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Pre-Employment Testing: What You Should Know About Background Checks

April 13, 2011

Part three of anHR: Focus on Hiringseries of articles.


Image via HRM Report

Performing background checks on potential new hires should already be part of your hiring process. According to The Society for Human Resource Management, 80% of employers run background checks prior to hiring. The advantages of attaining this information far outweigh the cost that is paid to obtain it. Though the pros of these checks are plentiful, a few of the most significant reasons are:

  • Trustworthiness: Applicants who are dishonest about something on their resume may carryover that lack of integrity to the workplace.
  • Credentials: Applicants that overemphasize or blatantly lie about their education may not have the proper credentials, training or certifications to perform the duties of the job.
  • Liability: Applicants with criminal records containing varying degrees of violence can be a liability in certain professions, especially those dealing with children. If another employee or individual gets hurt, the company could be held liable.
  • Money: Applicants who will be handling cash should have good credit records (or good explanations for tarnished ones). Applicants in dire straits for money will be more likely to take from the corporate cookie jar. As well, if an applicant cannot manage their own finances, how well will they be able to control those of the company?
  • Substance Abuse: Applicants who are substance abusers are obviously a risk. Policies should be in place regarding the adherence to prescreening substance abuse procedures.

Whether you are currently performing background checks or in need of implementing such methods, be sure you are fully informed on your rights within the law. Each state has different laws with respect to searches for personal information. Look into the regulations in your state or consult a lawyer before starting this process. Many states have placed limitations on credit checking and the EEOC has taken an interest in determining any discrimination related to these pre-employment searches. In certain states as well, you are not allowed to ask up front for an applicant’s criminal record. If these “Ban the Box” laws apply in your state, be sure to take that request for information off of your initial employment application. Properly analyze each position and determine the types of checks necessary for potential candidates. For more information on the legal implications of background checks, see a recent article posted on SHRM here.

Once you have determined your process, first things first, you must obtain a disclosure form from the applicant, allowing you to perform the desired searches. If you deny an applicant based on the information found in their background check, you must let them know this, allowing them to obtain a copy of the check you received and refute any information that may be wrongly included. Second, find a background search company. The website Finder Mind lists the background search companies in their top 5, providing Better Business Bureau ratings and a short summary of each company. These search companies are People Finders, US Search, Intelius, Info Cubic and Identity PI. Verity Screening Solutions is also a great tool for small to medium-size organizations as they have fairly quick turnarounds and low fees.

If your organization is not in a financial situation to be able to afford background checks, do a little research on your own. You will be surprised to find what information you can find out about a candidate by an online search or by calling a few references or previous employers. Many states even have criminal records published online, though a word of caution accompanies that suggestion. When doing an online search, make sure you are looking at information for the right person. No matter how unique the name, you would be surprised how many times someone’s bad record is mistaken for another person of the same name. In running preliminary checks (before spending the money on our search service), I’ve had that happen to me a few times.

The bottom line is that background checks are worthwhile to perform. The time, effort and money spent could potentially save your organization from hiring an employee that is untrustworthy or a possible liability.

Side bar: when background check companies are calling your corporation for information on previous employees, keep it short and sweet. Dates and titles need be the only thing verified. Trashing an ex-employee could land you on the wrong end of a lawsuit.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. PaulsJenkins permalink
    April 22, 2011 11:19 am

    I like that they’ll implement these checks into the normal hiring process. They’ll ensure somehow of a safer place to work at when you know your night-shift partner isn’t some ex-convict. I fully support the implementation of background checks n.y. in government jobs as well, maybe even more because those are really jobs that can’t be handed to random persons willy nilly.

  2. May 21, 2013 6:56 am

    Running through a background check during the pre-employment will surely help not only the company on picking the right person for the right position but also inform the job hunters falsified information will only bring tough moment to him/her. But it also good for them because they can clear out some deficiencies found on the result and correct them ahead.


  1. Pre-Employment Testing: Personality Assessments as a Value-Added Part of the Process «

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