Everything You Need to Know About Employee Background Checks

When you are in the process of hiring a candidate, it’s important to consider whether you want to conduct a background check.

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FAQs regarding employee background checks

Employee background checks are a perhaps unpleasant but largely necessary element of modern employment. Looking into your employees’ past can be an essential part of keeping your workforce safe. There are several types of background checks you can run (more on that in a bit!) that can uncover everything from credit to criminal histories.

Perhaps you’re growing to a size where employee background checks are making more sense and you’re about to embark on the process for the first time. Or you’re realizing that there’s been a pretty significant gap between some of your hires and the background check you ran on them decades ago. Whatever you may be experiencing, here are tips and tricks for small business leaders to consider when it comes to conducting employee background checks.

What is an employee background check?

An employee background check is a process that an employer conducts to essentially verify that an applicant is who they say they are. Background checks can cover everything from criminal and employment history to verifying education and other past activities.

Conducting a background check on an applicant could happen at any point of the hiring process. You could run it right out of the gate if you need to verify certain employment history as a condition of employment, but background checks are usually done the same time that references are checked or at the end of the hiring process as a condition in an employment offer letter.

Background checks are usually done the same time that references are checked or at the end of the hiring process as a condition in an employment offer letter.

What do employee background checks consist of?

There are a number of different background checks that you can run. Each of them is a bit different in terms of how long they go back and what they look at (aka what they do and don’t include).

The most common background checks conducted in professional settings are employment background checks, e-verify background checks, and criminal background checks. There are more specific ones you can choose to run as well if it makes sense for your business: fingerprint background checks, international background checks, and professional licenses background checks to name a few.

When it comes to the most common ones, here’s what they consist of.

Employment background checks

These are the background checks that most employers conduct. They typically take place when someone applies for or is hired for a new job, but employers can generally run background checks at any time they deem necessary. Some employers opt to conduct drug and criminal history checks to ensure a safe work environment for all on something like an annual or bi-annual basis. These types of checks generally go back 7 years, but it varies by state.

Criminal background checks

This is the stickiest one of them all. While a criminal background check can be essential for some jobs (think healthcare or those involving children), it can be an unfair hurdle for the formerly incarcerated at the same time. These types of background checks look into things like sex offender registries, county criminal courts, state criminal records, and more.

E-verify background checks

These are used similarly to the I-9 form that the IRS requires, but the e-verify process checks that a person is legally authorized to work in the United States.

What are the pros and cons of conducting employee background checks?

As mentioned above, background checks can help ensure that you’re not bringing new people into an office environment where they could be a threat to the safety of your employees, but it also creates an unfair hurdle for formerly incarcerated people. It’s all about how you use the information you get.

Background checks can help ensure that you’re not bringing new people into an office environment where they could be a threat to the safety of your employees, but it also creates an unfair hurdle for formerly incarcerated people.

When should I run employee background checks?

Background checks usually run during the application or employment offer stages for new hires, but some employers choose to run them as they see fit or on recurring timelines. Running background checks too frequently can undermine employee trust, so be cognizant about how you’re wielding that tool.

How do I run employee background checks?

You need basic personal information to run background checks. Generally, what you need is a person’s full legal name, their Social Security number, and their current and former addresses. On your end, you’ll generally want to use a background service provider. There are quite a few to choose from — Checkr, GoodHire, HireRight, and IntelliCorp to name a few.

How long does it take to run an employee background check?

While most background checks take between a couple of days to a week, the more complex ones like those run through the FBI can take closer to a month to complete. Depending on which background checks you run, be sure to bake this into your hiring schedule!

How much does it cost to run an employee background check?

The cost element varies based on the depth of the background check you want to run. Some can cost as little as $10 while others can creep up to the $500 mark. The company or service you choose to run your background checks will also create a cost variable as well — like in all things, some companies charge more than others.

Do employees have a right to see the results of their background checks?

The most important thing to know is that it is illegal to run a background check on someone without their consent and it is illegal to elect to run them based on anything discriminatory like race or age. Some states require that employers offer or provide a copy of background check results to applicants or employees, so be sure to check with your state.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission outlines all the laws and regulations that you have to comply with when running background checks in this handy guide for employers which is worth checking out.

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