How to Conduct Pre-Employment Background Checks

Though often overlooked, employees are the lifeblood of a company. Every company needs qualified, reliable, and trustworthy employees to achieve business goals. Unfortunately, building such a team isn’t easy, especially with recent statistics showing that approximately 56% of job candidatesOpens in a new tab. lie in their resumes. Candidates can lie about where they workOpens in a new tab., their education background, previous job duties, skills, and experience.

While this may not be a big deal for some businesses, it is downright dangerous for some companies. As a result, conducting background checks is a crucial component of any hiring process.

What are Pre-Employment Background Checks?

Pre-employment background checks are routine checks conducted during the hiring process. These checks are meant to reveal otherwise private information about potential hires. In most states, background check primarily reveals individuals with convicted felonies, misdemeanors, judgments, and records from Drug Enforcement Agency, the FBI, Homeland Security, and National Sex Offender Registry.

Some companies also include education and employment qualifications in their background checks. They ascertain that your potential hire went to schools listed in their resume, worked for companies listed, and more. In specific situations, background checks extend to potential candidates’ credit backgrounds, such as a history of bankruptcy.

How to Conduct a Background Check

Follow the following steps to conduct an accurate background check on candidates and potential hires:

1. Create a Background Check Policy

You should begin by creating a consistent background check policy that outlines the mandatory background checks, how they influence hiring decisions, and when they should be conducted. Doing this assures a just and transparent process. Your background check policy should include the following;

  • It is best to ensure that background checks are done across your organization. However, you should tailor background screening to suit your job position. For instance, you might necessitate credit checks for accountants and finance officersOpens in a new tab. and driving records for company drivers.
  • Your policy should be specific about how information gathered from background checks will influence employment decisions. For this, it is best to consider the nature of the crime, the nature of the vacant position, and the presence of outstanding issues.
  • You should decide the stage in your hiring process when background checks are conducted. Federal laws generally allow employees to conduct background screening at any hiring stage, provided the candidate consents. However, state and local laws may differ.

A detailed background check policy enables companies to eliminate potential bias, discrimination, and possible litigation.

2. Ensuring legal compliance with your background check policy

Federal, state, and local laws govern all background checks, and employers are held accountable for compliance. Failing to ensure that your background check policy complies with these legal provisions can lead to lawsuits and costly fines. That said, you should be wary of the following possible violations;

  • Background checks should only be done after the candidate consents to the process. According to the FCRAOpens in a new tab., employers should inform job applicants in writing that background checks are part of the hiring process.
  • Similarly, the FCRA requires employers or hiring agents to follow the laid out adverse action steps if they intend to take unfavorable actions against job applicants based on background check results. Employers should send a notice detailing the pre-adverse action, copies of the background report, and a summary of candidates’ rights. Candidates should be given sufficient time (ideally five days) to respond before the adverse action is taken.
  • These laws are enforced by the EEOCOpens in a new tab. and prohibit employers from discriminating against job candidates based on color, religion, race, national origin, and sex. This promotes diversity in the workplace.
  • According to these regulations, employers should conduct background checks at least after the first round of interviews or after issuing a conditional offer. However, these regulations vary among states and local authorities.

3. Identify the different types of background checks to conduct

With a well-laid down policy, you should identify the mandatory background checks required for various job positions. Common background checks that apply across all businesses include:

  • Criminal background checks are crucial as they reveal the candidates’ previous crimes. From this check, you can gather information on committed felonies, misdemeanors, vandalism, disorderly conduct, sex crimes, fraud, and even pending cases. Employee criminal record helps employees evaluate if the candidate can be a threat to company customers or a cause of an unsafe workplaceOpens in a new tab..
  • Employee credit checks reveal the candidate’s credit history, such as payment history, tax liens, unpaid bills, and civil judgments. However, it doesn’t include the applicant’s credit score.
  • : Some positions cannot be occupied by employees who use prescription drugs. Routine screening also helps businesses maintain a safe and productive workplace.
  • These checks provide information about the candidate’s non-criminal cases and judgments where they were listed as respondents. This includes small claims, such as civil rights violations, restraining orders, and bankruptcy.
  • These checks are important for employees who will operate motor vehicles and other similar positions. They confirm the applicant’s license validity and general driving history.
  • Most employers overlook the importance of education checks. However, you should verify and ensure the applicant’s school attendance, diplomas, degrees, and certificates are valid.
  • Verifying your candidate’s job experience and previous employment history is also crucial. Employment history confirms that the work experience included in the candidate’s resume is true, and they meet the vacant positions’ requirements.

Some employers may also need to check the applicant’s property ownership, legal working status, military records, healthcare sanctions, and international background checks, depending on the nature of the vacant position.

4. Hiring a background check company

Since the hiring needs of every company vary, you should outsource background checks to a company that understands your specific hiring needs. The best company depends on your business size, hiring volume, size of the HR team, number of locations, presence of in-house legal help, and background screening policy. Nonetheless, you should consider the following when choosing a background check company;

  • Ensure that the company can achieve FCRA compliance and understands EEOC regulations, ban-the-box guides, and state-specific regulations to avoid lawsuits.
  • The company should reduce manual workflows by adopting seamless integration to your applicant tracking systemOpens in a new tab..
  • The company should reduce EEOC scrutiny while being able to advise when individualized candidate assessment is required.

5. Communicating to the candidates

You should inform your candidates about the relevant background checks to be conducted. Explain to them why you are conducting these checks and encourage them to be open. Inform them of their rights to see the results of various background checks, dispute inaccurate information, and add comments that justify any arising alerts.

The EEOC recommends that employers should consider individual circumstances when evaluating candidates’ criminal records. They should consider the nature and gravity of the offense committed, when the offense was committed, and the relevance of the offense to the position being sought.


Unlike before, background checks are increasingly becoming an important part of hiring. These checks enable employees to understand potential candidates beyond the resume and what candidates say during the interview. Ideally, background checks take between three days and one week. However, the process can take longer depending on the information being requested.

Steve Todd

Steve Todd, founder of Open Sourced Workplace and is a recognized thought leader in workplace strategy and the future of work. With a passion for work from anywhere, Steve has successfully implemented transformative strategies that enhance productivity and employee satisfaction. Through Open Sourced Workplace, he fosters collaboration among HR, facilities management, technology, and real estate professionals, providing valuable insights and resources. As a speaker and contributor to various publications, Steve remains dedicated to staying at the forefront of workplace innovation, helping organizations thrive in today's dynamic work environment.

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