Top 10 Mistakes When Conducting Background Checks

  1. Leave it to the experts!
    Employers may conduct their backgrounds checks “in house” as opposed to using a reputable nationwide employment screening firm. This is a bad idea unless the employer has an internal expert on federal and state laws pertaining to background checks. Save time and money by hiring a third-party company.
  2. Do not judge a background check based on its cover.
    It is the employer’s responsibility to view the entire background check report and ensure that there is no information that would have an adverse effect on employment with the company or violates the business’s employment background check policy.
  3. Does one size fit all?
    Employers must recognize the different position they have within their businesses and tailor the background check specific to the position. For example, if your organization’s Outside Sales Manager position requires six years of job experience and two years of college coursework, the company should validate and verify that in fact the job applicant has the experience and qualifications. Do not run the same “entry level” type background check on upper level type management.
  4. Are all records held by a Social Security Number?
    Absolutely not! County criminal records (where all felony and misdemeanor records are stored) are indexed by both a full name and date of birth match. The most vital search an employer MUST do on a background check, however, is the social security number address trace. This search does use the social security number in order to locate residential addresses and names associated with the subject of the report (since again criminal records are held at the county level based on name and date of birth).
  5. Do not call us; we will call you.
    Employers are obligated to inform applicants that before adverse action is taken based on the results of a background check, applicants have the right to view the report and check for any inaccuracies. This process is called the pre-adverse/adverse action process, and must be followed by an employer conducting employment background checks.
  6. You get what you pay for.
    Like with any professional service, employers are always looking for the best possible price. When dealing with background checks and compliance, however, your organization never wants to “cut corners” or sacrifice quality for a more advantageous cost. Background screening companies will market a nationwide criminal database search that will provide “accurate results instantly.” That simply is not possible and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) agrees. There are two limitations identified by the FCRA. The first one is that not every single county that stores all felony and misdemeanor records contributes cases to an online nationwide database search. Secondly, the information provided by counties that contribute records are not updated in “real time.” In some instances, it takes up to two months to have online databases updated.
  7. I did a Google search and found nothing.
    Employers must adhere to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) when conducting employment background checks. The FCRA has certain restrictions on what is reportable and not reportable on an employment background check. Criminal cases are only reportable if they resulted in convictions within the past seven years; therefore, if an applicant is arrested and not convicted, or the case was dismissed, the information is not reportable on a background check.
  8. Conviction should not be the end to it all.
    Gone are the days when employers could implement a policy stating, “Anyone with a criminal conviction will not be considered for any position within the company.” Employers must now take a “case-by-case” approach when making an employment decision based on a report that has adverse information on it. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has provided guidance on this issues, and expects employers to look at three factors when making their decision: The nature and gravity of the criminal offense(s); The time that has passed since the conviction and/or completion of the sentence; and The nature of the job held or sought|
  9. What is good for the employee is good for the intern.
    Unfortunately, employers still relate background checks to regular full time employees, and do not factor all individuals who represent the business. From the vendors, to the interns, and even volunteers these representatives of the company could increase liability unless their background is checked. Your background screening policy should identify all business relationships and state that these “relationships” will be subjected to an employment background check.
  10. Do not forget the compliant notices and disclosures.
    Employers remain unclear on what their duties are when requesting a background check. The disclosure and authorization form that is issued from the background screening company to the employer, the employer will have the applicant or new hire complete the disclosure form. Following this, the employer must provide specific notices to the applicant or new hire to explain their rights under the FCRA, otherwise titled as the FCRA “Summary of Rights.” Lastly, the employer must adhere to any state specific notices that must be provided to the applicant or new hire as well.

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