Last updated: November 27, 2023
Background screening is a pre-employment procedure used to help employers determine, among other things, whether a person is trustworthy and responsible. They can also reveal if someone has a history involving violence or abuse. Having the ability to glean this type of information before bringing the person on board could ward off a potentially dangerous situation in the future. That alone makes a background screening worth the while. After all, providing a safe work environment is an employer’s number one priority.
Also known as pre-employment screenings, there are several types of individual background checks that employers can include in their background screening. It’s more of an a la carte procedure rather than an all-in-one affair. That’s good news for employers. Having the ability to decide what types of investigations to perform is the most cost-effective method for the company.
Before running any type of background investigation, though, you need to provide the potential employee with the proper disclosure and get their authorization. Failure to do so can get you in trouble. Both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) require obtaining authorization before running an employment background check.
Let’s break down the different types of investigations included in the process.
Fingerprint background check
The FBI runs the candidate’s fingerprints through their database and cross-references them with state and local databases. If necessary, the FBI runs the prints through databases in other countries as well. Thanks to the digital age, this process is far less time-consuming than in the past. What used to take weeks now takes days. Some employers receive their reports within a 24-hour period.
According to most lawmakers, using the FBI database search is the “gold standard” of the background check. However, according to the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA) that isn’t the case. According to the site, even though states have improved their processes in reporting data to the FBI, there are still gaps that allow people to slip through the cracks. Unless mandated to do so, PBSA believes choosing a private company to complete a thorough criminal background investigation is a more reliable source overall.
Industries that involve mandatory fingerprinting as a means of investigating a person’s past include health, public safety, and education.
Criminal background check
Searching someone’s past for criminal conduct can reveal a lot about a person’s character. Conducting a criminal background check reveals whether or not someone has ever been charged with a misdemeanor or convicted of a felony. Employers can search for criminal records by state. Depending on the laws regarding the release of information, you can expect to discover:
- Any known aliases
- Charges or convictions
- Prison terms
- If the individual is registered as a sex offender
Information is obtained from court records, police reports, and other state and local resources.
Driving record check
If the position you’re filling requires operating a company vehicle, completing a driving record check is probably required by your insurance company. What if the future employee will never be off-site though? A driver record check is a quick, easy way to help you determine if someone is responsible. Someone who is carrying a load of unpaid parking tickets or who consistently gets charged with a moving vehicle violation due to distractions such as talking on the phone, perhaps, may not be the type of person you are looking for—
Especially if the position requires being focused and paying attention to detail!
The Department of Motor Vehicles can relay the information to you with proof of the applicant’s consent.
Having the advantage of seeing how someone handles their money can be beneficial. Especially if the position you’re filling involves handling or transferring money. Someone who is in debt up to their ears may be tempted to use business monies for personal debts. Some employers may request a credit report as part of determining how responsible someone is as well.
Some companies handle checking up on someone’s work history in-house. Reaching out to previous employers can be frustrating and time-consuming, however, because your request for information takes a chance of getting put on the back burner.
Choosing to have a third party conduct the investigation could get quicker results, especially, if the company is one that is commonly known.
Again, some employers choose to conduct this part of the background screening in-house. Moreover, as stated above, it could be more beneficial to work with a third party. It cuts down on frustration levels and saves time.
Making sure they are who they say they are
There are still more people who are honest than not in the world. Still, completing some form of background screening is the best way to discover whether someone is misrepresenting themselves—and, to what degree. You should take every precaution to ensure someone is qualified for the position that you’re filling. Determining they are honest and responsible is worth the cost incurred running the background screening.
When you’re looking at the overall picture, deciding not to hire someone in the first place is a whole lot easier on all involved than letting someone go.