Using Background Checks at Staffing Companies


Background Checks for Staffing Companies

Finding the right people to work within a business is one of the most important elements of success. From filling an IT department with skilled systems administrators or experienced support staff to temporary knowledge workers and beyond, the importance of choosing the right people is hard to understate. Hiring is a process that almost never ends, too. Even when a company has all the workers they need, there is always a hunger for more talent, opportunities to expand, and insights for making improvements. Fresh perspectives bring those benefits to the table. So how do background checks for staffing come into the picture?

Choosing the best people to work for a business is vital, but hiring is also time-consuming and often expensive. The average new hire can cost businesses thousands of dollars in time and labor. Especially when a company needs to quickly fill gaps in their workforce, the traditional process can be too slow. Posting job listings, interviewing candidates, and making offers might take too much time to enable a business to adequately meet its labor demands. Enter staffing companies.

Temporary workers form a vital part of the labor force, especially in businesses that must staff large offices with skilled individuals. As people try to consider how small businesses can win "The Great Resignation," temporary workers have played an important role in filling in the gaps. However, even less skilled positions, including jobs focused on manual labor can rely on staffing and temp agencies to pad out the workforce with enough people to get the job done. 

In some cases, companies work directly with staffing agencies to partially replace their hiring process. These "temp-to-hire" positions often last for a set period of time, after which a business can choose to make a job offer that would make the temporary position permanent. The versatility and flexibility of such a process is easy to imagine. However, there are two major elements neither side of this arrangement can afford to ignore: safety and trustworthiness.

Some businesses, especially in regulated industries, will insist on applying their own background check policies in place of or in addition to what a staffing agency does. However, most companies using temp agencies expect their partners to supply quality candidates upfront. That demands a process within the staffing industry for background check usage on a consistent and reliable basis. What do businesses providing workers for other companies need to consider about this process? From the fundamental reasons for using background checks to the details of what vetting should cover, we'll cover it all.

Why Do Staffing Agencies Need to Do Background Checks?

A reduced time to hire and an increased ability to respond to changing demand with agility are two of the biggest reasons any business turns to a third-party agency for help. For many companies, navigating staffing challenges during a pandemic yielded important lessons, including the value of looking to outside providers for help. Knowing that such agencies may feel pressure to serve as many candidates as possible to as many partner businesses as possible—potentially skipping background checks in the process to appear even faster than the competition. Ultimately, that's not the best business plan. Why?

First and foremost, your business partners will expect that any individual you send to work for them has undergone some kind of vetting. Temporary workers are a well-established part of the workforce, and outside agencies have supplied businesses of all shapes and sizes with employees for decades. As such, there are common expectations across industries for how companies select and suggest workers for open roles that a business must fill. Those hiring temporary workers may even clearly define their expectations, including what they might consider disqualifying.

Second, your reputation as a reliable provider of quality staff is on the line. If an individual you connect with a position goes on to commit wrongdoing on the job, some of the blame may reflect back on you. For example, consider someone hired in to a position in a company's accounting department who then goes to embezzle funds from their employer. If that individual harbored serious debts before they were hired or had a past conviction for fraud, such an oversight could damage your brand and its capacity for bringing in business in the future.

Third, you may have a legal obligation to conduct background checks on certain types of workers and for particular roles. For example, some states regulate temporary workers in spaces such as healthcare or childcare and require background checks as part of the hiring process. A staffing agency is no different than any other business; even though you redirect people to work for other companies, the law still views your firm as an employer itself. As such, you must obey the relevant rules and regulations that require or regulate employee vetting.

Overall, staffing and temp agencies must incorporate background checks into their procedures as a core quality control and reliability element. Your reputation as a reliable supplier of qualified workers in any sector depends on the experiences your clients have. When a business knows they can turn to you for a quality supply of well-vetted employees, establishing repeat business and improving your reputation is within easier reach. Let's examine the benefits of implementing a well-considered screening policy in more depth.

The Core Benefits Staffing Agencies Unlock With Background Checks

A background check can be one of the most valuable tools for a staffing agency. Even in-depth reports covering a wide range of sources can be highly affordable today, especially in package deals designed to make it simpler to screen large numbers of individuals on a frequent basis. While we've considered how most business partners expect this process to take place on your end, it's also worth thinking about how your agency improves its results and the quality of its hires by using in-depth vetting.

In a way, doing your due diligence on individuals seeking work through temp agencies is the business's core function. Instead of thinking of a staffing agency as primarily a stopgap solution that provides anyone willing and able to work, consider it a tool for placing the right individuals in the best roles for their skills. From that perspective, vetting candidates for your business partners is about more than protecting the public or other workers: it's about verifying suitability and matching people to positions. Here's how an in-depth evaluation contributes to positioning your agency as a responsible partner.

Acquire Important and Accurate Information for Better Hiring

Who are you really hiring? What do you really know about that person you're passing on to another company for work? Vetting a candidate is about much more than assessing their criminal background. Verifying someone's references, checking into their credentials, and other tasks all contribute to letting you better understand the individuals with whom you'll share job openings from your clients. 

