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Background Check Best Practices

Word cloud with Background Check in the center.

Business owners and hiring managers know there is a lot riding on the recruiting process. Hiring the wrong employee can be costly in many ways including lost money, poor customer/client experience, safety, and damage to a company’s reputation, to name a few. That’s why many employers have turned to background checks as part of their recruiting and hiring process. Having them as part of the pre-screening process helps employers hire the right candidates. Any business using background checks needs to be aware, however, of the need to approach them accurately and legally in order to avoid potential lawsuits. It’s critical to create a policy regarding implementation, communication, and execution of the pre-screening. For guidance in using background checks in the recruiting process, we’ve compiled best practices for every business to employ.

Federal and State Compliance

The first thing to know about background checks is they need to be compliant with state and federal employment laws. All background checks should be in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and state-specific ban-the-box laws. The FCRA requires all employers get consent from a job candidate before running the background check. It is also necessary to detail the steps the employer must take if the results of the background check will affect the hiring decision.[1]

Federal law states that an employer can run a background check on their job candidate any time after receiving consent. There are some states, however, that have specific ban-the-box requirements that impact the timeline, so employers need to make sure they comply with their state or specific city’s law when it comes to the time frame for conducting the pre-screening.1

Screen Consistently

This human resource best practice is straightforward—pre-employment background screening must be consistently applied for all job candidates. Running background checks on some candidates, but not all leaves your company open to discrimination charges and potential lawsuits–consistency is critical. An exception can be made, however, based on a specific position or level of position. It’s important to note that every candidate applying for the same position must receive the same background check that applies to that position.[i]

Criminal records are a sensitive area that requires consistency as well. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recommends employers only consider a job candidate’s convictions if they are directly related to the job functions connected with the applied-for position. The recommendation here is to look at all the criminal results returned and consider them in light of the type of job position, the nature of the crime, and the amount of time since the conviction. The types of records reviewed when a background check runs information on criminal history includes felony criminal convictions, misdemeanor criminal convictions, and infractions or violations. The report will list the crime, status of conviction, and the date of disposition.[2] The next step, for best practice, is to let the candidate give more information based on the findings and weigh that fairly before deciding on rejection. 1

Screening Remote Workers

Now more than ever, remote work is a regular part of the employment landscape. The hiring process may be a bit different for remote candidates, but the same policies for background checks can still be applied. A person working from home still needs to be able to live up to the tasks of the position. When hiring a remote employee, the same considerations apply—safety, company reputation, and the ability of the candidate to perform their potential job duties. Through background checks employers can screen driving records, criminal records, and request drug screenings on remote candidates, in addition to checking references from former employers, to ensure hiring the best person for the job.[3]

Background checks on potential candidates are often an important part of the hiring process. Partnering with Human Capital and our team of experts will give you the resources and tools you need to create  background check policies for your company. Whether you need guidance on state or federal compliance laws, or need help with any other human resouce policies and procedures, our human resource management team can help you draw up a complete background check policy that is fair and compliant.


[1] GoodHire- HR Best Practices: The 3 Cs of Background Checks

2 GoodHire – Criminal Background Checks: What You Need to Know

3 HR Cloud-4 Tips for Effective Background for a Remote Worker

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