When you need to hire a new employee, it's important to find out as much information as you can about the candidates you are considering for the job. One of the most common ways employers obtain information about potential employees is through pre-employment screening, which can involve several types of background checks.

Criminal Background Check

Many employers who engage in pre-employment screening perform criminal background checks on potential employees. Criminal background checks provide information about the individual's criminal record, bankruptcies, tax liens and lawsuits. Some states will only allow businesses that need more security, such as banks, to look into the criminal history of job candidates, so you must consult your state's laws before implementing this screening tool.

Credit Checks

Employers perform credit checks on potential employees to obtain information about their debts and reliability in making payments. However, the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires employers to obtain written consent from a potential employee before checking his credit. If you perform a pre-employment screening credit check and decide not to hire the individual based on the information in the report, you must provide him with a copy of the report and inform him of his right to dispute the information.

Lie Detector Tests

Under the Employee Polygraph Protection Act, most private employers can't perform lie detector tests on potential employees. However, employers in certain industries, such as guard services, armored car services and industries that handle prescription medications, can legally require potential employees to complete lie detector tests. Because these tests aren't always reliable, few employers use them in pre-employment screening.

Other Restrictions

The law doesn't allow employers to access potential employees' medical records or educational records. In some instances, an employer may be able to access a potential employee's military records, but the employer must have written consent. Employers can obtain information about potential employees' bankruptcies and workers' compensation history because they are public record. However, employers can't discriminate because of bankruptcy, and they can only use information on a workers' compensation report if they can show that a potential employee's injury would interfere with the job.