Employers are becoming more and more cautious. That’s why conducting employee background checks are becoming routine these days. Regardless of whether you are checking employee backgrounds for employment, or for promotions, you want to contract with a background-information provider that satisfies your security criteria.

Look closely. Choose wisely. Know the facts about your employees and about the providers too. And the law. Your success and the success of your company depend on it. Companies are realizing, many of them too late, that a thorough background check can save a lot of money and hassles down the road.

Of course, you must know the laws regarding background checks. You’re going to need the employee to sign off on the process. And, there are many companies out there offering to provide background checks that are not authorized to be doing this. Be careful, and consult with a qualified Attorney before doing any sort of check on an employee.

In fact, many companies that provide these checks specifically state that they cannot be used for employment purposes. Let that sink in. If they’re unauthorized – why would you pay them to provide this service? Either way, the key here is to get full authorization from the employee.

Why Employers Run Background Checks

Most people have the wrong idea about background checks. If you get this far into the hiring process – the company probably wants to hire you. They’re not looking to trip you up. Instead, they’re simply doing their due diligence before hiring someone. There’s nothing wrong with this.

Employers are trying to verify, or at least get a good understanding of, the following:

  • Are you honest? Integrity counts.
  • Is there anything in your background that indicates theft?
  • Do you have any criminal convictions – and what are they?
  • Are you competent? Can you actually do this job?
  • Are you reckless? Safety matters.
  • What are you saying on Social Media?

All of the above are important, and employers are generally trying to get an idea of how you’ll fit in with the company. Don’t take it personally. You can feel confident that every potential hire will be going through the same process. Be honest, and let the chips fall where they may.

Types of Employee Background Checks

There are many companies online that offer background check services for your employees. The costs for these checks varies from approximately $20 to $200. As with most things we purchase, we get what we pay for. Do your due diligence. Paying a company $29 that you find online for a background check just doesn’t cut it these days.

Most background checks include the following:

  • Credit History
  • Criminal History (County, State, and Federal)
  • Address History
  • Education
  • Previous Employment
  • Driving record
  • Drug Screening
  • Social Security Number Trace
  • Judgments/liens/bankruptcy Search
  • References

Companies may check all of the above or just a few of them. Some may even require a polygraph test. It all depends upon the type of position you are applying for and what the general background check policy is. Either way, make sure you’re prepared and be truthful on your application.

A $20 background check will likely be performed by a “bulk supplier” who has access to various databases on pay-per-search databases. These will include civil and criminal records and possibly some employment records as well. They’re not very thorough or accurate, and, quite frankly, I don’t know why a company would go this route.

A very good background check, including fingerprints and personal credit check, will usually cost around $200.00. These types of investigations are very thorough, and they don’t miss much. Positions in the security business will usually require an extensive search like this.

legal writingThen, there is the standard check. This will set you back about $100.00.  There are probably no fingerprints taken, and they may or may not do a credit check. This type of check gives you pretty much all of the information needed to make an informed decision on whether or not to hire.

Different databases are used. Employers will search state and county records and national criminal databases. Of course, DMV searches will also be conducted. Database information is only as accurate as the information that is originally inputted into the system. You cannot rely 100% of this type of search.

The point to remember when hiring an individual or company to do an employee background check is that these databases are never complete. It’s an easy task for the “researcher” to search several employee databases in seconds, and then report the result to you. But if those records aren’t up to date and comprehensive, then you won’t get all the information you need to make an informed decision.

How Background Checks are Conducted

First, and foremost, employees and potential employees must know what the current company policy is. Does everyone get a background check? Is everyone fingerprinted? Does my employment with this company depend solely on the results of my background check? These are legitimate questions, and as long as the company is consistent in their policy there should be no problems.

Once it has been established that your future employer is going to conduct a background check on you, the question becomes, How are they conducting this check? What, exactly, are they looking for? The answer to these questions usually depends on how deep the company wishes to go.

First, recognize the fact that employee background information provided to you by database providers will be incomplete without an extensive search that includes what private investigators call an “on the ground” investigation of court records.

This more extensive search entails locating the states and counties in which the person has lived and having someone actually go to the courthouses and search individual records of people with the same name. Obviously, these can be expensive. But in many instances, they are well worth it. It’s your call.

But in other cases, a basic search of the person’s criminal and civil background will be 90 to 95% complete, and sufficient to give you the indicator that you need to make your employment. It all depends on how central the person’s job is to your company, and how sensitive that job is.

Second, ask each information provider how fully they can guarantee their results. You’ll be surprised how quickly they back peddle and assert that screening employee backgrounds is more of an art than a science. They’ll guarantee the results they do provide are according to public record, but they won’t guarantee that those results are conclusive or even correct.

In other words, there may be other information out there not discovered in the employment background check. It may be old court records, old bankruptcies, judgments, liens, and so on.

It is then that you have to make the crucial decision: How far do you want to go to investigate the person? Paying hundreds more for a more thorough “on the ground” search may end up not revealing more about the person, but it will give you greater peace of mind. Again the call is yours.

Conclusion

Companies these days are relying on background checks. Performing due diligence before the hire is what it’s all about. First, it’s professional. Second, it pays to do your homework up front so you can find the best possible fit for your company.

Don’t skimp in this area. There is more than one company in business today that hasn’t wished they had done a more thorough background check on some of their employees. Pay the cost up front -save later.

More Questions?

Is it legal to conduct a background check? The short answer is yes. However, one need only go online and look at all of those sites offering background checks for $29. Anyone can go on there and request a background on just about anyone. The thing is, most of these sites do not rely on a valid social security number, and cannot pull anything that is financially related.

What if I refuse to authorize a check on me? That’s your prerogative – but you probably won’t get the job. On the other hand, if someone ran a check on you without your permission you may have legal recourse. Of course, cleaning up any negative issues in your past will go a long way towards feeling more comfortable with the process.