Understanding Background Check Red Flags: An Introduction

What makes a job applicant the right fit for a given role? Employers need to identify individuals with the appropriate skills and experience combination. Otherwise, how can you build an efficient team that does quality work? Assessing candidates is about more than taking a resume or cover letter at face value. The hiring process is the best time to do a background check for red flags that might change your mind about a candidate.

Why is thoroughly screening candidates worth the time, effort, and investment? When you do, what are the types of warning signs you should try to identify? Evaluating background check results and determining their impact on your decision-making process is key to choosing the right candidates.

Why are background checks for employment still necessary today?

Thoroughly screening job applicants is all about protecting your business and others. Hiring unqualified individuals can undermine the effectiveness of the work you do each day. Allowing someone who might use the job to cause harm or commit a crime is a serious risk. Safeguarding the public and other employees from potential violence is a factor, too.

Employers are responsible for making good-faith efforts to use care in hiring individuals. Lawsuits alleging negligent hiring practices could carry stiff penalties for businesses that can't demonstrate they did the due diligence necessary to prevent harm. Showing that you conducted a background check and considered any potential red flags is an essential safeguard against potential legal liability.

A background check involves more than just looking to see if someone has a criminal record. A thorough effort involves looking at other information and verifying its accuracy. For example, many employers will also look for red flags by doing the following:

  • Confirming an individual's educational history and graduation status.
  • Verifying an individual's employment history by contacting businesses.
  • Consulting an applicant's motor vehicle record.
  • Checking a credit report, in some cases.
  • Checking personal references.
  • Ordering a drug test.

Not all employers will need to use all types of screening, but each form of vetting can give a candidate the green light—or they might raise red flags you need to examine.

Understanding red flags in a candidate's report

A "red flag" in a background check could be any number of things. It might be a criminal record or a discrepancy between someone's resume and reality. Sometimes, those anomalies are simple mistakes; other times, they reveal that a candidate wasn't entirely truthful. What is important to remember at the

start, however, is that a red flag does not necessarily or automatically mean you should not hire a candidate.

Instead, many red flags indicate the need to look closer or ask additional questions. In some cases, a particularly severe finding—such as a previous murder conviction—might be enough to move on to other applicants. In others, a more nuanced assessment of the facts is necessary. That process has to begin with understanding how to identify problematic elements in the first place.

What shows up a in a pre-employment background check that might give an employer pause? In a recent white paper, "Red Flags on Background Checks," we looked at that question. Here's a quick look at some of our conclusions.

Key insights from our white paper

In our analysis, we identified several major areas where employers will most likely detect red flags if they exist. The breadth of these areas speaks to the need for a comprehensive employee background check. Some of the most common types of red flags include:

  • The presence of one or more misdemeanor or felony criminal records
  • Discrepancies between reported employment experience and verified work history
  • Falsely claiming possession of professional or technical licenses
  • Claiming a higher level of education or achievement than what a candidate actually obtained
  • Termination from a previous job
  • A history of poor credit (relevant only for positions where checking credit to hire is legal, such as for roles of financial authority)

Additionally, a candidate's refusal to submit to a background check can be a red flag on its own. Employers can legally decline to hire those who refuse a check without the need to proceed through the usual mandatory "adverse action" process.

In the complete white paper, we break down each category in depth and consider what employers should look for when making hiring decisions. Download it today for additional insights.

Finding background check services and supporting resources

At backgroundchecks.com, we aim to empower employers across many industries with access to the screening solutions they need today. Whether you need to place one order or a hundred, we have multiple offerings so you can find the one most suitable for your business needs. That leads to a key question: how much does a background check cost?

Our pricing page has all the information you need to know about ordering a criminal background check. You can choose an instant search of our criminal database, which contains hundreds of millions of records from nationwide sources, to get started. Need more detailed and local information? Add county court records to be even more thorough—and enjoy volume discounts on all our reporting products when you consistently need to screen new applicants. We also offer verification services for employment, education, and more.

There are many things to understand about background checks, and how to identify red flags is only a part of the understanding you need. In our Learning Center, you can find in-depth information on many topics with answers to all the most common background check questions. Dive in to better understand how to comply with background check laws, for example. The Learning Center, combined with our other online resources, lets you get up to speed on the important items to know.

Learn more about background checks and what employers need to know

Take a deeper dive into understanding background check red flags today with our complete white paper on the subject. With more detail, red flags, and insights into structuring a vetting process that works for your business, this valuable resource can be yours for free right now. Check it out and start evaluating how to factor background report results into your considerations more effectively right now.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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