A Simple Guide to Employee Background Checks
Employee background checks can be an important part of the hiring process. Not only do they help you hire the right people, they also play a role in reducing organizational risk and keeping your workplace safe.
There are many kinds of background checks available and many rules for conducting them correctly. If you’re looking to add an employee verification element into your hiring process, here are a few ways to maximize your return on investment.
Stick with what’s relevant
The kinds of background checks an employer can conduct are wide ranging and include everything from credit checks, education, and driving records to social media, drug testing, and criminal history.
To put each candidate through all possible background checks is both expensive and unnecessary. Do you really need to know if your new accounting hire has a bad driving record or if your receptionist has a low credit score? Probably not.
Evaluate each position and job description individually to determine what background checks are necessary and why, and then follow through with checks that make the most sense.
Know the law
Background checks can be a good thing, but they also have the potential to go bad. If you’re unsure of how to conduct them correctly, you could end up creating more problems than you were hoping to solve.
Many states, including California, have passed laws regulating how to deal with criminal background checks. These laws are intended to help even the playing field for candidates—
reducing discrimination during the hiring process and increasing workplace diversity.
Employers used to be able to screen out applicants with any kind of criminal history by placing a simple check box on a job application inquiring about criminal convictions. This may sound like a good idea in theory, but in reality, “Do you have a criminal record?” isn’t always an easy question or a simple answer. It’s also not necessarily a good indication of whether or not someone will be a good employee.
The Fair Chance Act and other “Ban the Box” laws are in full effect and require employers to follow certain procedures. It’s important to know which laws apply to you and your candidates so you can make the most of your hiring practices while staying in compliance.
Do it the right way
- Inform candidates if a background check is part of the hiring process. This is required by law.
- Pay attention to restrictions regarding the timing and nature of various background checks. Doing a criminal background check too early in the hiring process can get you in trouble. Doing a credit check when it’s not necessary can also get you in trouble. It’s important to know the rules here.
- Use these tools to your advantage. Yes, you can make hiring decisions based on background check results, but you have to follow the proper Adverse Action process when doing so. Skipping out on this process will open you up to legal risk.
What NOT to do
- Decline to share background check information. Candidates are entitled to see this information upon request. Having this discussion not only gives applicants their results, it also allows for an opportunity to explore mitigating circumstances and clear up any potential mistakes.
- Institute a one size fits all policy. While this kind of policy may seem clear and easy to enforce, it could also put you in violation. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recommends tailoring your policy based on each individual position and role so that any basis for rejection is relevant and necessary.
- Skimp on your background service provider or processes. Googling a candidate isn’t enough. Make an investment in getting it right. Any money you might save going the inexpensive route will mean nothing if your background checks are incomplete or your business is out of compliance.
- Forget the little things. Always check references and employment to make sure your candidate’s resume speaks the truth. Consider skills testing to make sure they have what it takes to do the job.
The payoff? A better organization.
Hiring the right people requires having effective recruitment and hiring processes in place, and background checks can be an important part of that equation. Taking the time to create a system that works for your HR team, your employees, and your candidates while keeping your business in compliance will put your company on the path to success.