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Background Checks
What You Need To Know in a World of Information

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If, like many hiring managers, you are in the process of introducing background checks into your hiring procedure, you may be wondering about a few things: What type of background check should you use? How does one conduct a check that is both thorough and ethical? How much does it cost? Knowing the answers to these questions is a crucial step toward choosing and optimizing the background checks that best fit your needs. Want to beef up your hiring security? Then read on to get a leg up on background checks.

"Just a few years ago, most employers viewed background checks as an optional step in the hiring process. Things have changed dramatically since then," says Carlos Lacambra, Vice President of A-Check America. "Now, not only are background checks the first line of defense against negligent hiring, they also top the list of protective measures taken by companies for themselves, their employees, and their clients."

The Basics

The most common type of background check is comprised of a criminal search for felony and misdemeanor report and a Social Security trace. For most companies, this set is sufficient in verifying the identity and validity of a candidate. However, depending on the needs of the employers, background checks can be comprised of a combination of any of the following:

  • County Criminal Records
  • Federal Criminal Records
  • Prior Employment Verification
  • Education Verification
  • Licensing Verification
  • Driver's Report
  • Credit Check
  • Reference Verification

Checking Restrictions

Background checking as part of pre-employment evaluation is one of the most common purposes recognized by law, however, it can only be carried out with the knowledge and written consent of the applicant, as required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). In order to protect an individual's privacy, background checks can legally be conducted for permitted purposes only, not simply because someone wants to gather information on another person. In most states, potential employers are prohibited from seeking out a record of arrest that did not lead to conviction. Finally, as a limitation on background checking, it should be remembered that merely finding derogatory information about an applicant is not necessarily sufficient to disqualify that person from employment. According to the EEOC, any deficiencies found must be shown to be job related.

Cost of Checking

Background checks are less expensive than many people think, particularly now that technology is driving down the costs associated with obtaining and delivering key candidate information. A basic check can start from as low as $3.00, and goes up depending on your requirements and your risk factor. According to Lacambra, employers usually pay between $10.00 to $110.00, averaging approximately $37.72 per request. In any case, many background check vendors can customize based on the specific needs of clients to deliver on-demand results. Just as businesses are considering costs, however, Lacambra also cautions businesses to look at the big picture and take into consideration the possible price they may have to pay if they forgo this step when hiring.

Doing Your Part

Getting proper and complete information from the applicants is important, not only in ensuring the eligibility of the applicant, but also for the background checking company to get thorough and accurate results. Lacambra recommends that employers do the following during the hiring process:

  • Secure two types of ID. This is required for completing the INS (now BCIS) I-9 Form. Getting at least two forms of identification is also a basic security measure (most fraudulent individuals carry fake driver's licenses, but rarely carry a second ID).
  • Require applicants to fill out a job application. Application forms help you collect information in a more consistent manner, and save you from asking necessary but 'uncomfortable' questions yourself, such as 'Do you have a criminal record?' Another purpose of this form is that it lets you cross-check information that is on the resume. People who 'pad' their resumes often forget to do the same when filling out the application form.
  • Study the report. When the background result comes back, take the time to read it and consider the findings. 'This may sound obvious,' says Lacambra, "but there are some managers who think all they have to do is conduct the check, and don't take the time to read the results."
  • All applicants for one particular position must be subjected to the same types of background checks and screening.
  • Keep in mind that merely finding derogatory information about an applicant is not necessarily sufficient to disqualify that person from employment. According to the EEOC, these deficiencies must be proven to be job related in order to be a valid cause for disqualification.
  • Last but not least, although most background checks are conducted pre-employment, some situations may call for periodic checks. Driving records of employees frequently on the road during company time should be checked regularly. Periodic credit reports are also recommended for employees handling company assets.

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