What does a screening process entail when employers use an extensive background check for employment? Many companies aren’t forthcoming about their process. Job postings and applications are often purposefully vague. One typical phrase applicants encounter is “extensive background check.” Employers will say they conduct a background screening when hiring, but this vague term often creates confusion. What does that mean in practice?

In truth, the answer depends on many things. Context is important when discussing the different types of background checks. Let’s break down terminology many employers use to make informed hiring decisions.

There isn’t one definition for an extensive check

What qualifies as extensive varies between employers. One might use the word for checking criminal history records. Others might use a multi-round interview process along with background screening. Some use the phrase to suggest that they check more than just criminal records. Such employers may verify address history or validate a Social Security Number. They could check a sex offender registry or industry-specific databases.

Ultimately, there is no single, formal definition for what qualifies as an extensive check. Some of the most intense background checks occur for the US government. However, even then, the depth of investigation varies depending on the job.

The most extensive background search occurs for government employment

Jobs in the United States government are particularly sensitive. Workers might have responsibilities that include overseeing the use of taxpayer money. Other roles might involve access to sensitive data or secret information. On a basic level, federal background checks involve many elements. They include criminal record searches, a credit history check and identity verification. Other jobs go even further. For instance, the transport industry will include a driving records inspection.

Many federal jobs may require a security clearance. Even low-level clearances require completing a detailed background questionnaire. This form, the SF-86, is a part of all clearance applications. A Secret clearance requires even more checks. The most intense background check occurs for a top-secret clearance. Such a clearance requires job candidates to:

  • Go through a deep criminal background check. Applicants must report all convictions.
  • Submit financial information, including credit history.
  • List all the places they’ve lived and worked.
  • Allow the government to interview friends, family, and employers.

These checks are the highest standard for an extensive background check. They are vital to protecting national security. For most job-seekers, national security isn’t at stake. What’s extensive to the federal government will differ in a private establishment.

What is a comprehensive background check to a private employer?

Virtually no private employer goes to the same lengths as the federal government. It would seem invasive and overreaching. Instead, employers who use the phrase “extensive background check” usually mean a multi-step process. The business will use multiple types of screening services to vet the candidate. The more sensitive the position, the more in-depth the check. For example, someone who will control a company’s finances needs more screening than a basic retail stock clerk. Likewise, someone working with children requires more screening than a construction worker.

What goes into a comprehensive background check?

The foundation of these processes is still the criminal history check. Sometimes, extensive may apply specifically to this process. Remember, criminal records exist in many different databases. There are records at the county court- and state level. There are federal criminal records to check, too. Employers may worry about overlooking criminal records if they limit such to one local county. Therefore, companies may say they use an extensive check if they search for records from many sources.

An employer may use a background check company to conduct a history search and learn where a job applicant lived previously. The company can also support targeting criminal record searches to more relevant areas. Companies may search for records in entire metro areas, the state, or even nationwide.

Extensive checks may include other elements, too. Typical add-on services to increase the depth of a background check include:

Employers with extensive checks cover more ground and develop greater confidence in applicant suitability. Some businesses may use all the above tools based on the job role. Others may use a combination. Employers must always disclose their intent to applicants to use consumer reports for a hiring decision. Always ensure FCRA compliance when developing an extensive background check process.

Finding the right balance for your business

How can you develop the best team for your company? Each employer must decide how in-depth their screening process should be. Sometimes, the law mandates a certain level of detail. Other times, it’s a decision based on personal preferences and risk tolerances. At backgroundchecks.com, we provide resources and services to support creating a solid process for your business. More thorough checks help reduce risk and identify trustworthy talent. Start exploring what an extensive background check means to your business today.

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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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