Background Checks for Employers: Everything You Need to Know

At backgroundchecks.com, we are proud to provide a wide array of background checks for employers. We work with organizations across various industry sectors to help ensure smarter and more informed hiring decisions. Below, we will discuss why background checks matter for employment, the types of background check services available, and how employers should utilize the information they discover through these reports.

Background Checks for Employers

Employers regularly use background checks to vet their prospective hires. A thorough background check can identify red flags that pose a liability risk to an employer and details that may disqualify a candidate from performing a job legally or functionally. When it comes to background checks, what do employers need to know? Here’s our detailed look at important definitions, key procedures, and everything else you need to start building a screening program that makes the most sense for your business.

Overview

  •       What Is a Background Check?
  •         Why Do Employers Need to Run a Background Check?
  •         What Is Included in a Pre-Employment Background Check Report?
  •         How Long Do Background Checks Take for Pre-Employment Purposes?
  •         Types of Background Checks for Employers
  •         Background Check: Compliance and Regulations

What Is a Background Check?

In the simplest terms, a background check looks into someone’s past by checking public records, contacting organizations, and undertaking other steps. This process can reveal many important aspects of someone’s background, including any potential criminal history, employment or job history, educational background, and even driving record.

  • How Do Background Checks Work?

When conducted by professional background screening firms such as backgroundchecks.com, background checks involve pulling records from various official sources. Preparing a background check report may include searching criminal records at county courts, accessing official databases, contacting former employers and educators, and completing other vetting steps. Our team then compiles this information into a thorough report for employers. Which sources do employers use for employee background checks?

  • What Shows Up in a Pre-Employment Background Check?

You may ask: “What does a background check look for?” The type of information on a background check report will depend on two main factors: the type of screening you order and the subject’s background. A criminal history check, for instance, might show a clean record or multiple felony and misdemeanor convictions. It could even reveal that an individual has had an adjudication withheld, meaning they were not found guilty, but their case was not concluded until they met certain conditions.

A civil history background check could reveal details about civil infractions, such as traffic violations or non-criminal misdemeanors. Meanwhile, employment verification will check key details about a candidate’s working history, including job titles, employment dates, and reason for leaving.

Other background checks, such as federal checks, are even more extensive. For example, when a government job requires a security clearance, the information that could appear in such a background report is far greater than what the average employer can access.

  • How to Perform a Background Check on Someone

We advise browsing the backgroundchecks.com website to explore the different background checks for employment we offer. Once you’ve decided which checks you wish to use, you’ll need to provide us with the necessary details about the subject. These details typically include identifying data such as name, date of birth, and Social Security Number. 

Also, note that the process for running a background check is sometimes different from one check to the next. Some searches may require you to provide different kinds of information than others. For example, to perform an employee background check, here’s what employers need to do to order a criminal history search from backgroundchecks.com:

  1. Visit the product page for our county criminal history background search.
  2. Click “Order Now.”
  3. Fill in all the required information about your subject to include:
    1. The state and county where you wish to run the search
    2. The first, middle, and last name of the subject
    3. The subject’s date of birth
    4. Any applicable suffixes (Jr., Sr., etc.)
    5. The subject’s Social Security Number
    6. The subject’s email address.
  4. Click start search.

Once we have the necessary information, we will conduct the background check on your behalf and provide a comprehensive, easy-to-read report you can interpret.

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Why Do Employers Need to Run a Background Check? 

Why run a background check? Employers do background checks on top candidates for various reasons, from due diligence to legal obligations. 

A hiring process can be a substantial investment, and employers naturally want a return on that investment. It is essential to vet candidates to ensure they’re qualified for the available job. Verifications of employment history, education, professional licenses, and references can help a hiring manager be confident that they hire someone with the skills and experience to excel in the position.

Good hiring decisions are also often based on the candidate’s criminal history. Looking into a prospective hire’s criminal record can identify potential red flags in that person’s past that make them a risky hire. For example, someone with a history of embezzlement is likely not the right fit for a job in banking or finance. Running a background check provides peace of mind in the hiring process by giving the employer more information about the person they’re considering for a job. And while background checks can’t necessarily eliminate the chances of a bad hire, they reduce the likelihood of problematic hires and the stress, lost productivity, or liability they can cause.

