What You Should Know About Background Checks

Today, employers are conducting more and more background checks on new candidates in hopes of making a great hire. It is a best practice to conduct a job related background check after an offer of employment is given. A comprehensive background check may consist of prior employment verification, professional reference checks and education confirmation and/or criminal history. Make the offer of employment contingent upon successful completion of this pre-employment process. Then, if the results received are negative, an offer of employment may be rescinded by the employer.

The Benefits

Conducting background checks on new candidates can be highly beneficial to your company.  When implemented properly, background checks can:

  • Increase applicant quality
  • Prevent workplace violence
  • Minimize negligent hiring liability
  • Reduce employee dishonest losses—namely fraud, theft and crime
  • Reduce turnover rates, by making the right hire the first time

The Risks

Although mostly beneficial, background checks can also pose certain risks to employers, especially credit checks. For example, as an employer, you discover that your new hire candidate has many outstanding bills from Roswell Park Cancer Institute. You then assume they have cancer and do not hire them because the cancer could be a disability case waiting to happen. In this case, you have a potential lawsuit for discrimination.

Credit checks should be avoided unless it is for a financially related position, such as a CFO.  However, even then you still need to be very careful.

Background Check Guidelines

Here are a few guidelines to ensure your background check is compliant:

  • Get detailed information upfront from the candidate
  • Beware of “instant” public records as it may not be accurate
  • Pay only for the information you need
  • Keep background checks consistent and relevant for all candidates
  • Hire experts to conduct your background checks to ensure compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). (ESC can recommend)

Disqualify candidates based on relevant information only.  This can be tricky.  In addition, only perform a background check after obtaining a written release from applicants.