How to Approach a New Hire Background Check

Tammy Cohen, PHR, SHRM-CP
March 15 2017

A new hire 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.

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 a new hire background check 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 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.

Don’t seek out only the negative on a candidate, either. A new hire background check is often seen as a hunt for “the dirt” on a person, but try using the search as an opportunity to the find positive traits of a candidate.

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 you miss. Seeking out a reputable pre-employment screening company will ensure that you not only have all the information, but that the search is done legally, without any bias.

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

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.

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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