Blogging background checking and security issues


What Makes Up a Background Check?

What comes to mind when you hear the words “background check”? If you’re like many people, the word “background check” is something you’ve heard a lot recently but seldom heard defined. Some companies do very extensive background checks because they are very concerned about safety and security in their work environment, and others do minimal background checks in order to spend the least amount of money and still meet what they deem to be legally sufficient. So what makes up a background check? I can’t provide legal advice, and each company’s requirements are different, but here are some of the key components:

Criminal – This is what most people think of when they hear “background check,” and it’s certainly a piece that shouldn’t be left out. Criminal searches fall into three general categories: those ran by government agencies, public records searches done in courthouses and searches of databases that are compiled from both public and private sources. Government searches are only available to government agencies (duh) and a very select group of private and non-profit organizations – generally those that work with children or the elderly. Of the remaining two, the most accurate and up to date are criminal records searches performed by actually sending someone to the courthouse to search for records. The drawback is that you have to know where the person has lived, and you often won’t find criminal records that are located in counties in which the person has never resided. There are services available, many of them credit-based, which provide former addresses of residency. Database searches, on the other hand, usually cover a much wider territory. Their drawbacks are that the information contained in them often contains errors and isn’t up to date. A database search can give you a lot more territory coverage, but because of their weaknesses it is a good idea to follow up any noted criminal records with a trip to the appropriate courthouse.

I should also mention that a number of states offer criminal searches to private companies. If you live in one of these states and determine that the information the state provides is accurate, then it might be a good option. If you hire people that live in different states you might have a problem doing background checks consistently on all applicants since not all states offer this kind of check.

Driving Records – Employers who employ drivers usually want to check to make sure that their applicants have valid licenses and that their past driving records meets the company’s requirements.

Drug Testing – Some employers require drug testing before hiring an applicant, some require them after on-the-job accidents, some do random drug testing, and some do all three. The kind and frequency of drug testing is often determined by the industry the company is in and the standards or laws imposed on it.

Verify Social Security Number – You can’t actually confirm that a SSN matches a name through the Social Security Administration until after the applicant is hired (makes sense for SSN security, but not for hiring!), but you can check it to make sure it is a valid number and to find out when and where it was issued.

Verify Employment – Make sure that the person actually worked where they said they worked for a given amount of time, and did what they said they did. Sometimes you can get more information out of a company, especially if you supply a release form signed by the applicant, but the basics you can always get are dates and title. More and more companies are afraid of being sued these days.

Verify Licensure – Verify that an applicant has a license (RN, technical license, etc.).

Check References – Find out more information about the applicant’s personal characteristics. Note that you are calling references that the applicant supplied, so they’ll probably be biased. Make sure good questions are asked.

Verify Education – Find out if the applicant graduated from the school he said or she he graduated from, and that he received the degree(s) he or she says were received.

These are the basics of background checks. Almost every employment screening company offers these checks and most will also offer plenty of variations on these checks. It can get tricky because although they do many of the same things, employment screening companies call them by different names. Be smart.


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