  • Background Checks: Does the Law Require Them?

Most jobs and industries do not have federal or state-mandated employee background checks. However, the healthcare and transportation industry do have requirements. Nevertheless, it is good to know that background check laws vary between states, industries, and even positions. There are specific jobs where employers are obliged to conduct background checks on all candidates. Under state or federal law, those jobs might include healthcare, education, childcare, law enforcement, and public transportation positions. In some cases, these laws may mandate a fingerprint background check.

  • Why Is a Complete Background Check Important?

Even when they aren’t required by law, employer background checks are an essential pre-hire step. A background check can help a hiring manager identify important details about a candidate’s past. Red flags – such as a history of sexual violence, convictions for embezzlement, drunk driving, or fabricated resume information—may affect the individual’s qualifications or trustworthiness. Identifying these red flags before hiring can save employers from undue risks and legal liabilities, among other issues.

Specifically, on the subject of liability, employers who fail to run background checks – and overlook red flags – may be vulnerable to negligent hiring lawsuits. For instance, a transportation company fails to run a background check and unknowingly hires a person with a history of reckless driving or driving under the influence. If the driver causes an accident and hurts or kills someone, the victim’s family would have grounds to sue the employer for negligence. A background check can avoid this outcome by identifying red flags ahead of hiring. 

Truly “complete” background checks for employees should look beyond criminal history. Delving into a subject’s civil court history, for instance, might turn up lawsuits, judgments, and other details that call into question their trustworthiness or employability. Verification checks can authenticate any claims a candidate makes on their resume to ensure that the information is accurate. Other checks – such as reference, credit, driving history, and drug screenings – can deepen your understanding of a candidate and provide more peace of mind in your hiring decisions.

  • What to Keep in Mind While Running a Background Check?

Familiarize yourself with laws and regulations restricting employer background check procedures. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and ban-the-box laws are essential to consider. You should also take note of other regulations in your state or local area that might be relevant to background screenings for hiring purposes. For example, some jurisdictions have laws prohibiting employers from considering arrest records as part of the hiring process.

  • How to Choose the Right Background Check for Your Organization

Some checks are smart resources for every employer to use. We typically recommend criminal history checks, employment and education verifications, and reference checks for all or most employers. Other background checks are more role-specific. One example is motor vehicle record checks, which are necessary for driving positions but optional otherwise. Another example is credit history checks, which are typical for jobs in finance but not always relevant to other positions.

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What Is Included in a Pre-Employment Background Check Report?

What shows up in a pre-employment background check? What you find will depend on the check you conduct. Criminal history checks incorporate details about criminal charges, case numbers, and verdicts. Civil history checks include information about case types, plaintiffs, defendants, findings, and conditions. Education verifications outline a person’s college education, including degrees, attendance dates, and honors degrees.

At backgroundchecks.com, our product pages outline the specific details that a background check report includes. We also provide sample background check reports to help familiarize our clients with what they can expect from a background screening.

  • Common Components of a Pre-Employment Background Check

Here are the most common types of background checks for employers:

  1. Criminal history checks. Criminal history searches are the most common type of pre-employment background screening. This check will show criminal charges, defendant names, case numbers, verdicts, and disposition or sentencing information.
  2. Civil history checks. Civil courts hear cases regarding contract disputes, personal injury claims, discrimination, eviction, divorce, child support, child custody, nonpayment of debt, property damage, violations of constitutional rights or federal statutes, etc. A civil history check will outline civil cases where the subject was involved in the past, including the above categories. A background check report will indicate whether the subject was the plaintiff or defendant in the case, the ultimate finding of the court, and any conditions attached to the verdict.
  3. Verification checks. Verification checks can determine the validity of resume claims, including employment history, education, professional licensing, and references. If a person’s resume is untruthful, verification checks are the best way of uncovering that dishonesty.
  4. Role-specific checks. This category spans background check types that not every employer will need to use, but some employers can or must utilize because of the nature of their positions. Examples include driving record checks (essential for driving jobs but not relevant to most other jobs) and credit history checks (vital in the financial industry).
  5. Drug screening. Many employers seek to maintain drug-free workplaces for maximum productivity and safety. Some industries are even required to do so based on federal regulations. Drug testing is a standard part of the background check process to determine whether candidates use illicit substances that might impair performance.
  • Additional Background Checks for Employers
    At backgroundchecks.com, we offer additional background checks to help employers improve their search quality. These checks include alias and address history checks, which can identify names a candidate has used or places where they have lived. Employers can use both to flesh out a criminal history search.

