What to Know About Background Checks –

With the economy on the upswing, lots of businesses are beginning to hire en masse. One of the easiest ways to sift through a large pool of applicants is by performing background checks. It’s also a great way to make sure that you’ll hire the right person for a difficult job. While a background check doesn’t determine a person’s full fit, it’s a good place to start when making hiring decisions. Consider these eight things before you pay for this service.

  1. You’ve Got Options

    ChoicePoint is one of the largest (and most controversial), but there are almost 2,000 companies that provide this service to employers and private parties (i.e. job applicants). Other reputable firms are U.S. Investigations Services, Kroll, and First Advantage. Be sure to shop around, but remember: quality counts.

  2. Instant Checks = Lower Quality

    If you’re hiring for a sensitive position, or you’re just a little snoop(!), you’re better off using a bricks-and-mortar-style investigation firm. Web-based instant checks may not always be scams, but it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. An instant check will never reveal the most thorough picture of your prospective applicant.

  3. You May Miss Something

    BusinessWeek says it best: “there’s no national database of all criminal records.” In some industries and positions, full criminal and financial disclosure is in the best interest of the applicant and employer. Not everything is yet centralized for commercial use, however. And you’ve got to be satisfied with the accuracy of what’s out there. Unless a background check gives you cause for concern, assume that your applicant is being completely forthcoming about their criminal record when asked.

  4. Criminal Record? Convictions Only.

    If you do a background check for a prospective (or current) employee, you have the right to search their criminal record. If an applicant was convicted of a crime, then the employer has the right to consider that record. If the person in question was arrested, but never convicted of a crime, that information could not be properly held against them. Additionally, remember that checks for criminal convictions should be related to the employee’s job description.

  5. You Must Have Prior Consent

    A simple signature on a form works best. Many prospective employees may see this as invasive, and it’s your job to treat that fear with respect. Lots of Americans have poor credit, and this is usually what gives applicants a cause for concern. You must have an applicant’s prior consent before performing a background check.

  6. Consider Leaving Out Credit Reports

    It would be cheaper for employers to simply run a criminal background check, and, these days, that’s not necessarily a bad idea. Most Americans suffer from poor credit, and it’s a particularly embarrassing drawback that can hurt a job applicant’s pride. The economy has been in the toilet as well. Save your money; assume that you’ll find some financial blunders, and move on. Note that a credit check must be related to the job description to be legal.

  7. Employees Get A Copy

    The FTC states: “Before you reject a job application, reassign or terminate an employee, deny a promotion, or take any other adverse employment action based on information in a consumer report [also known as a background check],” the applicant or employee must receive a written “notice that includes a copy of the consumer report you relied on to make your decision.” Additionally, the employee or applicant must also receive a copy of their rights, and should be given proper time to review the report for accuracy.

  8. A Background Check May Be Unnecessary

    Sometimes, errors in background checks can be detrimental to the employer and the applicant. And even if a job seeker has nothing to hide, it’s perfectly natural for someone to dislike the idea of an investigator poking around. Most of our mistakes are documented somewhere, and broken records or cheap, inaccurate reports may include mistakes that an applicant has resolved (or perhaps didn’t even make). Consider your time, cost, and the necessity of performing a background check before hiring. While you’ve got to avoid negligence, there’s often no need to be nosy.