Can a Background Check Be Done Before a Job Offer?

If you are designing a pre-employment screening process for your business, one of the first questions that you might ask is, when are we allowed to conduct background checks on candidates? Are background checks done before or after a job offer is made? The answer varies from business to business, but in many cases, employers won’t run a background check on a candidate until after they have extended a conditional offer of employment to that person.

Why do companies not do background checks until after a job offer is made? One factor to consider is ban the box legislation. While there is no national law that requires employers to delay their background checks, many ban the box laws include such a requirement in their language. The purpose of ban the box laws is to remove questions about criminal history from job applications, and employers delaying background checks fits into this mission: it helps individuals with criminal histories to compete for jobs based on their skills and experience—not their past mistakes. 

Ban the box legislation is sporadic, with different laws on the books in different states, counties, and cities. Most ban the box policies only apply to public employers, though increasingly, these laws are also including private employers in their sweep. 

You should check the laws in your area to determine 1) whether you must abide by a ban the box policy and 2) whether that policy includes stipulations about when you can run a background check. If there are no laws in your area specifying when a background check can take place, then it is largely up to you whether to vet your candidates before or after making conditional job offers. 

In all cases, you must abide by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the guidance of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) when conducting your checks. For instance, the FCRA requires that you notify each candidate about your intention to run a background check and get his or her written permission to do before ordering that check. This disclosure and authorization must be detached and separate from the job application and any other information about the position or your company. 

Think about the pros and cons of running background checks at certain points in the hiring process. For example, if you run background checks earlier in the process, you will likely spend more money on background checks, as you will be paying to vet multiple candidates rather than just one finalist. On the other hand, if you need someone to start right away, conducting the background check after the job offer may add extra wait time before they can begin working. 

At, we offer a range of fast or instant background check products to help employers move their hiring processes along quickly. Contact us to learn how our checks can help your business.



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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

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

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