Many employers start the criminal background check process by searching a subject’s criminal record in the county where that person will be working. Alias checks can reveal other names that a person used in the past, which employers can use to run additional checks. If a candidate was convicted of a crime before legally changing their name, using alias checks is the best way to avoid overlooking that conviction.

Similarly, address history checks enable employers to order additional criminal searches in other counties, reducing the likelihood of missing any red flags.

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How Long Do Background Checks Take for Pre-Employment Purposes?

Some of our background checks are database searches that will process instantly. Others will require us to do more legwork, such as paying visits to county courthouses or calling employers or references. These steps are harder to estimate for time, though we typically indicate that our checks will require a turnaround time of one to three business days. Our website includes a turnaround estimate on each product page indicating how long the process might take.

You can learn more by reading our full-length blog about how long a pre-employment background check takes.

  • Common Turnaround Times for Employment Background Checks
    While background checks can add time to a hiring process, we know that hiring managers require this information quickly. Most employers cycle through their background checks within a week to avoid keeping their top candidates waiting for conditional job offers. Since employers compete for top talent, a quicker hiring process is an asset. This explains why speed matters with background screening.

Because of this common desire for faster background checks, our single most popular service at backgroundchecks.com is our instant criminal database search product, US OneSEARCH. This database spans more than 650 million criminal records from across the United States. The database also incorporates sex offender registries, national security sources, and other resources. A US OneSEARCH check only takes seconds to process and return results. Furthermore, we are continuously expanding our database coverage to ensure that it covers as many criminal jurisdictions as possible.

However, remember that not all criminal history background check processes are identical. For court-based criminal and civil checks, verification screenings, and several other background checks, the time to complete the search will increase from minutes to days. Be upfront about timetables and potential delays when applicants ask, “how long does a background check take for a job with you?” to maintain transparency and inspire confidence in your processes.

  • Turnaround Time for Criminal Background Checks 

How long does a background check take for a job? The answer depends on several factors.

Beyond our instant criminal history search databases, our other criminal background checks typically take one to three days to process. However, every court is different. Some criminal checks might process in less than a day, while others could take more than three days. How a courthouse is set up to process checks is often the deciding factor in the process duration. Some courts have digital databases that enable online background checks for employers. 

These systems allow authorized users to conduct searches remotely at any time. Other courts require an in-person visit to the courthouse during business hours to start the search. Also, checks take more time when a court runner must collect information in person. Holidays, weekends, and other court closures can also add time to the process.

  • Turnaround Times for Other Types of Background Checks

Again, our average turnaround time estimate for our online background checks for employers is one to three business days. Keep in mind, though, that every background check is unique and that some searches will take significantly longer than these averages. 

Verification checks for past employment or education can be wildcards regarding turnaround times. For example, most employment verifications involve phone calls with human resources leaders. If we contact a subject’s past employer only to learn that the HR director is out of the office for a week, it can delay our ability to prepare a background check report.

  • Things That Delay Pre-Employment Background Checks
    Weekends, holidays, office closures, the need for in-person searches, and other extenuating circumstances can affect the turnaround time for a background check. For instance, during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, most courts, business offices, school offices, and other entities that serve as “primary sources” for our background checks closed as part of mandated shutdowns. As a result, we experienced background check delays. We make every effort to avoid troublesome delays and to turn around background reports as quickly as possible.

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Types of Background Checks for Employers 

Employers can use several types of background checks to vet prospective hires. These include:

  • Criminal Background Check for Employment

Criminal background checks are the most common pre-employment background search. We can search criminal records at the county, state, and federal levels. We also maintain our proprietary database, combining hundreds of millions of records from all 50 states, plus Washington D.C., Guam, and Puerto Rico.

  • Professional Verifications

These checks verify the job seekers' key details and qualifications on their resumes, including past jobs, education, and professional licenses and certifications. Reference verification checks also fall into this category.

