Are Background Checks Effective?

By Michael Klazema on 5/14/2019

How effective are background checks?

While background checks are a standard part of the pre-employment screening process,   employers might question how useful they are. Say your business conducts a background check and misses a red flag in a candidate’s past. In this case, you might start to feel disillusioned about background checks. How effective can background checks be if you rely on them but they fail to give you pertinent information?

The important thing to realize is that not all background checks are effective. The simple act of running a background check on a job candidate won’t find every piece of information about that person’s past. Instead, you will need to do a little more work to make sure that your background check is thorough, reliable, and compliant.

Here are a few of the factors that separate effective background checks from ineffective background checks.

  • Effective background checks encompass multiple types of checks.

The employers with the most effective background check policies typically use multiple different background checks to learn more about their candidates. Those checks might include multiple criminal history searches—of county recordsstate repositoriesfederal criminal records, and multi-jurisdictional databases. They might include address histories or alias checks. They might include verifications of resume details like educationwork history, and professional licenses or certifications. They might encompass other checks for things like driving records and credit history.

There is no one database that incorporates all the information that you are likely looking for with a pre-employment background check. As such, to have an effective background check policy, you will need to run multiple checks spanning all different categories.

  • Effective background checks are run by reputed background check companies.

As a rule, background checks cost money. A single pre-employment background check might involve traveling to county courthouses to source records, paying fees to access records, calling former employers or university offices, and other steps. The process takes time, skill, and knowledge of the protocol and process of accessing public record information.

Bottom line, you get what you pay for with background checks. If you run a background check through a free online database, you aren’t going to get much. If you hire a skilled and reputed background check company to conduct your background checks for you, you are going to get much more accurate and detailed results.

  • Effective background checks comply with relevant laws and guidance.

When structuring your background check policy, remember that finding details about a candidate’s past is not the only thing that you need to worry about. It is important to comply with all relevant laws, ordinances, industry regulations, and other forms of guidance that may apply to your business.

You will need to follow the Fair Credit Reporting Act to the letter and take note of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidance. Comply with ban the box ordinances, laws about using arrest records in hiring decisions, and other relevant laws that may differ state to state. At, we have a Learning Center designed to help employers understand the rules and limitations of compliant background checks.


How effective are background checks? If your background check policy covers the three areas discussed above, then it can and should be very effective. If it doesn’t, you risk overlooking important information (or stumbling into a legal quagmire). Trust to help you launch a smart, effective, and compliant employee screening strategy.



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