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What U.S. Employers Should Look for in a Background Check

Date Published: March 06, 2024 | By David Wheeler

Many employers run pre-employment background checks on candidates before they are hired. Many also run periodic background checks on employees at regular intervals or at the time of promotion or transition into a different role. In fact, background checks have become standard practice as part of the hiring and promotion process. However, there is still a large faction of employers who have yet to adopt this practice into their hiring process and more still who fail to ensure their existing screening process is compliant in today’s complicated legislative environment.

While there are many reasons to run a background check on candidates, the main ones relate to an effort to try and ensure that a company’s employees, business assets, and customers are safe. In addition, some industries require specific roles and positions to be subject to a background check prior to being employed. There are also clear reputational risks for a company if an employee turns out to do something that reflects negatively on the employer or its customers.

The scope of a background check usually varies depending on the job, the nature of the role and responsibilities, and other factors, including the location in which the candidate lives and will work. In our experience, most employers perform a background check to identify specified criteria that suggest the employee or candidate is not suitable for the specific position for which they are being considered.

Most background checks focus on at least three key areas.

The scope and depth of all three of these checks vary based on many factors, including local differences in applicable laws, the nature of the role for which they are applying, and the relevance of the factor in the role (e.g., if education is not a requirement for the role, an employer may not perform such a verification).

In addition, depending on the nature of the position and the role, a background check could include several additional components, including a motor vehicle record (depending on whether the candidate will be driving as part of their job or otherwise driving while performing their duties), a credit history (if the job or role will involve finances or financial integrity), and identity and address verification (to ensure the identity of the applicant in the remote worker age).

Understanding background checks and the laws related to them is not easy, and while employers often feel one criminal record search is the same as another, nothing could be further from the truth. The legal restrictions related to obtaining criminal records information, as well as limitations on what can and cannot be considered by an employer, vary greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In addition, when using a third-party background screening provider, such as Accurate, it is important for companies to realize that not all “7-year criminal history checks” are created equal. Employers should understand the sources used by their background screening provider and the limitations on what the provider may or may not be doing to find a candidate’s criminal history.

Employers especially need to know if the findings are being reported in accordance with applicable laws that govern background screening providers, such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act (15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq.). These laws are primarily designed to protect the candidates but are not always understood by employers. Asking the right questions to your background screening provider is necessary to make sure you are getting the protection you expect to be receiving by performing the criminal history check.

If you are an employer and-

  • You are considering commencing background screening of your candidates as part of the hiring process,
  • You want to review your current background screening process and scope of screening being performed to see if they fit your organization’s needs and are compliant with applicable laws, or
  • You are considering performing periodic screening for your employees,

Contact us today to start your journey with one of the most trusted background screening providers in the market.

The professionals here at Accurate are ready to help you and your company develop a compliant background screening program suited to the needs of your company.