Talent Background Checks: Answering Your Top 5 Questions

Tammy Cohen, PHR, SHRM-CP

May 13 2019

Over the past 30 years, InfoMart has conducted millions of pre-employment background checks for staffing companiesIn that time, candidates and employers have had plenty of questions about background checks. We’ve compiled a list of the most commonly asked questions so you can keep your talent informed throughout the background check process.

What’s taking so long?

The industry standard is roughly three days for domestic searches, though InfoMart’s three decades of experience keep our average turnaround time low—just 1.03 days. Explain that most screening services aren’t instantaneous. While some background screening services are automated, a trusted screening partner will augment automation with an in-person information retriever.

Often, delays are caused by candidates providing incorrect or incomplete information. Inaccurate or incomplete identifiers like a misspelled name or incorrect driver’s license number will slow the screening process, requiring additional verification or continued communication between the screening company and the consumer. Entering complete, accurate information at the outset will ensure quick turnaround (you can also contract with a screening provider who offers technology that takes care of this for you).

A variety of other factors can also influence the time it takes to return a background checkdelays due to court closures,rural jurisdictions or inclement weather, additional research needed to confirm an applicant’s identity or criminal record, and archived records can require additional processing times.

What is covered in a background check?

As a staffing professional, you already know that pre-employment background checks can be as cursory or as in-depth as an individual employer requires, but your applicants aren’t as well-versed in background screening as you are. Here’s a basic guide:

Criminal History SearchesCriminal records are sourced at the county, state, and federal levels. Employers can request a one jurisdiction search or a compilation of a variety of jurisdictions. A criminal history search returns felony, misdemeanor, and reportable traffic offenses. Searches will date back a minimum of seven years, though more serious charges may be reported regardless of search scope (where legal).

Employment Verifications: A screening professional will contact the employers submitted by your candidate and confirm dates of employment, terminations, job title or positions held, wages (where lawful), and rehire eligibility. InfoMart streamlines this process using a proprietary directory of major employers. If the employer is unavailable to assist with the verification, your candidate may be asked to provide alternative documentation such as a W2 or paystub.

Education VerificationsMuch like employment verifications, education verifications are conducted by a screening professional, who will contact disclosed education institutions and confirm graduation status and date, degree(s) earned, and major/minor courses of study. InfoMart improves the standard verification process by validating the school is properly accredited with our proprietary diploma mill scan. If unable to verify education, your candidate may be asked to provide alternative documentation, such as transcripts or a diploma.

Professional License Verifications: By contacting the applicable licensing board, a screening expert will confirm the date of certification, the type of license, its status and expiration date, the license number, and the renewal date.

Motor Vehicle Records: Using information directly from the state, MVRs reveal insurability, current license status, driving history points, and DUI offenses.

SSN Trace: By matching your placement’s SSN to their name, a social security trace will reveal a 7-year history of names and addresses used. While this can’t be used for employment decisions, it can be used to expand a criminal history search with additional jurisdictions. (InfoMart’s SSN Trace Plus goes a step further and ties jurisdictions to known arrests.)

If your talent has questions about what will be uncovered in a pre-employment background check, review your search criteria with them and explain why each part of the check is necessary.

How far back does a background check go?

That depends. Typically, seven years is the industry go-to. Search scopes are often dictated by state regulations. Some states allow employers to request ten- or fifteen-years’ worth of information while other states only allow background check providers to report information older thanseven years if the applicant will be making above a certain pay threshold. Your screening provider should partner with you to manage those regulations; for example, in the event that record data is available via a court terminal or other electronic means, InfoMart will search all available criminal records and filter out those that are not reportable based on state/federal law.

When your candidate asks this question, explain that at least seven years’ history will likely be reported but to be prepared for any criminal conviction to appear.

What does a drug test look for? Will marijuana still show up?

Drug tests look for evidence of substances, legal or otherwise, that inhibit or impair an employee’s ability work. They are highly customizable, but the standard 5-panel test screens for cannabinoids (marijuana), cocaine, methamphetamine, opiates, and phencyclidine (PCP). More expansive drug tests can detect methadone, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, propoxyphene, methaqualone, ecstasy, oxycodone, fentanyl, tramadol, meperidine, buprenorphine, and LSD.

Drug tests are analyzed, and positive results are confirmed by a licensed medical review officer (MRO). They certify the results are correct and minimize inaccurate testing.

Despite many states moving to legalize marijuana, it is still illegal at the federal level. Currently, regardless of the state in which your talent lives or works, employers can test and make employment decisions based on marijuana results.

What happens if I fail a background check?

When it comes to the results of a background check, every employer has different policies. If the background check reveals a past conviction, that isn’t automatic grounds for withdrawing an employment offer. EEOC guidelines require employers to evaluate the relevance of the criminal activity before taking adverse employment action.

Each business is different and has their own policy regarding hiring candidates with past criminal histories. Many businesses are willing to work with these candidates, while others are not. Encourage your candidate not to be discouraged and direct them to resources that inform them of their rights under the FCRA and EEOC.

By making the background check process simple for your talent, you can focus on what really matters: finding great talent to fill your customers’ positions. 

Not certain you’re receiving accurate information or stellar service from your current background screening provider? InfoMart’s risk-free screening audit is here to help. Learn more.

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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