Background checks are a critical step in the hiring process for employers across all industries, for all positions. They verify that a prospective employee is honest, reliable, and qualified for the job and a good fit for the company. Additionally, they can help reduce your liability as an employer.
There are different types of background checks employers may request. While most are conducted pre-employment, some companies run certain background checks throughout the life of employment due to legal mandates or for cause.
Below, we’re breaking down 11 kinds of employment background checks, what the reports involve, and why they are important.
The criminal history is most often what we think of when we hear the words “background check.” Employers perform this check to ensure the prospective employee doesn’t pose a threat to customers or the workplace. Many also pull criminal history reports prior to a promotion, transfer, or other change in the employment agreement.
A criminal background check typically includes record searches of:
- National criminal databases
- County criminal courts
- Federal and state criminal records
- Sex offender registries
- Domestic and global terrorist watch lists
Why employers need to do it: It can reduce your liability and prevent claims of negligence against your organization for hiring or retaining an employee who commits workplace violence or some other act that results in harm to a person (e.g., sexual assault) or property (e.g., theft).
Employers should also know their state laws regarding criminal background checks, as different states use different methods (e.g., name-based check and employment history check, or national fingerprint-based check).
Although employers are not required to run a terrorist list check on potential employees, those who find a match on the federal listing of Specially Designated Nationals are required to report it to the Office of Foreign Assets Control. Consult your attorney to determine your legal obligations.
As the name implies, an employment history check confirms a candidate’s prior work experience. This allows employers to get a comprehensive view of the applicant’s job stability, integrity, and loyalty to past employers. It could also raise questions about gaps in employment history and/or short spells at other companies.
Hiring managers can can contact previous employers to verify:
- Job start and end dates
- Titles held
- Job duties or description
- Reason for termination or leaving the company
Why employers need to do it: Unfortunately, many lie and embellish their past work experience on their resumes and during interviews. Employers should verify that the candidate is being honest about their prior job history, skills, and experience before making a job offer.
An education history check confirms the applicant’s level of education and where they received their education. This is another area where many prospective employees list academic degrees they never obtained or educational institutions they never attended.
Why employers need to do it: The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) states that some positions classified as exempt require employees to have advanced or specialized education. If the FLSA challenges the exemption, the employer must prove the worker has appropriate credentials, which can be validated by an education verification check.
Ask job applicants for professional references, then actually reach out to them! This type of check gives you an opportunity to:
- Ask about the candidate’s past performance.
- Fact-check anything the candidate included on their application, resume, or during their interview
- Learn what kind of co-worker the candidate would be.
Use open-ended questions with references and keep it conversational in order to obtain more useful details.
Why employers need to do it: Speaking with a prospective employee’s professional references provides a third-party, personal insight into their character and ensures they’ll fit into the company culture.
Drug screening, which tests if alcohol or drugs are present in the person’s system, is required in industries like truck driving and aviation. Employers perform drug tests to ensure employees are in a healthy state of mind, unimpaired, and capable of performing their jobs safely and effectively.
Drug screening is often done both pre-employment and periodically throughout employment for certain industries and positions. Note that drug tests typically require prior notice and can only be performed with permission.
Common drug screening methods include:
- 5-panel or 10-panel urinalysis
- Hair testing
Why employers need to do it: Aside from following legal requirements, drug testing keeps your employees, customers, company, and community safe.
Sexual Offender Registry
Every company should perform a sexual offender registry check on all potential employees to ensure they don’t hire someone with a past history of sexual offenses. A sex offender registry search is a crucial background check for any employee, but particularly for positions working with minors, schools, education, or day cares.
Why employers need to do it: Conducting sex offender registry checks reduces your organization’s risk of workplace sex offenses or violence. If your company does not perform this background check, it could lead to accusations of negligent hiring or retention lawsuits.
Consumer Credit Report
You may not think of this type of background check initially, but a credit report is often run for candidates applying for positions that require financial responsibility. This helps an employer determine if the applicant can be trusted to handle money and finances.
A credit history report is pulled from one of the three major credit agencies:
Employers need to be aware that:
- Credit checks can only be performed with express permission from the individual being tested.
- Some states and cities have made it illegal to base hiring decisions on credit scores.
Many Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and state laws prohibit the use of credit reports. Employers should only pull credit checks for positions where credit scrutiny is critical and you can present a compelling business reason for it.
Why employers need to do it: Credit reports are important for positions that require significant financial responsibility.
Driving records are an essential background check for any employee who will operate a company vehicle at any time or who will drive personal or rental vehicles on company business.
A driving record check will include:
- Driver’s license status
- License class
- Expiration date
- Traffic law violations
- License suspensions or cancellations
What you’ll need from the candidate:
- Full name (as it appears on their driver’s license)
- Date of birth
- Social security number
- Driver’s license number
- State of issue
- Express permission to conduct the check via signed release that complies with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
Why employers need to do it: Employers requiring employees to drive for their jobs need to prove any applicant or current employee has a safe driving history.
Professional License & Certificate Verification
Confirm that a candidate has the required professional credentials or any additional credentials they claim to have. Again, many people try to bolster their resumes and job applications with accomplishments.
A professional license and certification check can be used across industries and position to:
- Verify if a degree or credential was received.
- Confirm the date awarded.
- Identify any false information included by the applicant.
Why employers need to do it: Avoid hiring unqualified individuals or promoting employees who haven’t truly earned it. Not to mention, certain occupations require specific licenses and certifications, so your company needs to verify that employees keep up with those requirements.
Social Security Number Trace
In some cases, employers may even need to confirm an applicant’s identity and personal information. A social security number trace also verifies if someone is eligible to work in the United States.
This report matches info from their I-9 to the Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration’s records to ensure you hire people who are legally authorized to work in the country.
Why employers need to do it: Make sure the candidate is who they say they are.
Social Media & Internet Check
While not an official background check, scoping out a potential employee’s social media and online presence helps employers gain a more complete picture of the candidate. A social media check may include browsing the prospect’s profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn.
Employers should beware that they can obtain useful information from an applicant’s social media accounts and internet presence, but will need to verify that information is true and accurate. Companies should still conduct a full background check and talk to a candidate’s references.
Why employers need to do it: A person’s social media use could provide insight into their personality, interests, and lifestyle to help determine if they’ll be a fit for your company culture. A complete media search could also save your business time and money down the road.
Whether you are new to hiring and the many types of background checks, or you simply want to ensure your company’s background checks are compliant and thorough, BlueLion can help. Our human resources experts will be happy to evaluate your business and even help you with hiring decisions and processes. Contact us today at 603-818-4131 or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
The information on this website, including its newsletters, is not, nor is it intended to be legal advice. You should contact an attorney or HR specialist for advice on your individual situation.