Whether it is for choosing employees, volunteers, or contractors, conducting a background check is the first step to ensure you are making the right decision when it comes to onboarding. A common misconception is that background checks consist of a simple criminal record check, however, they can also include compiling criminal, commercial and financial records of an individual or organization. Most commonly used by employers, these checks can ensure that an applicant or employee is whom he or she says they are, does not have a damaging history and that they did not lie or exaggerate any aspect of their application (including education and past employment).
When conducting a background check, one of the first steps may be to search the applicant’s social media. In this day and age, one’s social media page can make or break whether he or she gets hired. 70% of employers check social media to screen candidates for a potential hire, and 43% use it to check on current employees. Keeping up with social media throughout the application and hiring process allows employers to make sure their candidate is the right fit for their organization, as well as get a glimpse of their personality. Although checking social media may seem like the most logical route when researching an individual, conducting only a social media check can be more harmful than helpful. If one is undoubtedly qualified for the job but has content on their social media that the employer personally disagrees with, the applicant may not be hired for a position that they may excel at. Putting these background checks into the right hands of a third-party company, a Consumer Reporting Agency, allows for less generalizing and bias from the employer and gives a more authentic representation of the individual’s “social” life.
The more in-depth screenings come from criminal records. Criminal and police records list all non-expunged criminal offenses, as reportable by state and federal regulations. These records are compiled by law enforcement agencies and court system and used at the local, state and federal level. Once a person is arrested for a crime, all of his or her personal information, along with the current arrest, is recorded and stored in a computer database as their criminal record. Personal information usually includes the name, date of birth, known aliases, physical description, and current address. After the personal data is recorded at the court level, the file contains the type of crime, any outstanding warrants for arrest, dates of arrests or convictions, and sentencing. One can request for their record to be expunged or cleared, but they must go through a court process for the decision. If an individual is convicted of a crime before the age of 18, the crime is recorded on their juvenile criminal history and is typically sealed once they turn 18. In other words, they have a fresh shot once they become an adult. Their record remains, but is only accessible to law enforcement or the courts.
Other forms of reports included in background checks are credit and verification reports. A credit report is a statement including information about one’s credit activity and current credit standing (loan paying and credit accounts) which comes directly from one of the three major credit bureaus. Employers can check credit reports to expose signs of potential financial distress that may indicate theft or fraud. As an employer, when hiring for a fiduciary position, a credit report of your employee can tell if the applicant displays organizational skills and is responsible and reliable.
Along with checking for reliability, verification reports take into account that the potential employee provided accurate information on his or her resume. Verification checks involve contacting previous employers to make sure these statements are accurate. Through verification reports, an employer can also contact the references an applicant put down on their resume to discuss the skills, work ethic, and personality of the individual. This process is a great way to be in contact with people who worked with the individual previously. Criminal searches alone will not give insight into the individuals’ past employment or education history; therefore, verification reports are an important part of the background screening process. It is not uncommon for applicants to embellish their work history, whether it is job title or what they accomplished during their time of employment.
In the grander scheme, international background checks are performed for individuals who currently live or who have lived abroad. International background checks include the same type of searches previously mentioned. Each database for background checks is established in each country – there is no world-wide background check database. Therefore, one must go through each place an individual lived to find records of information, whether criminal, verification, etc. Each country also has different laws about how background checks can be completed; so international background checks can take a lot of time and patience to complete.
An employer can conduct their own internal form of background checks during the process of hiring an applicant, including tests on skills and drug tests to make sure they are telling the truth of their past. It is also up to the employer how far they want to go in a background check. Background checks can become extremely time consuming, and each form has different laws and restrictions regarding what can be given or said. Utilizing a third-party Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) for background screenings has become increasingly more accessible and useful as it saves time, creates less stress for the employer and eliminates unnecessary legal issues.
Many managers and business owners are unaware of the laws placed under these background checks. For example, the law requires employers to provide their applicants with an explanation as to why they did not get the job should they not be hired due to a CRA background Check. A CRA can facilitate this process on behalf of the employer and provide this information to the applicant which saves the employer time. Additionally, not going directly through the employer’s business can provide the applicant with a sense of privacy regarding their past.
The employees who work for these CRAs have a skill-set based on conducting background checks, which allows them to have better access to the records acquired. Therefore, an employer will get the information they are looking for back in a timelier and more accurate manner. The CRA already knows the laws behind background checks, which is something that could be extremely time-consuming for an employer to research on their own. Their expertise allows them to jump right into the screening and creates a shorter time frame for the employers to obtain information on their applicant and at the same time, saving time and money.
When looking into a CRA to provide background checks on applicants, there are a few things to consider. First, legality is the top identifier to know if the selected CRA is going to provide the best information in the best way. Making sure the employer has a license to complete these screenings and that they are insured is very important. One should also read customer reviews to get an idea first-hand from someone who has worked with their potential vendor. Checking if the principals of the business have operated under different company names can tell an employer if they are reliable or have had to move around to get more business. Finally, speaking to a representative of the company and asking questions based on the skill set of their employees will help identify whether the CRA is a mutually good fit for both parties.
Screenings and background checks go much deeper than searching someone’s name and seeing if they have records in the past month. It takes many steps to begin a background search, and even more once the screening has started. Proper measures must be considered as well as creating a private and comfortable application process for the candidate. Going through a CRA allows the employer to do their given job: to hire or choose not to hire the applicant. Letting a CRA take over the rest of the work creates a less stressful and time-consuming process for both the applicant and employer.