Everything You Need to Know About Background Checks

Background checks are a very important part of the hiring process. In fact, almost all employers require some sort of background verification in order to protect both their people and their company. At times, candidates for various positions can seem too good to be true, and occasionally they are. When people really want a job, they tend to embellish their resume. Other people straight out lie or even hide their true identity when applying for jobs. This is where background checks come in.

What Are Employment Background Checks?

The most common kind of background check is simply called the employment background check. These checks are generally comprehensive and done through an agency, though some employers do their own research. Typically, employment background checks verify work history, education, credit history, driving records, criminal records, use of social media, drug screening, and any publicly known medical history. The exact laws about what employers can look into and ask about depend on the state that you are in.

What Are the Other Kinds of Background Checks?

Depending on the job or position open or what the initial background check brings back, an employer may run any of a number of other kinds of background checks. In addition to the employment background check, common background verifications are:

Criminal Background Checks

Criminal background checks specifically look into any kind of major criminal activity. They are generally looking for violent crimes, sexual crimes, fraud, embezzlement, or anything that is considered a felony. They are not typically looking at things like speeding tickets.

Officer of the Inspector General (OIG) Checks

These checks are specifically for positions at health care programs that are federally funded. The check focuses on any healthcare-related crimes that may be in the applicants’ history.

E-Verify Background Checks

These background checks mainly do two things, verifying an employee’s identity and verifying their employment eligibility.

Fingerprint Background Checks

This kind of background check is required at all government-run institutions and agencies. A fingerprint background check looks for any criminal history on record at authorized justice agencies.

International Background Checks

An international background check may be required for any employees that have worked, lived, or gone to school internationally. They are very similar to the regular employment background check, but they look at things like criminal records, education records, and employment verification internationally.

Credit Background Checks

Credit background checks are pretty much only necessary for financial positions. They look at things like a person’s credit report, payment history, civil judgments, bankruptcies, tax liens, unpaid bills, and recent credit inquiries.

Professional Licenses Background Checks

A professional license background check is exactly what it sounds like. They verify that an applicant has a valid license.

Keep in mind that the kind of checks an employer legally can and will check depends on the state and what the position is. Any positions at government agencies or that require applicants to work with children will have much heavier background checks than some other positions.

Laws Surrounding Background Checks

Employers can and should perform their own research in addition to using a professional, accredited agency to run their background checks. Employers can look at anything that is public information. This includes things like an applicants’ presence on social media and public records that come up through internet searches.

In all states, employers are also allowed to call all of an applicant’s previous places of employment and other places such as Universities. However, what an employer can ask about depends on the state. In any state, employers can verify that an employee did, in fact, work where they said they did, but in some states, they may not be able to ask about things like their salary history. It is important that you understand the specific laws for whatever jurisdiction you are in.

The most important federal law pertaining to background checks is called the Fair Credit Reporting Act. All background checks and screens must adhere to this act. The main points of this act are:

  • Employers must disclose to their applicants that a background check is being conducted. They should disclose what kind of background check is being done and what information they are looking into.
  • Employers have to comply if a candidate requests to see the results of any background checks and screenings that are done.
  • Any information that you find when completing a background check or screening cannot be used to violate any of the Equal Employment Opportunity laws.

If an employer does not adhere to the Fair Credit Reporting Act or any other laws that may be in the state or jurisdiction, they could run into legal problems and lawsuits down the line. Both the employer and employee should understand the laws pertaining to background checks and screenings.

What Sources Can Be Used in an Employment Background Check?

In addition to doing their own research, through public records, search engines, social media, etc., employers can and should use a background check company to run more thorough checks. It is important that the company is FCRA and BBB accredited, or it is likely not legal.

What is the Process of a Background Check?

A background check is generally done towards the end or at the end of the interview process, as background checks are only necessary for candidates that are being seriously considered for the position.

Once you get to the background check portion, it generally takes about two weeks. During this time, an employer is both able to do any personal research they want to do and have a professional company run a complete check. As long as no incriminating information or lies are uncovered, it should be a relatively simple process. Some basic errors (such as putting down the wrong date for leaving a previous position) are common. More major lies (such as saying you worked somewhere you did not or held a position you did not hold) are more serious problems.