4 Tips for Improving Your Background Checks

Tammy Cohen, PHR, SHRM-CP
October 4 2018

Running background checks on candidates is a crucial step in the recruiting process. Making a bad placement can sour a relationship with a client or cost your company valuable resources. But background checks can be tedious and difficult to navigate; many states have their own specific laws and requirements, such as Ban-the-Box legislation. The following tips can help streamline and improve your background checks process.

Focus on what’s important

Background checks can be incredibly in-depth and comprehensive. Decide what your client will be most concerned with. Will they be working with sensitive data and handling transactions? Then it’s a good idea to run a drug screen, work history and education verification, and a credit history report in addition to a criminal history search. Improve your background checks by choosing the right services.

Some aspects of a background check may or may not apply to your client. If the candidate will be handling finances, for example, you might choose to run a credit report check to see if they’re financially responsible. Or, if the candidate will be doing a great deal of driving, you could investigate their motor vehicle records for past incidents. However, a motor vehicle report isn’t necessary for an employee that wouldn’t be driving for your client.


Stay compliant

It’s crucial to follow all local, state, and federal guidelines when screening applicants. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) outlines permission and disclosure requirements. The FCRA applies to all credit-reporting agencies, such as Equifax, but it also applies to those conducting background checks. You’re required to get a candidate’s written consent prior to starting a background check,  and to notify them that the results will influence your decision-making.

There are also policies set forward by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that govern what information can be reported and how it can be used by employers. It forbids the use of ‘bright-line rules.’ An example of a bright-line rule is deciding to not extend an offer of employment if candidates have any prior convictions. Before deciding, the EEOC requires that you consider the factors surrounding the conviction. How old were they? How long has it been? Have they made visible efforts to change their behavior? How relevant is the conviction to the job? If a person has three DUIs, but won’t be doing any driving for the client’s company, are those convictions relevant?

Before taking adverse action (such as deciding against employment) due to the results of a background check, the FCRA requires that you notify the candidate, provide them with a copy of the report, and provide them the document “A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.” This will give candidates a chance to dispute or explain the information uncovered.

Understanding the laws that surround background checks can streamline your process and prevent litigation in the future. The FCRA and EEOC exist to protect your candidates and your company from discriminatory hiring practices and unintentional biases.


Improve your background checks: Trust the experts

Protecting your company and your client while remaining FCRA and EEOC-compliant can be a challenge. When it comes to something as complicated and important as a background check, it’s a good idea in most cases to outsource it to an expert.

Some background screening companies are certified by the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA), an organization that sets strict professional standards for the industry. Accredited firms comply with FCRA regulations. Using one of these organizations for your background checks can make staying compliant simple. There are many background check providers to choose from, though only some are accredited by the PBSA.

If you choose to find a background check provider, look for one that has plenty of experience in your industry. They’ll be able to recommend services, have efficient long-standing procedures, and will know any applicable regulations inside and out.



Be responsible

Above all, the most important thing to remember is never to cut corners when improving your background checks. Cutting corners on a background check can lead to workplace incidents and negligent hiring lawsuits; protect your company, your client, and the rest of your client’s employees. It’s up to you to match quality candidates with your client. Make sure your background check process is thorough, efficient, and compliant.


Originally published at Staffing Digest

About Tammy Cohen

Tammy Cohen, an industry pioneer and expert in identity and employment screening, founded InfoMart 30 years ago. Deemed the “Queen of Screen,” she’s been a force behind industry-leading innovations. She was most recently the first-to-market with a fully compliant sanctions search, as well as a suite of identity services that modernizes talent onboarding. Tammy revolutionized the screening industry when she stepped into the field, developing the first client-facing application and a due diligence criminal search that has since become standard for all background screening companies. Cohen has received national awards and honors for her business and civic involvement, including Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Top 25 Women-Owned Firms in Atlanta, Enterprising Women Magazine’s Enterprising Women of the Year award, the YWCA of Northwest Georgia’s Kathryn Woods Racial Justice Award, and a commendation in the 152nd Congressional Record. To learn more about Tammy, visit

About InfoMart

InfoMart has been revolutionizing the global background and identity screening industry for 30 years, providing businesses the information they need to make informed hiring decisions. They develop innovative technology that modernizes talent onboarding, including a first-to-market biometric identity authentication application and a verified sanctions search. The WBENC-certified company is a founding member of the Professional Background Screening Association, and they have achieved PBSA accreditation in recognition of their consistent business practices and commitment to compliance with the FCRA. The company is dedicated to customer service, speed, and accuracy, and it has been recognized for its success, workplace culture, and corporate citizenship with over 45 industry awards. To Get the Whole Story on InfoMart, please visit, follow @InfoMartUSA, or call (770) 984-2727.

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