Not everyone is the best fit for every company or every role. That's true regarding skills and experience, but it's also applicable to whether someone will fit in with any given company's culture. Vetting as part of the interview and consideration process in staffing agencies lets you develop a more detailed conception of your available temp workers. Eventually, that translates into better outcomes for your clients, too. 

Uncover and Evaluate the Impact of Criminal Records

Criminal record checks are what everyone thinks about when they hear about background checks, and for good reason—it is the primary reason any business uses them. While someone's past is not necessarily a predictor of their future behavior, employers should have a clear-eyed view of their applicants. For example, some companies may have misgivings about hiring someone with a very recent history of violent felonies. 

Using criminal history checks lets you fully evaluate candidates according to the standards expected by your clients.

Be aware that as a staffing agency, you must still adhere to the state and federal regulations that govern how employers use background checks. For example, this includes the requirement to include a standalone disclosure that applicants must undergo a background check. You'll also need the applicant's signed consent per the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Always review local regulations to determine whether you must meet other requirements under "ban the box" laws.

Avoid the Risks of Negligent Hiring and Protect Your Partner Businesses

Let's consider the example of an applicant with a recent history of violent crime again. What happens if you send that individual to one of your partner companies, and that employee commits an act of violence against a coworker or a customer? While establishing negligence in hiring is a complex legal test, no business wants to face a potential lawsuit because they employed someone who caused harm to others.

Avoiding negligent hiring does not mean restricting opportunities for the formerly incarcerated but taking a more in-depth view of an applicant's overall suitability. In some cases, discussing this information with applicants can provide additional context that simplifies a final employment decision. For example, extensive evidence of rehabilitative efforts can be a mitigating factor. Employers must think carefully about their employees' potential to cause harm while also maintaining fairness. Obtaining and evaluating background checks demonstrates a proactive effort to maintain safety.

Fulfill Your Contract Obligations and Build Trust

Some businesses build long-term relationships with staffing agencies due to a frequent need to add capacity to meet project deadlines or meet increased demand during seasonal rush periods. As a part of these agreements, a contract may be signed between your agency and the other party that lays out many of the important details of the work you will do. This agreement might include the requirement that you will conduct thorough background checks on all individuals you send over as temps.

Even if vetting is not a contractual obligation you must fulfill, consider that investing in providing safe, qualified, and well-checked individuals can foster trust between your agency and its partners. When you consistently supply high-value individuals who are a good fit and who do not pose undue risks, you improve your reputation as a quality resource—and that kind of information travels by word of mouth in the business world, too.

Foster Better Relationships With Your Clients and Workers

Once you establish yourself as a trustworthy resource for expanding a company's staff on short notice, you can strengthen the relationships you have with clients. Some businesses prefer to only hire temps through agencies, using their internal hiring processes for full-time positions and other important roles. However, as the working relationship grows older and stronger between you and your partners, you can open up the temp-to-hire pipeline and expand the opportunities you have to generate revenue.

It's a win-win for both sides. Your partners gain even greater access to your ability to locate safe and suitable candidates quickly while you improve your bottom line and expand opportunities for employment to more of those in your community. For all these reasons, a well-planned background check policy powered by modern solutions is a must-have today.

What Kinds of Background Checks Should Staffing Companies Do?

How can an employment agency create a process that covers all the important information and does the best possible job at creating confidence in the quality of your candidates? Since your partners expect you to provide trustworthy candidates to fill their positions, a more thorough check is usually preferable. Some elements of the process should be the same for every candidate; consistency helps avoid any appearance of discrimination or special favor. Some job roles may require additional forms of background checks that other roles don't.

Consider the eight elements that can make up a successful background check policy.

Alias and Name Searches

Many types of people seek employment through temp agencies and staffing companies. Some do so as a matter of convenience, while others may do so because of fewer options available to them. In some cases, you may encounter individuals who try to hide from a checkered past by using a different name than their legal name. In other instances, someone may have committed crimes under an alias.

Tools such as the US AliasSEARCH provide a rapid way for staffing agencies to verify individuals' identity and uncover any aliases associated with someone's Social Security number. This add-on service is an excellent way to add another layer of protection to your process. Knowing your applicants is the first big step towards building up a pool of temps you can draw upon to serve your clients. An alias search ensures you don't leave potentially critical information undiscovered. 

Criminal Record Screening

The heart and soul of the pre-employment vetting process, criminal record checks are your best defense against future claims of negligent hiring. You must use these products in accordance with the law and you must avoid making them tools of potential discrimination. From an instant look at records from states and counties nationwide to searching local courts for recent records, there are many places where an individual's criminal records may reside if any exist. 

Because there is no centralized national repository of all criminal records, reporting agencies such as ours compile, maintain, and keep a database of these records updated. This effort ensures agencies can reduce delays in providing offers to candidates by quickly obtaining in-depth reports for their review.