  • Financial Records

For jobs in finance—from stock trading to accounting and financial advising—employers may wish to get a sense of a candidate’s financial habits. Credit history and bankruptcy checks are ways to look into this segment of a person’s background as you seek to develop the confidence to trust someone who will work with large amounts of cash or company assets.

  • Other Background Checks

Driving record checks, civil court history checks, address and alias checks, and drug screening are all available background check services at backgroundchecks.com. Together, we can create a comprehensive screening program that covers all the important bases.

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Background Check: Compliance and Regulation

When it comes to compliance and background checks, what do employers need to know? Companies should familiarize themselves with all compliance standards and regulations for background checks. Knowing these laws and following them to the letter can help employers avoid unnecessary litigation. There are many elements to background check compliance, and laws may change frequently at both the state and local levels. Staying current on these changes is essential for maintaining a legal and reliable hiring process.

Fundamental background check laws to know include:

  • The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a critical federal law that dictates most essential restrictions for pre-employment screenings. How should you get a subject’s consent for a background check? Based on background check findings, what process must you follow to disqualify a candidate? The FCRA answers these questions and others. All employers must follow FCRA guidelines concerning consent, pre-adverse action, and adverse action letters.
  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regularly issues guidance to help employers use background checks that don’t create purposeful or accidental discrimination against protected classes. EEOC guidance also provides tips to employers for evaluating background checks alongside other compliance concerns, such as operating per the Americans With Disabilities Act, or ADA.
  • “Ban the box” or “Fair Chance” ordinances require employers to remove questions about criminal history from job applications in some areas. They may also mandate a delay of the criminal background check until after the employer has made a conditional job offer. Some ban the box laws create civil penalties for violating these codes, while others empower applicants to sue for damages if their rights are breached. With “second chance” movements expanding, employers should take care to verify that they remain in compliance with the law regularly.
  • Review local ordinances that may affect your screening procedures. Laws in some areas restrict specific checks, such as credit history screenings, for employment. For example, drug tests are often considered a part of the background check process. In some areas, such as New York, it is no longer permissible to test for substances such as THC/cannabis, nor is it acceptable to deny applicants a job based on their cannabis usage. 

Consider consulting an attorney to ensure you understand all the legal compliance factors you must follow with your background checks for employment.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can Background Checks Verify Salary?

Yes, salary detail is information that a work history verification check can verify. However, this information is not available everywhere. Some states allow employers to inquire about previous salary information, but many jurisdictions do not. In efforts to fight employment discrimination and the pay gap, some states and counties have taken steps to make it illegal for employers to report salary information to other companies or for you to ask applicants about their past pay rates directly. Check your local laws before seeking salary verification.

Additionally, keep in mind that background checks cannot reveal unemployment payments or definitively explain gaps in an individual’s resume.

Can a Background Check Reveal Past Employers?

No background check provides a list of places a candidate has worked. The reason is that no central repository or database records such information; you must instead rely on candidates to self-report their prior employment to you. However, we can individually verify the workplaces that candidates list on their resumes. Employment verification can include confirmation that the individual worked at the company and verifying their employment dates and the job titles they held. 

Do Previous Legal Names Appear on Background Checks?

Identity verification is an important step in the vetting process, and we aim to make it as simple as possible for our partners. We incorporate Social Security Numbers into many of our checks—particularly criminal history—so that we can find past names associated with those SSNs. We will note this information if a candidate has previous legal names and recommend additional checks on those names. You may also wish to use tools we provide, such as the US AliasVERIFY product, to uncover or identify any additional records associated directly with one of the aliases used by the applicant. 

Can Background Checks Be Shared? 

It would be best if you considered background check records a part of candidates' or employees’ private files and did not share these checks beyond your company’s hiring team. Sharing background check information could violate federal law, including the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Some employers even choose to destroy the results of their background check process after finalizing the hiring process, while others will maintain them as part of personnel records. Regardless, you should safeguard this information with care and keep the contents of background checks within the HR department only.

What about international background checks?

Are employers overlooking international background checks? Most U.S. citizens have not spent enough time in foreign countries to necessitate international background checks for employment. However, if you are vetting a candidate who has lived in a different part of the world or who‘ll be traveling internationally for work, you may consider an international background check. Note that backgroundchecks.com does not currently offer this type of background check service.

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