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The Dos and Don’ts of Background Checks


There's a lot of confusion around background checks. We’ve compiled a dos and don’ts list for what HR managers should do when conducting a background check.

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The Dos and Don’ts of Background Checks

There’s something almost…taboo about background checks. Sure they’re important - but are they necessary? The simple answer is yes; after all, it’s the employer’s responsibility to protect your clients, employees, and business. However, there is a lot of red tape and confusion around background checks.

Background checks can cause major headaches when deciding which check to run, figuring out what form to use, and determining if going through an agency is worth the money. Processing a background check under the wrong form could generate compliance issues and create a delayed start for the employee. That’s why we’ve compiled a quick dos and don’ts list for HR managers when conducting a background check.

DO: Understand What Kind of Check Should Be Done

Different industries and positions require different levels of security checks, so employers definitely want to be sure they’re conducting the right kind of checks. For example, a trucking company will need to pull a Motor Vehicle Report (MVR) report for a driver applicant, whereas an office job may not require a candidate’s driving record.

What You Need to Conduct a Background Check
What You Need To Conduct A Background Check:
First, written consent. You’ll also need at minimum candidate’s full name, full date of birth, and their Social Security number.
HR managers should take a look at their industry and the job description of the open position to determine what types of background check they should run. Companies in home health care, insurance, financial, and essentially any industry where private information can be accessed require some level of check. Here are some of the basic screenings usually performed:
Address History Check

Address History Check

Verify where an applicant has previously lived to make it easier to validate additional information on their resume. Address checks can also reveal jurisdictions where criminal background checks need to be performed.
Social Security Number Trace

Social Security Number Trace

Verify a person’s identity with their social security number.
Criminal Record Check

County, State, and Federal Criminal Record Check

Criminal record checks search for the criminal history of an applicant, as well as uncover any warrants for their arrest, misdemeanors, felonies, pending charges, and dismissed and/or acquitted charges attached to their record.

DON’T: Forget The Consent Form

If you utilize a reporting agency for your background checks, you are required by law to first get consent from the applicant to conduct the search. Candidates must complete two forms: the authorization and the disclosure.

It’s important to note that if an employee/applicant denies an employer permission to conduct a background check, the employer can legally remove the applicant for consideration. And if you’re using an agency to run the background check, make sure they are compliant with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) regulations.

DO: Check For Fees

There’s no if, ands, or buts about it - background checks can get expensive depending on the thoroughness of the search. Employers can easily rack up additional access fees on top of the cost of the search, so be sure to do your research on jurisdiction access fees for county, state, and federal criminal searches. This way, there are no surprise costs associated with the check. Here’s a general breakdown at some of the basic costs an employer could pay while conducting a background screening:

Common Checks Fee Associated with Check
SSN trace & identity verification $2 to $4
Credit history check $10 to $20
DMV record $10 to $20
Education/employment verification About $15
Complete criminal background check (including national sex offender search; country, state and federal criminal search $25 to $75

Don’t: Assume Anything

There’s no telling what can be uncovered during a background screening. If something does come up, depending on the situation was, don’t eliminate the candidate right away. Give the applicant a chance to rectify or explain what happened. Even if an applicant’s record isn’t squeaky-clean, employers can still benefit from hiring them if they meet the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) qualifications.

What is WOTC
What is WOTC?

WOTC is a Federal tax credit available to employers who hire individuals in certain target groups who face significant barriers to employment.

Sometimes the information provided on a check can be inaccurate or flat-out wrong, and employers shouldn’t dismiss a potentially great candidate because of a misunderstanding (besides, applicants have the legal right to dispute incomplete or inaccurate information on their file). Reference checks are another way to get a better understanding of a person’s character; however, employers should check laws to see if consent is required in their jurisdiction.

An Employer’s Due Diligence

Employers should do everything in their power to ensure the safety of their employees and clients, which is why background checks are so important during the hiring process. If you haven’t examined your hiring process in a while, it may be beneficial to review our dos and don’ts list before conducting your next background check:

Do Understand What Type of Check Should Be Done:
Do Understand What Type of Check Should Be Done
Make sure you understand what type of check should be done depending on your industry.
Do Understand What Type of Check Should Be Done:
Do Check For Fees
Know what the cost will be to perform your background checks so there are no surprises.
Don’t Forget The Consent Form
Don’t Forget The Consent Form
It’s an important part of the background check process to obtain consent from an applicant beforehand.
Don’t Assume Anything When It Comes To Background Checks
Don’t Assume Anything
Even if something comes up during a background check, discuss it with the applicant before making a final decision.
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