Description: Contrary to popular belief, there is more than one way to run a background check. With that in mind, we take a look at the many different angles from which you can consider your pre-employment screening process.
“How do I run a background check on my prospective employees?”
This question is one that has been asked time and time again over the years, whether by newly promoted managers who don’t really know how to set up proper pre-employment background checksor by new business owners who have never overseen a hiring process before. Often, these individuals assume that there is one standard way to run background checks – one centralized database that every employer searches to make sure that applicants haven’t committed violent crimes, embezzled money, or committed other offenses that may preclude them from performing well in a specific job.
The truth is, there is no standard background check and no centralized hub of data that will tell you everything you need to know about your prospective employees. In fact, there are many different ways to perform a pre-employment background screening, and you will have to decide which is right for you based on a number of factors. Read on to learn about just a few of the common ways the pre-employment screenings might be conducted.
Run County Criminal History Checks
Every business has different background check policies in place. However, the vast majority of pre-employment screenings are built on a foundation of criminal history checks, and more specifically, criminal checks at local county courthouses. There are a number of reasons that the county check is essential for virtually any kind of business.
First of all, most businesses have one centralized location. As a result, most employees of any given business reside and spend most of their time in the local area directly surrounding the business location. It then stands to reasonthat if these employees were to commit a crime, there is a good chance that it would be logged at a local courthouse. Secondly, since most felony or misdemeanor charges are filed at a county courthouse—rather than in a state or federal court—most criminal history will be found at this localized level of the justice system.
Conduct State Criminal History Checks
The most detailed and up-to-date criminal records are found at the county level, which is why county criminal searches are popular. However, the drawback to such screenings is that they only look at one very small area on the map. State criminal checks help to widen the net of coverage. County courthouses report to state repositories, which can then be searched to provide a broader portrait of criminal activity. Since not all courthouses report to state repositories in a timely fashion or on a regular basis, it’s best to run these state checks in addition to county court searches, rather than in place of them.
Do an Address History Search
In order to be as thorough as possible with their criminal searches, some employers will do alias and address history checks, to learn which names their applicants have gone by and where those applicants have lived in the past. This information itself won’t have any direct impact on whether or not you choose to hire someone, but that doesn’t mean you should skip the alias/address check. What this information can do is provide you with a list of counties where you can then order localized criminal checks. This way, you get detailed information about each area where your prospective employee spent a considerable amount of time, minimizing the chances that you will miss a notable criminal charge.
Look into Multi-Jurisdictional Searches
As mentioned previously, there is no centralized background check hub that can allow you to search every single criminal record in the United States in one fell swoop. The closest you will get to that concept is with multi-jurisdictional searches, which comb through massive databases of criminal information compiled from all over the country. We have one of these databases at backgroundchecks.com, called US OneSEARCH. The FBI also maintains a multi-jurisdictional database, though access to it is restricted to most private employers.
Using these databases can be a great way to broaden your criminal history search to the national level. However, in using these systems, take the same precautions you would in leaping from county to state checks. Just as state repositories are not always up to date or thorough, all multi-jurisdictional databases will naturally be missing some criminal history information. There are simply too many criminal records at too many different courts for them all to be compiled into a single tool. So do a multi-jurisdictional search, but also run your county and state checks.
Consider Additional Background Checks
For some employers, the pre-employment background check starts and stops with criminal background checks. You might consider additional background checks if you want to know more about your applicants, or if your employees will have specialized duties that relate directly to other types of record checks. For instance, jobs involving finances or accounts might necessitate a credit check, while delivery or truck driver screenings will include driving history checks. You can also search civil court records, sex offender registries, and national security watch lists.
Verify Resume Information
Another way to add value to your background screenings is to run verification checks to make sure that your applicant didn’t lie on his or her resume. Contacting former employers, references, colleges or universities, and professional licensing bodies can help you to discern fact from fiction in regards to employment history, education, professional credentials, and more.
What about Social Media Background Checks
You may have noticed that social media background checks were not listed above among the different ways in which you can check a prospective employee’s background. That’s because these checks are not recommended because the how they may reveal information (including race, religion, or sexual orientation) that you as the employer are not allowed to know. Social checks can be valuable for learning more about how your applicant behaves outside of work, which can in turn help you to dodge hires with bad attitudes or dangerous, self-destructive habits.
However, if you are going to look at an applicant’s Facebook page, someone outside of the hiring committee should do so and then compile a report about what they find. The report can then leave out any information that might introduce bias or discrimination into the equation.
As you can see, there are a lot of different ways to go about running a background check, and a lot of different angles to consider with your pre-employment screening process. Luckily, by working with a third-party company like backgroundchecks.com, you can hand over the responsibilities to someone else, giving yourself more time to consider the applicant’s work qualifications and portfolio.
Michael Klazema has been developing products for pre-employment screening and improving online customer experiences in the background screening industry since 2009. He is the lead author and editor for Backgroundchecks.com. He lives in Dallas, TX with his family and enjoys the rich culinary histories of various old and new world countries.