In addition to checking references, some companies are including credit reports and background checks as part of the employee screening process. For some industries such as finance, healthcare, or education, background checks have become mandatory.
If you are not currently required to perform background checks but think it may be a useful tool for weeding out potential bad hires, below are some important issues you need to consider.
Why Conduct a Background Check?
Your goal should be to use the background check as one more tool in your hiring decision. As an employer, you want to provide the safest possible work environment for everyone in your employ. While there is no guarantee that a clean report means that someone won’t commit a criminal act in the future, it may reduce the likelihood that something may go wrong.
If you are going to institute background checks, make sure you establish a policy that:
- Provides guidelines and criteria on which positions require background checks;
- Articulates the process for conducting background checks;
- Defines who will have access to the information so that the privacy of the individual is maintained.
Getting the Report
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, if you are performing a background check as an employer, you have to use a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA). CRAs are required to maintain certain standards for data protection and dispute resolution.
If you reject an employee based on a company that isn’t a CRA, you could be in trouble with the Federal Trade Commission.
The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau provides a fairly complete list which is divided into categories such as credit reporting, employment history, insurance, etc.
If you want to conduct a criminal background check, there are online databases that offer quick and easy ways to search millions of criminal records. The benefits of using online databases are that they are quick, easy and relatively inexpensive. However, they are not comprehensive, may include inaccuracies, and should not be relied on exclusively.
Thus, if a criminal report is required, you should look into third party providers that provide these services professionally.
Comprehensive reports typically take one to two weeks to complete and costs vary from state to state and provider to provider.
Evaluating the Report
Imagine having your past experiences condensed into a written report with no opportunity to provide any context for some transgression that occurred years ago.
Therefore, when reviewing background reports, look for patterns and don’t let one instance of poor judgment or bad behavior drive your decision. For example, if someone was taken to court for not paying rent when they were a recent college graduate, that indicates someone who made a poor choice on how to handle a difficult situation. You should remind yourself that recent college grads typically struggle with making ends meet. As long as there is no pattern of not paying debts, the benefit of the doubt may be applicable.
If You See Something Say Something
If you do find some information troubling, take the time to discuss it with your candidate. You don't want to lose a great potential employee over something that can be discussed and resolved to your satisfaction. If you still have concerns after your conversation, then at least you will know that you gave that person every opportunity to present their side of the story.
In conclusion, background checks can be invaluable tools in weeding out potentially dangerous or dishonest employees. As always, develop a policy that is within your state and federal guidelines and determine who will do the checks, your staff or a third party vendor.
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