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2 min read

How to Identify Red Flags During a Thorough Background Check

red flags during a background check

One of the key issues that exist among employers looking to hire new employees is the background check process.

Many organizations require an HR background check before an offer is extended.

With so many nuances in place, including issues like Ban the Box, getting background information early on in the process can be limited.

In cases where human resources background checks are done in a timely manner, employers have time to properly assess and identify any red flags that may be an issue.

What do employers look for in a background check?

Based on the industry and scope of work, employers can look for a variety of things such as:

  • Spotty work history that is unverifiable
  • Criminal records
  • Bad credit

Knowing how to identify these red flags can save time and money in the hiring process.

In addition to the three red flags mentioned, employers are starting to pay more attention to the social media activity of prospective candidates. With so many people using social media inappropriately, this could negatively impact the company if the candidate was hired.

If a candidate does not want to provide references or give their consent to a background check, this could also be a red flag.

Employers should be cognizant of those little red flags that may go unnoticed, such as:

  • Contact - If the candidate is difficult to reach or does not respond to emails or phone calls in a timely manner.
  • Unverifiable skill sets - The candidate cannot discuss their skill set or demonstrate their abilities.
  • Schooling - The candidate cannot provide a copy of their degree, or they have a school listed on their resume that they did not attend.
  • Use of fake references - Do your homework and make sure these references are true. There are companies that will verify employment and skill sets for applicants for a fee.

An interviewer should have had time to look at the applicant’s resume, highlighting any questions they may have about the red flags they noticed. It is important to ask job-specific questions to ensure the candidate can detail what their responsibilities were.

This will also help determine whether or not they are a good fit for the organization, and whether or not they know what they are talking about.

When verifying references, note how the individual answers the phone. It is important to ask detailed questions to determine whether or not they are credible references and can verify the candidate's skill set.

Additionally, employers may want to check and see whether or not the references in question are co-workers instead of supervisors.

Specialty positions such as those in the medical field have a number of requirements. These candidates should have their internship and residency experience listed on their resume, with the year and location included.

If they need to be board-certified, this information should be verified through the Board’s website. Most of all, if a doctor or nurse uses incorrect acronyms on their resume, this is a red flag that should not be ignored.

With technology being so prevalent, companies often use Skype as an interviewing tool for candidates who are out of state. Pay close attention to their surroundings, how they are dressed, and whether or not they make eye contact.

Even in these types of interviews, the candidate should be as professional as if they were coming to your location.

Once you are on the last leg of the interviewing process, your human resources team should have a checklist to ensure all bases are covered.

This should include:

  • Eligibility to work in the U.S.
  • Verified employment
  • Verified references
  • Criminal records check
  • Qualifications verification
  • Health screening (if applicable)

Taking these steps should help you address any red flags and assist in hiring the right employee. 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.