Using Verifications in Background Checks for Hiring

The mere mention of the phrase “background checks” usually calls to mind extensive criminal history searches relying on data from local courts, state repositories and many other sources. However, effective hiring and background checking demands more than a look at someone’s potential criminal record. Engaging with the “verification” process during hiring is also crucial.

“Verifications” refer to the extra steps necessary to confirm whether an applicant represented themselves truthfully to your business during the application process. Do they have the right experience? Did they indeed graduate from that prestigious university? Using verifications is fundamental to building a better screening process. Explore our new white paper on the subject for more about what goes into verifying resume data and how to structure effective processes. 

Leveraging Verifications During Background Checks for Effective Hiring

Hiring is one of the most difficult challenges facing any business in any industry. Choosing someone to work for your company always involves an element of risk. Even the most thorough screening and interview processes can’t give you a guaranteed picture of how someone will fit into the team or perform on the job. However, vetting candidates thoroughly does help you mitigate and manage risk. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good: done right, you can capably leverage background checks to equip your business with high-quality new hires.

Excellent screening does more than assist your process in yielding ideal candidates. Performing your due diligence also provides an essential legal shield against future claims of negligence in your hiring processes. No background check can predict future behavior, after all, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look for red flags in the present.

In this white paper, we’ll examine the role of background checks, employment verifications and more in today’s hiring processes. Diving deeper, we’ll discuss the types of verification you should conduct alongside a criminal background check. Finally, we’ll explore regulatory considerations before considering how to harmonize all these elements into a coherent workflow. 

To begin with, why go to all the effort when you may need to fill a role as quickly as possible?

Why Do Background Checks Deserve a Place in the Hiring Process?

Hiring shortages in many sectors create pressure on teams that need additional staffing to function at peak efficiency. Cutting corners now might seem reasonable to fill open positions, but it could leave you less equipped than you think. Remember, vetting is about more than just criminal records: it’s verifying that an applicant has told you the truth about their qualifications. Thorough verification, combined with a background check, helps you develop the necessary confidence in someone’s skill set.

Protecting your business from claims of negligence is another function of adequate vetting. If you hire someone who eventually does commit a crime on the job, some scrutiny will focus on whether you made reasonable efforts to avoid creating that risk. For example, consider hiring someone who needs a professional license to complete work, but you only take the candidate’s word for it instead of an official confirmation. If that person’s work goes on to cause harm, you might be on the hook for damages.

What Are Good Background Check Processes?

A reliable, dependable background check that considers criminal records and verifies resume information or professional standing provides a well-rounded point of view on a candidate. However, to be effective, these solutions must undergo thorough integration into your hiring workflow. If you’re undertaking efforts that require more than simply ordering a criminal history check, how can you be sure you aren’t setting yourself up for bottlenecks and slowdowns?

First, define what you want to investigate for each job applicant, but remember that you should have a consistent policy to apply equally to all individuals. For example, determine what types of employment verification you want to undertake. For a basic retail job stocking shelves, experience may not be an important factor, and verifying employees may not be essential to such a business. For a management position at a Fortune 500 company, though, one’s history in the business is vital.

Next, determine at what point you can start conducting verifications. These efforts may fall under the purview of local laws that might require you to delay inquiries until later in the hiring process. In the absence of such laws, though, you can package your order for a criminal history report together with other verification requests.

Finally, partner with a consumer reporting agency that can provide you with rapid results and the details you require. Some verifications take a short time, while others may require a few extra business days. By using a trusted third party, your team doesn’t bog down in the minutiae of making contact with employers or calling references. Instead, you can wait for your partner to report results, at which point you can begin contemplating decisions. 

Adequate Vetting Means Looking Beyond Criminal Records

The criminal record check is a cornerstone of an intelligent hiring process, but it is not the only element you should use for decisions. Someone can have a clean criminal record and a resume riddled with falsehoods. Your process must include some or all these additional steps to make the most effective use of background checks. 

Consider the primary verification efforts you may need to add to your hiring process and plan how to evaluate the results.

Employment Verification

At some jobs, experience isn’t a vital factor, especially if you plan to train individuals on the job. Elsewhere, you may need to identify potential candidates who have specific skills or experience in a demanding role. You may even advertise a need for this experience in your listings. When an applicant seems to fit the mold, you must verify that they’ve told you the truth.

Statistically, the employment section is one of the largest sources of dishonesty on a resume. A background check and employment verification can confirm what an applicant says. To verify this information, you must contact a candidate’s old employers directly. Expect the ability to verify start and end dates, job titles, and sometimes job descriptions combined with other, more specific information. Some employers may reveal that an individual left due to being fired. 

Interpreting these results is usually simple. Discrepancies in start and end dates may indicate a basic mistake or typo, or they could signify some dishonesty. Otherwise, it’s easy to see when an employer’s information aligns with your candidate’s.

