Pre-Employment Background Check - An absolute must for a serious company

What are background checks?

Ever wondered what a pre-employment background check was? A lot of people hear about this over the course of time, but not many of them know what a detailed background check consists of, and why these types of procedures exist in the first place.

Pre-employment background checks have become a common sight in a great number of companies. They exist for one simple reason: to help a company avoid any job application problems i.e. to make sure that all the people working for a certain employer are in no way connected to activities that might be considered criminal, and that they come out clean in any criminal history background check. Although they sometimes might seem like a stringent measure with the potential for employee discrimination, background checks are a great way of ensuring that only qualified employees get hired.

What do background checks include?

Since the idea behind pre-employment checks is to verify the employees' claims and take a look inside their potential criminal history, the common features included in the screening process are (but not limited to):

  • Criminal history and credit history screening

    The scope of a criminal check depends on state laws and the procedures carried out by government employees ; in the case of a criminal record, candidates are strongly advised to enclose a document explaining (in detail) what the criminal act was, what the cause of it was and all its associated details. Of course, all of this should be backed by as many pieces of evidence as one can obtain. The candidate's version of the event that took place should be strengthened by official court documents- they will be their best allies.

    A company should also know exactly how to check credit history, because this can be just as tricky as criminal checks, albeit to a lesser extent. Companies usually do not hold late payments against their potential workers, but if a more complicated situation takes place, involving court proceedings, many companies will have second thoughts about it. In order to prevent any hiring risks, the best thing for a candidate to do is to run their own credit check prior to applying for a position.

  • Social security number tracing

    This is definitely one of the most effective ways of conducting a background check. The best part about it is the simplicity of the process; there is no need to search separately for the name, address and additional information, because it is all there under the number's nine digits. Moreover, this kind of query will provide information about criminal history as well (arrests, etc.).

  • Verification of employment and education

    Know that most certifications, licenses, degrees and official work positions are a part of public records, which means that they are fairly easy to find and verify. There is no need to lie about a degree or augment the importance of a past job. Eventually, the employer will see through the candidate's masks.

  • Skill(s) assessment

    This is something that should not be taken for granted. One may have a clean record and substantial experience, but skill assessment will present a candidate in all their glory- or all their shame. There are many ways a company could measure the knowledge of the skills required. Performance-based testing (which includes advanced software programs) is a good way of ensuring accurate results and reliable information. There are also many other tests: medical, industrial, HR, clerical, etc. By employing them, a company will get a clear picture about a candidate's level of proficiency and his/her suitability.

  • Drug testing

    Drug testing has become an inseparable part of many pre-employment screenings; therefore, one should not be surprised to find himself/herself subjected to it. There is no way to avoid drug testing, so one should start preparing for it as soon as he/she sets a goal for joining a certain company. If a candidate is on prescribed medication, a good idea is to provide legal proof for it.

  • Screening of motor vehicle records and sex offender registry

    Motor Vehicle Records (MVR) are the source of information for a candidate's driving history, including suspensions, accidents, traffic violations, etc. They usually go for three years, but can go back up to seven years, depending on the state.

    In order to rule out the possibility of hiring someone with a history of sex offenses, more and more companies opt for sex offender registry searches. As for motor vehicle records, sex offender rules vary by state, but there is also the possibility of conducting a nationwide check.

The screenings are not the same every single time. A background check depends on the company in question, as well as the state in which the company is located. There are states that do not allow employers to check compensation claims, and many states have their own rules and regulations concerning the background screening processes. Companies can go through the screening process in two ways: they can either do the check themselves or engage the services of a third-party- a company specialized in providing background checks for their clients. In the case of engaging a third-party in the screening process, the background check falls under the Fair Credit Report Act (FCRA) , which automatically means that, before an employer even starts the check (defined by FCRA as a consumer report), they have to notify the potential employee in writing and get their written consent.

When it comes to the actual screening process, many people tend to get frightened, but there is no need for it. Background checks are meant to be beneficial to both employers and employees, and they should be considered a great way of improving upon human communication. If one really wants to be well prepared for a background check, the best way to achieve this is by being aware of all the information the potential employer might come across. An accurate, truthful resume is the best ticket on board a new company. Dishonesty is bound to be revealed, sooner or later.

Pre-employment background check companies

Nowadays, there are many companies whose main purpose is to offer employment screening services. These companies can range from private investigators to employment screeners and online data brokers. A directory of these companies can be found at the National Association of Professional Background Screeners. A background screening service can do a wonderful job of checking potential candidates; they simplify the entire process by doing the tedious, time-consuming tasks themselves, instead of leaving it to the company that is about to take new employees on board. The best background check companies in the business are able to provide the needed information promptly, and they are easy to work with. Background screeners deal with altered resume dates, false claims, unrealistic salary numbers, false work history, etc. They offer complete screening, from a basic overview to more complex investigation.

However, not all background screening companies offer quality services. The Internet is full of companies with "instant checks", and one should take precaution upon engaging the services of such a provider. If an employer goes with cheap or fast, the only thing to come to surface will be poor-quality information or semi-accurate data. The companies that deliver such output are definitely not capable of coming through with high-quality work.

Background check laws

On the federal level, there are no specific laws concerning pre-employment background checks. However, certain aspects of the Federal Credit Reporting Act have set standards for credit checks; since credit checks are a part of pre-employment background checks, the rules can be applied to them as well. Another good resource of legal aid is the Federal Bankruptcy Act; it can fill the void created by the absence of federal background check laws.

