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Should You Do Pre-Employment Background Checks?

Should You Do Pre-Employment Background Checks?

Background checks sound like detective work or something that big corporations do when they are hiring for top management positions. However, this process is not very complicated and thanks to the internet, anyone can do a background check. Of course, this process doesn’t reveal a person’s entire past, but according to, it does show some relevant factors which can matter greatly in the employment decision.

Nonetheless, this process is not always necessary, and in some situations, it can even have a negative impact. To help you decide if you should perform this pre-employment verification, we have gathered the pros and cons of this process, as well as the main data that you can expect to discover.

Advantages of background checks

The main reason why employers run background checks is to make sure that they are hiring honest people. However, this goes way beyond the concept of honesty, as it can significantly impact your business in a positive way:

Improve the quality of applicants – If you happen to mention in your job ad that you will perform background checks, you will discourage a lot of applicants from lying in their resume, and you might discourage dishonest people from applying altogether.

Decrease workplace violence – Most background checks will show you legal records from the last few years, so you can see if an applicant has been involved in any type of criminal behavior, be it substance abuse, theft or violent behavior. As an employer, it is your responsibility to ensure a safe workplace.

Protect your company from negligent hiring liability – If there is any way that your employees could pose a threat to the public, it is imperative to do a serious pre-employment verification. There have been many legal cases where employers were held responsible for not applying reasonable care in the hiring process. This applies mainly to employees that have access to living quarters or those who work in healthcare.

Reduce dishonesty losses – Occupational fraud can cost your company a lot of money in the long run, not to mention the fact that they affect the workplace and decrease employee morale.

Possible drawbacks

While this type of pre-employment verification can give you valuable information about your potential employees, there are a handful of situations where it can do more harm than good.

Possible mistakes – Every process is prone to human error, and it can sometimes happen for background checks to contain mistakes. If you have the resume of a good candidate in your hand and you get some disconcerting information from the background check, you might want to doublecheck that info before dismissing a great possible employee. In most cases, companies who provide background checks are willing to retake their investigations.

Context matters – We have all made mistakes in the past, but most of us learn from our mistakes and make amends. As an employer, you might want to give your applicants the chance to explain their past mistakes, especially if you are dealing with singular events.

What shows on a background check?

As we already mentioned, this type of verification doesn’t show a person’s entire past, but it does show information that matters in the employment process such as:

Social security verification

Credit report – this usually includes tradelines that show accounts that have been established with lenders or public records that can reveal previous bankruptcies. Credit reports are very useful if you are hiring for a position that involves handling money. Nonetheless, you should know that bankruptcies are no longer public after 10 years.

Criminal records – Among the most common offenses included in criminal records, we find current charges, felony convictions, acquitted or dismissed charges, warrants, sex offenses, incarceration records or misdemeanor convictions. Keep in mind that in some states, these records are deleted after 5 or 7 years.

Driving records – The laws for keeping driving record information varies from state to state. In some states, you can find records older than 10 years, while in other states you can’t find anything that dates back longer to more than three years ago.

Employment information – There is no law that regulates how much information employees can reveal about past employees. In most cases, the past employment verification will only show general information like job title, start and end dates, job responsibilities and so on. However, you can get in touch with previous employers and ask for more information if you need it.

Reference check – Most companies that provide background checks will also check the references listed by the applicants, to check their accuracy, but also for additional information like skills, personality and even work ethic.

Education check – Most candidates exaggerate when it comes to the skills that they list on the resume. While you can test all these skills, you can, however, check the validity of their education claims, like college GPAs or attendance to independent courses and training.

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