How to Conduct an Employment Background Check

An employment background check can help you verify and uncover qualities and past behaviors that can significantly affect an applicant’s job performance. Astoundingly, a recent CareerBuilder.com survey reported that nearly 60% of hiring managers have discovered material misrepresentations on an applicant’s resume.

And since these misrepresentations can range from stretching the truth to outright falsities, employers are wise to verify the backgrounds and claims of their applicants.

The question is: What is the best way to implement an employment background check?

A Best-Practice Employment Background Check Process

At Proforma Screening, we recommend the following primary steps to create and implement a sound employment background check program. Note: There is actually one step prior to this process, which is the formulation of an employment screening policy (click to visit this related blog post).

1. Assess the Nature of the Position and Determine the Risks You Are Willing to Take

At its core, an employment background check program should protect both employers and job candidates. Employers are protected when the right people are brought into the organization. Job candidates are protected when the expectations placed upon them are reasonable for the position they seek to fill. The questions are:

  • What are the risks of the position? Are you hiring a courier driver who will have unsupervised access to people and property? What about an executive officer to run your company? Or an inside sales rep? Each position has varying levels of responsibility, trust, and access that must be mitigated with an appropriate background check.
  • What are you willing to risk? Considering employers lose 60% of all negligent hiring lawsuits with an average payout of $1 million, it is difficult to understand or justify an employer’s decision to avoid the minor expense of a background check.

Add to this the fact that in at least two instances states provide a roadmap, helping employers who run employment background checks by giving them the “presumption of non-negligence” and the case for screening becomes even more compelling. One can envision a legal decision wherein these protections might serve as the foundation for the definition of “reasonable duty of care”. After all, an organization seeking to model a program after that which has statutory sanction could do far worse than adopt the standards of these states (Texas and Florida, particular) when preparing to defend their actions relative to screening.

2. Determine the Background Check Services You Will Need

What do you need to know about an applicant to be reasonably sure the individual will be a safe and productive member of your workforce? Based on your answer, and in consultation with your employment background screening services provider, you can craft an appropriate search methodology that correlates with the needs of each role in the organization. Background check services include address verifications, employment reference checks, drug screening, criminal records checks, DMV record checks, sex offender registry searches, and many other types of checks.

3. Obtain Consent from the Job Candidate

Always, always, always obtain consent from your job applicant before conducting any type of background check. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires such consent, and even if FCRA rules don’t apply to your situation, it makes good sense to do so. Any applicant or employee who will undergo an employment background check must be made aware that a report will be used for employment purposes and must agree to such use in writing. At Proforma, we have a web-based ordering system that is uniquely designed with an electronic “wet signature” capture, which greatly facilitates the applicant consent process. Sample Release for Employee Background Check

4. Order & Review Your Employment Background Checks

If you haven’t already been working with your background screening provider throughout the previous three steps (we obviously recommend that you have), now’s the time to contact an employment screening company. You’ll need to set up an account with the provider and sign agreements required of both the provider and for the legal purposes of establishing yourself as a qualified employer. Most providers have web-based ordering systems from which you can order services and track applicants. Demo our online screening system.

Shortly after your order is placed, you can review your results through the provider’s web-based system.

5. Interpret the Results & Make a Decision in Accordance with Company Policy, EEOC Guidelines, and Any Other Regulations

With the results of your background check in hand, it’s time to assess the results and make a decision against your hiring criteria, policies, EEOC guidelines, and other rules or regulations that may apply to your business. This can be easily accomplished when working with a knowledgeable screening partner since criteria can be established upfront for each position, yielding an immediate “no hire,” “hire,” or “review further” status. At Proforma, we offer this service, called Risk Match.

6. Issue Any Necessary Pre-Adverse Action Notifications

The FCRA requires that employers issue pre-adverse notifications if anything found in a background screening report might result in a no-hire decision. This proscribed notice must be sent along with a copy of the report and summary of consumer rights PRIOR to the adverse action. This gives the applicant an opportunity to respond or dispute any reported information.

7. Issue Any Necessary Adverse Action Notifications

Once a decision has been made about a particular candidate on the basis of a background check result, you may be required to issue an adverse action notification to the applicant stating the reason for being denied employment. This is a requirement of the FCRA and only applies to employers who receive background checks through a consumer reporting agency, like Proforma.

Have Questions about Your Employment Background Check Program?

A properly designed and implemented background screening program can yield great benefits to companies of all sizes. To learn more, download our free guide, “Background Screening at a Glance” or call (866) 276-6161. Explore our background screening services online.

About Michael Gaul

A security industry professional since 1988, Michael has extensive expertise in the fields of human capital risk management, physical security, and background screening process management. Michael leads Proforma’s sales, marketing, and strategic customer relations efforts.
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