Running a Background Check: What You Need to Know

In a short-staffed world and a highly competitive hiring market, it can be tempting to cut corners on the employee screening process, especially when candidates have strong resumes and solid references.

Failing to conduct background screenings, however, leaves your company vulnerable to a host of problems big and small. HR background checks are an opportunity to obtain comprehensive and objective information about an applicant and are your company’s best line of defense against issues that can range from petty theft to outright violence.

When running a background check, there are key pieces you should know.

Why background checks are important

The importance of HR background checks can be summarized in one word: protection.

Comprehensive background screening helps protect your employees, customers, clients, property, and bottom line. While no screening process can guarantee an employee’s future behavior, insight into their past helps you make smart and informed employment decisions.

Done well, pre-employment background checks result in:

  • Fewer accidents
  • Higher productivity
  • Reduced liability
  • Reduced loss from theft or fraud
  • Increased compliance
  • Decreased risk of workplace violence

What do background checks look for?

Not all background checks are the same, but there are a few critical areas that should be a part of any comprehensive screening process.

Criminal history

Criminal background checks conducted both locally and nationally ensure that your candidate has no criminal history or felony convictions.

Although there are many criminal database searches available online, these records frequently contain outdated or inaccurate information, so it’s important to not rely solely on these products for your criminal background checks. Instead, hire a trusted vendor who will follow the Fair Credit Reporting Act mandate to verify information at the source.

Signs of drug abuse

These check for signs that your employees are abusing drugs, both because of the potentially criminal nature of the activity and because an employee who is abusing drugs may pose a safety hazard and/or be less productive.

Threats to national security

These screenings check your candidate against U.S. and global official sanctions and embargo lists to make sure they aren’t a known terrorist or threat to national security.

Employment history

Employment verification ensures that a candidate’s work history—including workplace, title, duties, and dates of employment—is accurate.

Education history

Like employment verification, education verification checks a candidate’s educational background to ensure that they attended an accredited institution. It checks their degree, dates of attendance, and field of study.

Licensing verification

Licensing verification checks to make sure that the candidate actually has the professional licenses they claim. It will verify the license, the date it was obtained, and the expiration date.

Motor vehicle records

This check lets you know if a candidate has a history of traffic violations or accidents, and if so, how many and how recently. It’s particularly important and may be required by law if driving will be part of your candidate’s regular job duties.

Benefits of regular HR background checks

There are many benefits to conducting regular HR background checks on your candidates and employees.

Increased productivity

It’s estimated that 40% of employees lie on their resumes. Weeding out unqualified and dishonest candidates before they’re hired means a higher-quality workforce in the long run, and that in turn means better productivity for your business.

Reduce turnover

It’s costly to replace workers who weren’t right for the job. By hiring high-quality employees to begin with, you increase both retention and morale while saving time and money.

Reduce workplace violence and accidents

Checking to see if a candidate has a history of criminal violence or drug abuse is one of the best ways to reduce on-the-job injuries and accidents. This keeps your employees—and anyone else who comes in contact with your company—safer.

Reduced liability

Comprehensive background checks not only reduce the likelihood of injury, they also form a paper trail to prove that your hiring process was thorough and complete. That protects you from charges of negligent hiring and potential lawsuits.

Reduced risk of theft

Knowing if a candidate has a history of theft, fraud, or other white-collar crime helps minimize the risk that they’ll steal from your company.

Less bad publicity

Injuries, accidents, and lawsuits are bad enough on their own, but all too often they go hand in hand with bad press. Reducing all of them through consistent screenings helps protect your reputation as well as your people.

Compliance with regulatory requirements

It’s important to stay in compliance with the regulatory standards for your industry. Some of these are federally mandated, others vary depending on state and local laws. Either way, staying in compliance keeps your company on the right side of the law.

Federal laws to know

Several federal laws directly or indirectly govern the HR background check process. This is a brief overview of the most important ones:

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

The FCRA regulates how employers handle credit reports, criminal history reports, driving records, drug tests, and other background check reports created by a third party. Employers are required to disclose that consumer reports may be used for employment decisions and to secure consent from employees/job applicants to obtain them.

Equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws

Federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, or religion, as well as disability, genetic information (including family medical history), and age. In essence, this means that all candidates should be treated the same way and receive the same disclosures, notifications, and checks.

Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act, or FACTA)

FACTA mandates, among other things, an employer’s responsibility to keep an applicant’s personal information secure during the screening process.

Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA)

Simply put, the IRCA prohibits discriminating against a candidate based on their national origin or citizenship, providing the candidate is authorized to work in the US.

Also, be aware of state and local regulations. In some jurisdictions, for example, you may have to make the job offer first before requiring a background check, or may have certain obligations to ensure that private information obtained is kept secure.

Where can I get a background check?

There’s no shortage of companies that offer background checks. However, as an experienced HR background check company, we at EagleScreen pride ourselves on standing out. We offer screening packages tailored to your company’s needs and based on your industry and location.

While many screening companies simply do computerized database searches for your candidate’s name, we back up our technological expertise with human experience. We’re here to guide you through the complex regulatory landscape, help you identify which packages and add-ons are best suited for your particular situation, and follow up on any red flags that show up in a candidate’s screening.

Interested? Contact us today.

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