A background check is an important part of the hiring process, but it can be a tricky task to complete. Potential employers could worry that they have not gathered enough information or are digging deeper into an applicant’s past than is legal. They might also wonder where to even find information on the candidates and what they should be looking for in the first place.

There are few key principles of a new employee background check that can help steer you in the right direction, and ensure that you are able to put together a complete picture of an applicant’s history.

Be Thorough

Often, companies will perform a quick online search of a potential employee and call it a victory if they do not find a mug shot. This approach is obviously not ideal.

When conducting your search, check as many resources as possible to get a full picture. For example, looking into county court records is a great idea to investigate a criminal background, but you could be missing activity that occurred in neighboring counties. A statewide search could uncover these other crimes.

Be Mindful of the Law

It is crucial that you inform your potential employee that you will be performing the search in writing and receive a signed disclosure and consent form acknowledging from the candidate. Otherwise, you are conducting an illegal search by federal standards. Also, verify that you are not searching records that you should not have access to. Investigating into medical records and similar history is considered an invasion of privacy and is punishable by law.

It is recommended that a company eliminate the question “have you ever been convicted of a crime?” from any form or application you give to a potential employee. The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) is currently working to remove this from the initial hiring process and is encouraging businesses to instead interview all applicants fairly before conducting a broad search. Many states still allow this question to be asked, so if it is still included in your application, it is imperative that an admitted criminal history alone is not used as the reason to deny employment.

Be Fair

Even if you feel more biased towards one applicant over another, it is crucial that everyone receive the same quality of search. Looking more or less into a particular candidate’s background could bring you up on charges of discrimination.

Also, don’t seek out only the negative on a candidate. Background checks are often seen as a hunt for “the dirt” on a person, but trying using the search as an opportunity to find positive traits about a candidate that you were on the fence about as well.

Try to recognize patterns that could indicate positive or negative results. Finding a single good or bad piece of history might not be an indicator of the candidate’s entire history, but rather a single kind deed or bad night.

Be Aware of Your Limitations

Online searches can be convenient, but they do not tell the whole story. Even if your company reaches out to county and state governments to access criminal records, there could still be some data sources you might miss. Seeking out a reputable pre-employment screening company will ensure that you not only have a full range of information, but that it is done legally and without bias.

Background screening can take a large amount of your hiring managers’ time and energy. But by following best practices and using a quality background screening company, your company will receive the most comprehensive and accurate background search that is legally possible, helping you to hire the top candidate for a position.

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