Educational Verification

Verifying education is a matter of ensuring a candidate has the appropriate background of learning and establishing trustworthiness. Fewer employers have particular needs relating to educational backgrounds in the same way they may need specific experience. Most vital skills come from on-the-job experience. Nonetheless, verifying that a candidate honestly reported their higher education and its outcome is also important.

Education verifications require contacting the schools listed on a resume and requesting confirmation that the individual attended and graduated. Again, interpretation is a simple matter—either they did or did not attend. Sometimes, you may discover that a candidate did not earn the degree they claimed. These are red flags that may warrant re-evaluating your stance on an individual.

License Verification

Some companies hire in regulated industries and must verify that an individual has the appropriate credentials to work. Hiring individuals without those credentials could expose your business to damaging lawsuits, punitive fines from the government, and other consequences. Some examples of industries that may require licensing include home healthcare, child care, and trade work.

To verify a license during a background check, you’ll have to contact the appropriate licensing body or submit a request for information. It is usually simple to take a supplied license number and check it for validity with the issuing authority. If a license check reveals a very recent expiration date, bring the issue to your applicant’s attention—it could be an opportunity to invite a potentially valuable new hire back into the process once they correct the issue.

Reference Verification

Checking references may be an often overlooked part of hiring, but it is still an important tool. It is difficult to learn adverse information through this process. It’s true; most employers won’t reveal negative opinions to avoid legal liability. Personal references are also likely to provide a biased view of a candidate. 

Even so, you can still use this information to evaluate whether an individual would be a good fit for the culture you’ve built in your business. Remember, background checks are in assessing suitability and trustworthiness; reference checking is one small but critical piece of that puzzle.

Salary Verification

How much should you pay a new hire entering your business? In competitive industries, you might want to know that you can make an attractive offer to a candidate to ensure they go with you. You may wish to try to verify a candidate’s compensation history either by asking the candidate directly or by contacting a previous employer. However, beware: this practice is illegal in some states.

Fairness advocates believe salary verifications may worsen the gender pay gap or reduce opportunities for fair negotiation. If your business resides in a district where salary discussions are legal, you may choose to pursue verifying this information—but be aware that employers may not reveal this information. It is not always easy to verify the accuracy of numbers reported by a candidate.

Evaluating the Impact of a Criminal Record or Verification Anomaly 

What happens when a criminal record appears in the background check? What about when a candidate’s resume doesn’t contain entirely truthful information? You must be careful about your next steps—moving too quickly could run afoul of legislation such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act. In states with extensive fair chance laws, you may need to engage in a detailed “individualized assessment” before you can take adverse action because of a background check.

Anomalies in verifications may not be as much of a challenge to determine. Someone whose claimed alma mater denies their attendance or graduation may not have much supporting evidence to bolster their claims. The same is true for inflated employment experience. In the case of licenses, though, someone with an expired certification may not know their credentials lapsed. Raising this issue might provide an opportunity to give a solid candidate a second chance without assuming bad faith.

Ultimately, you should consider seeking clarifying information or corrections before making a final decision.

Engaging With Regulation: Staying on the Right Side of the Law

Regulatory compliance is an element you can’t afford to lose sight of when conducting verifications. “Ban the box” and “fair chance” laws are most likely to be the areas of concern. Remember, these rules either delay when you can ask candidates specific questions or stipulate how you must evaluate potential adverse action. Generally, these rules apply only to criminal background checks—but since you will most likely order such a report alongside verifications, it may be wise to wait.

Some states have passed laws restricting the reporting of any form of salary verification on a background check. In others, states mandate the publication of minimum and maximum pay scales, which may negate the need to take prior compensation into account. Be aware of the law in your area with regard to the use of non-criminal history information, such as salaries.

Strengthening Your Approach With the Right Partner

Proper vetting doesn’t just deserve a place in the hiring process—it should be an extensive part of how you evaluate candidates. By going beyond a criminal history report and using a background check with employment verification and more, you give your business its best chance to make shrewd, fully-informed hiring decisions. 

Don’t run the risk of hiring an individual who misrepresents their skills and experience or lies about where they went to school. Be sure that when the law demands you hire a licensed individual, you know your candidates have cleared that bar. There is always the potential for minor oversights and undiscovered lies on a resume to snowball into a bigger problem for the business. Without verifying information beyond criminal records, there’s no way to know what’s really true on a resume.

Adequate background checks must cover much ground—that’s true. However, it does not have to mean burdening HR teams with more work than they can handle. With a trusted employee screening agency such as, building an effective and thorough hiring program is possible right now. Review your existing procedures and identify potential shortcomings or gaps in your workflow. With screening packages and individual verification services available, the tools you need to leverage for more innovative, safer hiring are within easy reach.

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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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