FAQs about Background Checks (Employer Edition)


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You've got questions about background checks. We've got the answers right here. Here are 21 of the most commonly asked questions about pre-employment screening and background checks. If your question wasn't answered to your satisfaction, please take a look at backgroundchecks.com for more details.

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FAQs about Background Checks (Employer Edition)

  1. 1. 21 Frequently Asked Questions
  2. 2.  YES you do!  Unless you’re hiring very young people often, you will want to perform checks. Even fast food restaurants ask about prior convictions on their applications.  Performing checks protects your business and your workers.
  3. 3.  In some cases, YES. For example: Positions requiring contact with children require a criminal background check to avoid hiring a sex offender.  Check with your state laws for other requirements.
  4. 4.  If a new worker injures another and has a violent history, you could be sued for not performing due diligence before hiring.  Investors could also sue if a new employee embezzles from the company and threatens their investments.
  5. 5. The law may require you to perform certain checks, but for most positions you will only need to perform -- a standard background check  a criminal background check  and possibly a drug test
  6. 6. The types of checks include:  Standard checks (prior addresses, prior jobs)  Criminal background checks  Credit checks  Military background checks  Drug tests There are more options available! Check at backgroundchecks.com for more details.
  7. 7.  Credit checks are used on people in finance positions or executive positions.  If a new hire is going to have significant access to a company’s coffers, it’s probably wise to run a credit check on them.
  8. 8.  Most employers will run a criminal background check on candidates as a matter of due diligence.  In some cases you may be required to do so because of the job.  Jobs in security, pharmaceuticals, the military, and working with children generally require greater scrutiny. >> You will want to check your state laws for details. <<
  9. 9.  If you have to ask, the answer is probably NO.  EXCEPT for certain positions, running a polygraph test is illegal. Positions that require contact with pharmaceuticals and armored car drivers are notable exceptions.
  10. 10.  It may seem like a great deal, but it’s TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE. Most online checks only search through publicly accessible databases for information.  Reputable companies will go much further for you. You will also receive no customer support or compliance advice from a free site. It’s worth it to pay the fee to have a professional company perform the check. They will be able to get you both more and more accurate information.
  11. 11.  This depends on how many checks you want to run and how far back in time you wish to check.  It also depends on the institutions that the background check company has to work with. For example: Different courts run at different speeds for turning around information. Some types of checks require a phone interview. Turnaround times can vary from 3 business days up to two weeks.
  12. 12. It is possible, but it will be VERY inefficient. WHY?  Most companies don’t have the resources or the time to contact court houses and dig through public records to gather all the information and check it for accuracy.  You would also have to comply with laws about gathering information. Having a third party perform your checks also helps protect you from legal liability. It is best to hire an outside company to do your checks.
  13. 13.  All checks require information and permission from the candidate before you can run them.  But some require specific paperwork and permissions. The background check company you use will have all the forms and information you need to legally run your checks.
  14. 14. You may have heard about hiring managers asking people for social media passwords so they can check their activities. Best practice right now is to not do this, at least until the courts have made their decisions. There are several cases in the court system right now about this issue. Some states have already decided that this practice is illegal. However, anything that is publicly accessible on the internet is considered a public record. Have the right person before jumping to conclusions!
  15. 15.  Talk with a business lawyer  Or view this document from the Society for Human Resource Management
  16. 16. This entirely depends on your company’s policies.  Seven years is a good standard.  Some go back as far as ten years.  Others only check the past three. Your state may have limitations on how far back you can go, or how far back they will retain certain types of information.
  17. 17. Sometimes it is, but not frequently. Clerical errors or fraud from other people cause errors in databases. If you do deny a candidate on the basis of a background check, you may be required to disclose the report and where you got the information from. The candidate may counter with records of their own, and they can file a dispute with the background check company. You do not have to wait for the candidate to prove the check wrong before hiring someone else once you have advised them of your decision.
  18. 18. If you deny them based on background check information, the answer is YES.
  19. 19.  You need the full name of the candidate and their date of birth.  You may also need their SSN, but in most cases you do not need this. Criminal records aren’t kept by SSN. Your background check company will let you know what is required for the types of checks you want to run.
  20. 20. The federal policy for this is to hold it for 1-2 years if someone is not hired, and to hold it for six years after termination for anyone who is hired.  There are no laws regulating how long you need to retain background check information, but some companies do it as a matter of course.  The information should be held in a separate location away from their personnel file. However, some companies destroy the information as soon as someone is hired. Your state may have specific laws on this matter as well.
  21. 21.  Not necessarily.  You may be required to in some circumstances, but every hiring manager has to weigh the information they’ve received. For example: Someone forgetting their exact address from 10 years ago doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a liar!
  22. 22.  Only in cases where it is required by state or federal law.  This is mostly a concern when the position involves contact with children.  Check your state laws for more details.