How much do you know about that person your business is about to hire? A seemingly good fit for your company’s culture and qualifications that appear to tick all the right boxes might indicate that you’ve found the perfect candidate for an open position. However, that doesn’t mean you should skip the effort necessary to conduct a thorough employment screening. A friendly interview, well-written cover letter, and smart resume don’t tell the whole story. Hiding behind that facade could be a dark past—or the mundane reality of an old misdemeanor traffic violation.
Without a thorough screening process, you’re stuck in the “trust” phase of the axiom “trust, but verify.” That’s a potentially dangerous approach that could expose your business to claims of negligence in hiring if an employee later commits a crime on your watch. Many companies perform employment background checks today, even fast-food restaurants and big box retailers. Your business should be ready to build and execute a process to inform your hiring decisions based on the level of due diligence your industry demands. For example, a bank or an after-school care program may want to run a more thorough check beyond examining only criminal records.
An advanced background screening process has many elements, each of which contributes important information to your understanding of an applicant. This information is out there, ready for you to consider—you have to know how to go and find it. That's Background Screening 101. Let’s take a closer look at how to build a comprehensive process that lets you access key information when you need it most.
Criminal Background Checks
Looking into an individual’s criminal background should be one of the first things your business does during the hiring process. Some states, counties, and cities restrict when and how you can initiate this process, so understanding local regulations and remaining compliant is critical. Understanding the many different criminal record types and where you may find them is also an important step. From a national perspective down to the county level, there are multiple ways to examine public records for information about your applicant. We offer these essential search products to make getting started more convenient.
US OneSEARCH: Instant Criminal Record Searches
The best place to begin is always with a broad point of view, allowing you to review records from as many places as possible simultaneously. It isn’t always easy to track where people have lived in the past, and sometimes, people may commit crimes in areas where they do not reside. There is no such thing as a national criminal history database that contains all these records. No one authority collects records from every state. Instead, there are hundreds of individual databases from many states and their locales.
Searching all the possible sources one by one would be so time-consuming as to be ineffective. To counter that challenge, we invested the time and effort to build and maintain a solution that provides instant multi-jurisdictional searches across every state. Called the US OneSEARCH, it provides immediate results from a search incorporating hundreds of millions of records.
With the US OneSEARCH, you can quickly develop a sense of where an applicant may potentially have a detailed criminal record. Using these results, you can drill down to better understand what potential red flags may exist.
State Background Checks
State law enforcement agencies often curate state-level background check search records. When you search a state for criminal history data, what the search includes varies from state to state. Some states, such as New York, require all counties to feed their criminal data into a central computer system. Others have more patchwork requirements or no statutory guidance at all. Even so, a state-level check is still a very useful tool. It could be time-consuming and expensive to order individual record searches for every county in a state. This product is an excellent choice for seeing if there are other areas where you should investigate more closely.
County Background Checks
The vast majority of criminal records originate at this level, making the county search an opportunity to find more detailed information about an applicant’s charges or convictions. County criminal history is also the best way to see whether someone has a pending criminal case against them. Many employers can benefit from checking county records in their business and the applicant’s home county if they differ. Some employers may also choose to check all the surrounding counties in large metro areas. Together, all three checks form the backbone of advanced background checks.
Key Verification Checks To Consider Running
Looking into an applicant’s potential criminal past isn’t the only kind of screening you should consider. For a comprehensive and advanced background check, you’ll need to verify the personal information your applicant supplied. While that doesn’t mean diving into their social media—such checks are fraught with danger and the risk of inadvertently discovering prejudicial information—it does mean taking a closer look. Where they worked, who they know, whether they are who they say—all of these concerns fall under the umbrella of verification checks. What should you consider, and how can we help?
Was your applicant truthful about their previous employers? Asking about past employment is a standard procedure in the application process, but applicants may not always provide you with contact information for a business. In some cases, applicants may embellish or exaggerate their position or how long they were with a company. Outright lies about past employment aren’t unheard of, either.
With backgroundchecks.com, streamlining the process of reaching out to listed employers is simple. The process involves contacting those businesses and verifying critical information, including dates of service and service length, title or position, and job duties. Use this tool to confirm that applicants have the experience they claim.
It’s easy to gloss over references—some employers only look to see that applicants completed the section. Outsourcing the process of contacting references to discuss an individual’s behavior or accomplishments makes it simpler to build a background check process that touches every base. With a consistent interview script, your business can learn more about an applicant than you can in an interview alone. Whether the results reveal consistency or discrepancies, they can help inform your final decision.
Are you sure you’re conducting background checks based on the correct information? People change their names for many reasons, and some may adopt aliases without conducting a legal name change. Your applicant might have one name that returns no criminal records while having an alias associated with many records. Verifying an individual’s identity is easy with an alias check. Using the individual’s Social Security Number, the US AliasSEARCH to look up alias records nationwide is fast and simple. Building this tool into your process early ensures you can stay on the right track.
Aside from looking into an individual’s criminal past and verifying the information they provide, you should also consider personal behaviors that could impact the business. Individuals with drug or alcohol addictions and those who otherwise habitually use substances could pose a danger on the job. In some cases, employers simply prefer not to employ such individuals—that is a company’s prerogative. In a changing environment, especially with the growing spread of marijuana legalization, a drug screening process that makes sense is an integral part of the puzzle.
At backgroundchecks.com, we can assist our customers in obtaining drug screens from certified and accredited labs. Be mindful of any local laws that may impact how and when you can drug test. Remember that some drugs, especially the THC in marijuana, remain in an individual’s system for weeks even after occasional use has ceased. Establish clear boundaries and enforce them.
Remember also that screening should not be a one-time task for drugs or potentially criminal acts. Ongoing monitoring, which reports to a business if an employee’s criminal history changes, has a key role in establishing continuous, long-term safety for the company. Periodically conducting random drug tests and maintaining a monitoring regime can protect your business. Before using any such products, ensure you have reasonable procedures to keep your business in compliance.
It’s hard to overstate the value of an effective hiring process that uses extensive pre-employment screening procedures. No matter your industry, it pays to understand who you’ll work with, and background checks can help you avoid exposure to legal risks and other potential harm. Although they can’t predict the future or tell you exactly how someone will behave in the future, advanced background checks give you the best chance to notice red flags and avoid big mistakes. Every business owner should more carefully consider how criminal history reporting and verification procedures impact how they hire.
Discover more about how to use background checks legally and effectively, or start engaging with the solutions you need to make a difference in how you hire today. With backgroundchecks.com, getting started is easy.
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