Before an employer decides to make inquiries into an applicant's records, they should go through all federal and state laws that apply. Employers are also advised not to infringe upon the rights of minority persons applying for a position; any practice that questions the rights of minorities is considered a violation. Since rules and regulations on background checks vary from state to state, employers are strongly advised to scan the legal documents that apply to a specific state and thus avoid potential problems.

Additional legal measures have been included in order to regulate arrests and convictions in employment. It has been estimated that one out of four working-age Americans has some kind of criminal record. Since a history of arrests/convictions can cause a lot of trouble during employment screening, something had to be done to deal with this burning issue. Fortunately, there are certain legal protections that can help towards reaching a positive outcome. For example, federal laws do not protect applicants from discrimination based on criminal records, but they do protect against racial discrimination, which is a fact that could come in handy.

It is a decision of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that an employer who excludes all applicants with a criminal record will automatically exclude a higher percentage of African/Latin Americans which, in turn, can be interpreted as illegal discrimination. In addition to this, many states have different sets of legal protection for those applicants with some sort of criminal past. Some states prohibit inquiries about arrest records (at least for those no longer pending), and some allow arrest inquiries only if they are relevant to the position applied for. There are also particular facts that should be taken into consideration: the seriousness of the crime, the degree of involvement, rehabilitation measures, etc.

Background check verification

As part of the background check, an employer may decide to verify an applicant's employment history and confirm the work experience listed in the application. Typically, the verification process includes job titles, the start/end dates for each job, salaries, work performance, etc. If an employer comes across false information, or intentionally disclosed data, he/she may come to think that the applicant in question is not the right person for the job. If there is any discrepancy between the information provided by the applicant and the report form the screening company, it will reflects badly on the applicant's image, making them highly unlikely to take the position they applied for. In a large company, employment verification is usually conducted by HR department or payroll department. However, many companies decide to hire third-party service providers.

Unfortunately, employment verification has its drawbacks. First of all, one cannot be sure that a previous employer will respond in a timely manner, or respond at all. Secondly, there are employers who are willing to respond to an inquiry, but prefer not to disclose sensitive company information. Also, employer contact information (provided by the applicant) is not always accurate. Therefore, employers who decide to verify an applicant's information have to be extremely careful and know what they are getting into.

Most types of employment verification do not take long. On average, they are completed and returned within a three-day period but, since they cannot be successfully completed without the help of previous employer(s), they sometimes take much longer. Many employers are too slow to respond, and there are also those who are extremely difficult to get a hold of. Usually, there are at least three attempts directed towards contacting an employer or a verification service: by mail, email, phone and fax. Due to the uneven nature of the turnaround time, patience during the verification process is very important.

Information that cannot be included in a background check

The standards for employment screening are set by FCRA. The law only applies to those screenings conducted by an outside company; in-house company screenings are exempt of this. However, potential job applicants are entitled to their own rights concerning the background checks.

As the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse clearly states, the following information cannot be obtained through a screening procedure:

  • Bankruptcies after 10 years

  • Civil suits, civil judgments and records of arrest

  • Paid tax liens after seven years

  • Accounts placed for collection after seven years

  • Any other negative information (except criminal convictions) after seven years.

Nevertheless, the aforementioned regulations only apply to those positions that offer an annual salary of less than 75, 000 (this is something all applicants should have in mind).

Once again, the rules and regulations covering background checks differ from state to state, so the best thing for a potential job candidate (as well as employer) would be to go through the relevant database and make sure they abide the law.

Also, there is no law that restricts employers from asking questions that might be considered an indirect search into the applicant's work history. A good example of this practice is the situation when an employer wants to know about the applicant's previous criminal records. A specific time period does not have to be stated, and this automatically includes the time before the seven-year period. Due to this loophole, many people face problems upon background screening; this goes especially for people without a lot of experience concerning the whole procedure.

Fortunately, there are state laws that may limit the scope of questions the employer is allowed to ask an applicant; these laws are generally known as Ban the Box, which is the name of an international, civil rights group's campaign aimed at ending employment discrimination. The whole idea behind the campaign is to give ex-offenders the right to show their qualification before they are asked about their criminal records.

The Applicants' Rights

If an applicant thinks that the screening process was discriminatory, there is an option of contacting the EEOC. The main role of this commission is to enforce federal laws regarding employment discrimination. An applicant cannot be discriminated because of their race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), nationality, age, and physical/mental disability.

If an applicant is rejected without prior notices, they can contact the FTC , whose main goal is to protect consumers by preventing fraudulent and deceptive business practices and providing relevant information.

Legal consequences for employers

There are many ways an employer can discriminate an applicant, but the most common ones are:

  • failing to get an applicant's agreement prior to getting a copy of their credit (or other) background report

  • failing to provide the relevant disclosures in a timely manner

Applicants are strongly advised to report any violation of the background check procedures to the FTC, because they (as well as federal agencies and states) are empowered by law to sue every employer with a proven record of employment discrimination. According to FCRA, certain violations allow for employers to be sued in state or federal court.

Conclusion

It is true that background checks can sometimes seem like dreadful occurrences, but they should nevertheless be seen as a window of opportunity. If done properly, these checks will do wonders for all parties by keeping the game fair and square. Applicants with a clear, shiny resume have nothing to worry about; those with a few smudges should do their best to come forward and make a name for themselves in the market without engaging in fraudulent activity. All in all, with the economy as it is, finding the right co-workers and employees is getting harder by the day. Until people find a better approach to employment screening, background checks will be the best tool out there.

If you want to know more about employment background checks, or want to check your potential employees' driving records, be sure to visit You will be amazed by the number of options they offer, as well as the overall quality of service. From driving record checks to drug screening, 4safedrivers will do their best to make you feel secure and happy. Do not miss it! Visit now, and see for yourself.

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