you may not need to select legally defensible checks if they are not applicable to the vacancy. Information gathered from these background checks is easily obtained, but just having the information is not enough. The value (and danger) lies in what you do with this information. 

Best Practices for Background Checks

Pre-employment background checks should include education and employment verification to ensure the person is a legitimate candidate, both for full-time employees or freelancers. Obtain a reference check at the same time to understand the quality of their work. Credit background checks should only be conducted if there is a specific vocational need, such as a financial position where the person would be expected to handle money. It is vital to include the verification of required industry-specific licenses and certifications, such as the necessary license to care for the elderly. Regular checks need to be conducted once the person is hired to ensure that they maintain these licenses and certifications. When conducting social media background checks, ensure that legal and best practices are used, and personal bias is minimized. Many employers require a clear drug and alcohol test as a condition of employment. Many American workers are testing positive for drugs, with marijuana use at its highest rate since 2004. Many jobs require a high concentration level and cannot tolerate a person being impaired.

Background Checking Process and the Law

Ban the Box laws have been implemented in many states, and three-fourths of the U.S. population lives in a jurisdiction that has implemented these laws. These laws encourage employers to consider a candidate’s qualifications and remove questions about previous arrests or convictions from the process. Some of the main restrictions of these fair-chance laws include the time period and the records that may be considered. These restrictions differ by state. The greatest challenge for employers is knowing how to weigh the information obtained during the background check process to avoid discrimination and comply with legal requirements. If there are any questions, concerns, or other issues, employers should share all background information with applicants and provide them with a chance to explain.

The Bottom Line

There are legal and reputational risks to conducting background checks incorrectly. Not performing any checks is irresponsible and poses a potential danger to the organization, employees, and customers. Properly conducted background checks offer an invaluable source of information and reassurance to employers.