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Blogging background checking and security issues

3.15.2005

How To Do a Background Check

The first thing to determine is your reason for doing a background check. Are you just trying to cover your behind legally in case one of your employees goes and does something crazy, or is it a serious component of your new-hire application process that is used to weed out sub-par applicants?

Most companies probably say that they do them for both reasons, but the truth comes out when the decision starts to affect the checkbook. A barebones background check costs much less than a thorough, investigative background check.

A basic background check probably just includes some kind of search for criminal records. If you’re really cheap you can just do some kind of database search, but I wouldn’t count on that to save you in a heated legal battle. A simple but decent criminal record search would use some kind of locator service to find out where a person has lived in the past and would then check with the individual county courts in each of those counties.

If you want to be more thorough (i.e., spend more money) with your background check, you can add several components to the do the criminal record search mentioned above. You can add counties to a county criminal record search, as well as different jurisdictions. Many states have a collection of the more serious offenses from the entire state, and there are records searches available for federal criminal records, by district, as well. There are all kinds of criminal records searches available, but these are the basics.

In addition to criminal record searches, you probably want to verify information that your applicant has provided to you. This means verifying things like education and degrees received, previous employment and even things like licenses or certifications. On top of this, you could also speak with personal references and employment references. However, be warned that many employers have a policy that prohibits the release of anything beyond dates of employment and title.

So now that you have the information, what do you do? If you’re going to hire the person, just stuff it away in the personnel file. However, if you saw something on the consumer report (yes, it’s called a consumer report even though it doesn’t have anything to do with reviewing a consumer product) that turns you off and you decide not to hire this person, be sure you follow the adverse action guidelines in the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Not doing this could result in serious legal consequences.

Happy hiring!

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