A background check is one of the most nuanced aspects of the hiring process. Job candidates might have unmatched experience, but a blemish on their criminal records changes things.
Hiring teams must practice due diligence and review each candidate with the company’s safety and reputation in mind. Here are six factors to consider when conducting a background check.
1. Data Accuracy
First and foremost, hiring teams must confirm the truthfulness of the candidate’s information. People lie on their resumes all the time and background checks can have inaccuracies as well. Here are some of the most common mistakes found on background checks:
- Wrong Social Security number
- Outdated or incomplete documents
- Incorrect criminal records
- Mistaken identity
- Data mix-ups between two or more people
Most of the time, inaccuracies appear on background checks due to simple human error. An employee with a background check service might simply make a mistake while filling out a candidate’s information. However, these businesses often use automated forms, so a machine error or lack of updates might also be to blame.
Organizations also have to deal with identity theft in extreme cases. A seemingly ordinary resume and background check might be cover-ups for a criminal and any crimes they commit will fall on the unsuspecting victim of the identity theft. This situation demonstrates the importance of thorough background check screenings — people’s livelihoods and reputations are at stake.
2. Different Types of Background Checks
Companies must conduct several types of background checks to learn as much about their applicants as possible. Aside from the standard resume review process, they must check these three boxes:
- Credit background check: Employers can evaluate someone’s credit history by contacting different financial institutions, such as the person’s bank or credit union.
- Criminal background check: All criminal information not provided by the applicant comes from a local, state or federal court system.
- Driving record check: All driving information comes from the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Minor driving offenses like speeding tickets usually don’t impact someone’s candidacy.
If a candidate has a criminal history, hiring teams should take a closer look at the severity of the punishment. For example, getting caught with an open container while driving can result in a summary offense with a $300 fine and up to 90 days in jail. Consequences can be lenient and downplay the seriousness of the incident. It’s always best to play on the safe side.
3. Rules and Regulations
Background checks have many federal and state laws to protect candidate confidentiality and prevent unfair hiring practices. Every business owner and manager must be aware of these legislations:
- Fair Credit Reporting Act: The FCRA is the most important legislation requiring employers to get consent from job applicants to conduct credit and criminal background checks. Applicants can also review and dispute the results and seek legal action if they’re unjustly denied employment.
- Ban the Box Laws: Many states have passed these types of laws, prohibiting employers from asking candidates about their criminal history. In most cases, employers can only request a complete background check after making an official job offer. This arrangement prevents organizations from disregarding applicants with criminal histories.
- Drug Screening Laws: Drug testing is a common part of the hiring process, but it has become increasingly complicated due to the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana. New York, New Jersey and Illinois have outlawed all adverse actions against candidates because of their recreational drug use.
- Americans with Disabilities Act: Workplaces with more than 15 employees cannot discriminate against applicants based on physical or mental disabilities. This law also prohibits employers from leveraging medical information against candidates.
Navigating these legal obstacles has become easier with the digitization of the hiring process. Everything happens online now, from reviewing resumes to conducting interviews. The increased transparency of virtual hiring allows businesses and candidates to interact with greater mutual trust.
4. Previous Employers
A candidate’s employment history can reveal a lot about the person’s true character. If they have demonstrated loyalty and a strong work ethic despite the flaws on their background check, hiring managers should take them more seriously.
On the other hand, someone who jumps from company to company every few months might be a poor fit despite their clean record. People skills are just as necessary as qualifications and experience. Background checks are important, but hiring teams can’t get too caught up in the technicalities.
Sometimes the best course of action is a simple email or phone call to the candidate’s most recent employer. An online database or document can’t attest to the individual’s personality, relationships with co-workers and other human aspects of the workplace. Many elements go into a background check besides checking the person’s resume and criminal record.
5. Licenses, Certifications and Other Credentials
Reaching out to former employers is an essential step in the hiring process for another reason — as previously mentioned, people are not shy about lying on their resumes. They can fictionalize entire job positions, years of experience, licenses and certifications. Organizations have to confirm the authenticity of these details.
People can also mislead employers during virtual interviews. Since the onset of COVID-19, many hiring teams have switched to virtual interviews permanently. This arrangement might be more straightforward for both parties, but it also prevents them from getting an in-person experience with each other and properly evaluating their character.
6. Pre-Adverse Action
Pre-adverse action is required if a business has to deny a candidate or terminate a staff member due to criminal activity or poor driving record. The standard operating procedure is to send the candidate a formal letter outlining the problematic items on the background check and why they impacted the hiring decision.
The organization must also provide a copy of the background check and any state-required documents. If an organization fails to take pre-adverse action, the candidate can file a lawsuit for wrongful denial or termination of employment. Nobody wants a legal battle on their hands, so take the time to complete these steps to maintain full transparency.
Practice Due Diligence With Background Checks
Background checks should be straightforward, but human behavior is far too unpredictable to trust a handful of personal records. Companies must practice due diligence and learn about the applicant’s history with others, not just their qualifications and criminal record.
This information is crucial, but it doesn’t paint the whole picture. Gather the necessary documents and dive deeper into the applicant’s character.
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