One reason employers conduct background checks on job candidates is to screen for potential workplace violence and other criminal behavior that could lead to negligent-hiring lawsuits. Background checks also help reduce job turnover. Before an employer can initiate a background check, the job applicant must sign a release form. Employers must abide by certain government mandates in, for example, the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Driver's Privacy Protection Act while conducting background checks.
Criminal Record Check
An employer will check an applicant's criminal history to look for convictions or outstanding warrants, or to see if the person is currently out on bail pending trial. Some states have restrictions on these searches. For example, South Dakota allows an employer to research only felony histories, not misdemeanors. Because arrests and convictions are made by local authorities, criminal record searches focus on counties where the candidate lived, worked or attended school.
A background check verifies past employment, including job titles and dates of employment, and asks if the employer would rehire that individual. Some companies have strict polices on what information they can provide about a person's past employment history, while others allow general discussions about the person's prior job responsibilities, performance and interpersonal skills. A candidate should carefully consider what past supervisors to list on a job application, as they may be contacted for a reference.
Education and License Verification
Background checks for managerial and other professional positions typically include confirmation of post-secondary education degrees earned or studied for. Some employers also corroborate high school degrees. Verifying an applicant's education includes checking the dates of attendance, graduation date and degree earned. Employers also confirm any professional licenses and certification listed on an application, typically checking the legitimacy of a license, its date of issue, the renewal and expiration dates, current status and any disciplinary action.
Sometimes checking a driver's history provides information not found in the criminal records check, such as violations for driving under the influence (DUI), possession of drugs, speeding, driving with a suspended license or no license, or reckless driving, plus current warrants and any failure to appear in court. Especially if a person is applying for a job that requires driving, a driver's history search is critical because it will reveal tickets and accidents.
If a job position has the potential to affect the business financially — for example, the employee will have access to sensitive financial information or regularly handle cash transactions — a credit check is also conducted. An employment credit report reveals bankruptcies, judgments, liens and payment history on credit cards and other loans. It's a good idea for applicants to check their credit reports before starting a job search and rectify any incorrect information.
- "Sleuthing 101, Background Checks and the Law"; Barry Nadell; 2005
- Employee Issues: Employment Credit Check
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