The benefits of a far-reaching background check are even greater for staffing agencies operating in metropolitan regions. Metro areas can cover huge amounts of space and often contain many workers who frequently move between different cities and counties for employment. They may leave records behind in these counties before settling elsewhere. Building a process that gives you access to all the relevant records, no matter where they are, demands a partner that can offer the insight you need. Take care as you consider what level of criminal record vetting you need to deploy.

Pre-Employment Drug Screening

Some agencies choose to include drug testing as part of their hiring process rather than shifting that burden to the company that chooses to hire temps. It is always a good idea to ensure that you're suggesting responsible individuals work in other locations. Pre-employment drug tests can still reveal troubling information such as methamphetamine or opioid abuse. However, the environment surrounding drug tests has undergone rapid changes in the last five years, and those changes demand new considerations.

In "Marijuana and Background Checks: Does Weed Matter Anymore?" we took an in-depth look at how changing social attitudes and shifting legality have made certain elements of the pre-employment drug test more challenging. While every business must make decisions for themselves about how to handle positive cannabis tests in this new environment, staffing agencies should keep the policies of their partners in mind when developing such policies. Most employers today still prefer to foster a drug-free workplace but always discuss with other businesses and consider any local laws governing tests.

Preventing Sexual Misconduct in the Workplace

Preventing misconduct, harassment, and assaults in the workplace have always been important, but there is more focus on such efforts now in the era of #MeToo. Background checks often automatically include checking your state's sex offender registry for any matches connected to job candidates fielded by your agency. A broader check that includes multiple states may also be smart if the individual's background check contains evidence of prior sex crimes that may have carried a requirement to register. 

Not every offender registers as they should, especially when they move from one place to another. For temp agencies, it is critical to thoroughly screen candidates for any evidence of past wrongdoing that could jeopardize the safety of others in the workplace.


Verification checks are among the most important steps a temp agency can take. How can you be certain that an individual's qualifications are legitimate? Looking into this information with help from a consumer reporting agency can streamline the process of verifying what someone tells you in an application or an interview. The most common verifications include:

When someone represents their abilities to you as including particular skills, or when they speak of accomplishments at prior jobs, it's a good idea to make sure they're telling the truth. There is no shortage of stories in the news about workers who lied on their resumes, got a job, and then caused problems or even harm because of their lack of experience. Do the legwork your partners expect and pass along only candidates whose experience and trustworthiness you can verify.

Credit Reports

Should your agency use credit reports as part of the hiring process? It typically is not a normal part of selecting workers, especially temps. However, as we mentioned earlier, there are some professional job roles where individuals may have extensive access to a company's financials and even bank accounts. In these rarer cases—and when reviewing such reports are permissible under the law—pulling someone's credit report may have value. Note you may have to provide separate disclosures and consent agreements to applicants under the FCRA.

For the average employee headed to a business to fill an empty desk, credit reports don't yield information that is highly relevant to hiring.

Driving Records

Most temp agencies don't supply individuals for the sole purpose of driving vehicles for a company, but there may be occasions when that is true. In other scenarios, the duties of the job may involve regularly operating a company vehicle. When this is the case, your agency must order and carefully review a motor vehicle report that describes the individual's driving history. The Department of Transportation strictly regulates individuals driving for commercial purposes, and your agency will not be exempt from meeting these requirements. 

Discuss with your partners whether employees will drive on company time before including MVRs in your screening service. There is no reason to review an individual's driving history as part of hiring for a temp position if they will spend all their time behind a desk rather than behind the wheel.

Ongoing Monitoring

Screening at temp agencies shouldn't end once you make an initial determination of suitability. There are two reasons to invest in ongoing monitoring tools that periodically re-screen individuals to uncover evidence of new potential wrongdoing. First, workers may stay in the temp pool for weeks or even months before placement. By the time you extend an offer to one such individual, their background information could be out of date. Ongoing monitoring ensures you can maintain a stable of workers that meet your expectations and those of your clients.

The second reason to deploy ongoing monitoring is to strengthen your relationship with business partners. A proactive effort to send only the safest and most qualified workers to join other teams showcases your commitment to quality. Over the long term, that kind of reputation can pay dividends when you're branching out to support other companies.


What do staffing companies check for in a background check?

Staffing companies look at many of the same elements that regular employers consider during the hiring process. This process usually includes a criminal background check, a sex offender registry check, and processes to verify information provided on the application or resume. This effort aims to identify suitable candidates that agencies can safely offer to businesses that need additional staff on a short-term or short-notice basis. Our resources for staffing agencies contain an in-depth look at these processes to support standing-up vetting solutions that enhance confidence in every hire.

How long do employment screening services take?

Turnaround time for employment screening depends on the level of detail you request and the types of additional verifications you need. A basic criminal background check using the US OneSEARCH can return results instantly for most of the United States, but some states impose additional restrictions that can add one to three business days to the process. Verification checks can take additional time based on the detail an agency requires or the number of organizations we must contact. In extreme cases, such as those requiring referencing an international criminal system, screening may take several weeks. Most commonly, though, you can make background checks for staffing swift and streamlined.

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