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How To Conduct Background Checks The Right Way

How To Conduct Background Checks The Right Way


The legalities of background checks often make them a hurdle many HR managers wish to avoid. Federal guidelines, such as those released by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in April 2012, are intended to mitigate the discriminatory impact background check information could have on potential employees.

However, background checks provide invaluable information when conducted appropriately with information that has been legally obtained.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 92 percent of all employers require some form of a background check before an employment offer is extended. Of those background checks, 39 percent return at least one serious flag.

The information acquired during background checks can be varied and should be in keeping with the type of job, employment environment, and security risks associated with employment. How to do a background check that is both legal and accurate becomes the challenge for HR managers.

Establish Background Screening Policies and Procedures

The first step to putting background screening procedures into place is to establish a policy around who should be screened and when, and what should be done with that information once it is acquired.

Best practices are to background check all staff, including executives, full-time and part-time employees, temp employees, contractors, and, when appropriate, volunteers.

Once that information is acquired through reputable sources, it should be protected with visibility limited to select staff. The level of intrusiveness of the background screening should be scaled according to the position's risk within the company.

For example, an extensive background check would be conducted on someone being considered for a visible executive position while one who is in a temporary clerical position may be asked to submit a basic background screening.

Extensive background screenings should be conducted for anyone who works with children, who has access to living quarters, or who works in finance or banking.

Always Get Appropriate Approval from Potential Employees

It is vital to have your background check provider help you with any necessary employer documentation, applicant notification and applicant approval paperwork. While many employers feel that their job application provides sufficient approval for a background check to be conducted, a separate Background Check Notification and Authorization must be filled out and signed in order to be legally binding.

These forms can then be verified by consulting legal counsel to ensure compliance with local, state, and federal guidelines.

Choose a Reputable Background Check Company

Be sure to avoid vendors that provide criminal database searches that have not been verified with current court records. This extra step further insulates employers from accusations of discrimination based on outdated or faulty information.

In this day of online reviews, it is also important to review the vendor's Better Business Bureau rating to see how they stack up against the competition.

Prepare For the Background Check

Once the background check policy has been established and verified with legal counsel, it is important to follow the best hiring practices for every position within your organization. Clearly identify the skills and experience needed for the position.

Conduct interviews focusing on technical expertise, communication skills, problem-solving abilities, or other skills that have been previously identified. Check the professional references of the candidates, view any supporting documentation, and make copies for your files.

Once this process has been completed, it is important to have the final candidates completely fill out and sign the job application, verify that all information is correct, and have them sign any necessary background check notification and authorization forms.

Conduct A Thorough Background Check

Background check companies conducting a basic background check will perform the following:

Should your individual situation require it, the company may then include the following in its investigation process:

While potentially fraught with legalities, conducting a fair, accurate, legal background check only takes preparation. Considering what is at stake, it is a small price to pay for a piece of mind. 

AccuSourceHR™ Workforce Solutions is a PBSA-accredited national leader in background screening, occupational health services, and substance abuse testing. We are passionate about creating outstanding customer experiences and leading organizations to successful, efficient hiring and onboarding processes. We offer expansive screening services in over 230 countries and territories worldwide to make hiring easier for businesses and their human resource teams. Email us at for a complimentary program evaluation.