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Employee Background Check- The Beginner’s Guide

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Employees are the lifeblood of a company. They are the elements that can make or break a venture. For this reason, you must dedicate sincere efforts to getting the best of the bunch. It means leveraging your decision on many aspects other than competency. Here, you must also rely on background checks to know about the relevant history of a candidate. Again, it is crucial because it will give you a better idea of the candidature. Ultimately, it will help you recruit the best new hire.

For this, an employee background check is a pivotal part of getting the right hire. Therefore, these checks are becoming increasingly valuable for the current business space. Furthermore, there also arises a legal obligation for companies to go through this procedure in some instances.

Understanding the magnitude of its importance, you need to have an in-depth idea of this concept. Keeping that in view, we assure you that this is the place where you’ll get all the information you need. So, without any further ado, let’s get you up-to-date with the basics.

What is an Employee Background Check?

In layman’s terms, an employee background check is a procedure companies use to check a candidate’s history, claims, and other legalities required for the job. These checks look into all the relevant information and documents to establish the candidate’s credibility. It looks into records like employment history, criminal record, credit checks, etc.

All these help a company to know what type of employee a candidate was and can be. In addition, it helps in making an in-depth decision about a candidate whether he/she will be the right fit or not. Other than in the hiring process, background checks are also crucial for many different reasons.

Let’s have a look at a few of these in brief.

Importance of an Employee Background Check

1. A better understanding of the character

While hiring a candidate, one must look into many things other than just competitive abilities. HR managers should also know about the character of the candidate to get the best hire. It is because while you can teach tricks and trades, you cannot teach character.

Divulging into a candidate’s past will get you a better idea of the individual’s character. Whether one is calm or aggressive, sincere or sluggish, driven or ill-motivated, etc. These employee personality traits make up for great importance in the long run of the employee.

2. Safe Workplace

Since an office is a diverse place, you must be careful to keep the workplace safe. It means ensuring the safety of all workers, both physically and mentally. In doing so, one of the most important checks is a criminal check. It looks for offenses against a person for many different reasons.

While making a hire, you must be sure that your final employee has a clean criminal record. To do this, you need to have proper background checks.

3. Legal Considerations

While hiring candidates abroad or even domestically, many legal aspects come into play. It may be proper immigration status, employment contract, the appropriate age for work, etc. Being blind to these regulations can be very costly to employers in court.

Therefore, to avoid all these complications, one must resort to an adequate amount of checks.

4. Reduce Company Liability

While making a hire, a company automatically is liable for a lot of things concerning the hire. Here, one of the core liability or responsibilities is employee health. For example, a manufacturing company should not hire a person of weak health for a physically demanding production line.

It will only weaken the worker, cut productivity, and be a massive liability for the company. The company will have to bear the healthcare cost, insurance, etc. Therefore, to avoid these unnecessary costs, background checks are vital.

Here, it is not only about health. A company can also face tough times if they unknowingly hire a criminal, etc.

5. A better workforce

All in all, background checks help you create a credible, sincere, and better workforce. In the long term interest, it will help you avoid complications and make for a harmonious workforce. Thus, you must dedicate efforts to doing the background checks.

These were a few points about why you need to conduct background checks on employees.

It is also essential to understand what aspects to check for, which means getting to know the different background check types. For getting relevant information, background checks are of many different types. Let’s look at a few of these most important ones in the workplace.

Common Types Of Employee Background Check

1. Employment Background Checks

An employment background check looks at the candidate’s past. These checks go up to either 7 or 10 years in reverse. It checks the candidate’s past employment, education, credit, criminal record, medicals, etc.

To run this sort of background screening, you need the candidate’s -

  • name,
  • current address,
  • birth date,
  • Social Security Number (SSN),
  • and the candidate’s consent.

Before doing any background check upon a candidate, you need to have their consent in a written format.

2. Criminal Background Checks

A criminal background check looks for any criminal history or charges against a candidate. It is a vital check when it comes to safety at the workplace.

Here, one can look at various crimes. Some of these are:

  • fraud,
  • embezzlement,
  • felony,
  • violent crimes,
  • sexual harassment, etc.

You can do this check by consulting with various relevant criminal databases. These can be national criminal databases, sex offender databases, county criminal courts, domestic and global criminal watch lists, etc.

3. OIG Background Checks

In this context, OIG stands for the Office of Inspector General. It is a test mandated by the Social Security Act to prevent some people from getting a job at federally-funded healthcare programs. These people are criminals guilty of wrongdoings in healthcare cases.

As employers, if this test fits your domain, then you can conduct this test at the OIG Website. You can do a free assessment by just entering your candidate’s name and other relevant information.

4. E-Verify Background Checks

An E-Verify background check is necessary when you make a new hire to verify one’s identity. This check verifies the information on the I-9 forms. New hires are required to take upon employment opportunities on US Soil. It is a test to ascertain whether the candidate is eligible to work in the USA.

This is an issue mainly looking at proper immigration and work status in America.

5. Fingerprint Background Checks

This test mainly looks at clarifying the criminal records of the candidates, if there are any. It is done through the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), which has about 35 million fingerprint databases. These are submitted by law enforcement all over the country.

As such, this test is necessary to ascertain whether your candidate has a criminal record or not. This test is compulsory for jobs in all forms of government institutions. It is also essential for specific jobs in the casinos, finance, medical, pharmacies, etc.

Employees can run this test by going to the AFIS Website and do the check there.

6. International Background Checks

This check is required when a US employer looks to hire a person who has recently lived or studied abroad. It checks for criminal records, educational records, employment checks on an international level.

To do this test, you will need to submit the candidate’s relevant information to the concerned country for checks. In this case, it will be better if you conduct this test with a third party’s help.

7. Credit Background Checks

A credit background check looks at the credit to debt ratio of the candidates. It helps one understand how a person manages finances. This test is crucial for jobs in the financial sector.

This test costs a minimum amount of money to undertake. As employers, you can either pay the fee and do the check yourself or have the candidates take the test and bring a copy of it themselves.

8. Professional License Background Checks

A professional license background check looks to ascertain the credibility of a candidate’s license to carry out the work. It is necessary to cross out all the frauds in an industry and get the most qualified person on the job.

Here, mostly third parties undertake these background checks. To do this test, the third parties contact the industry applicable or state licensing board. After the contact establishes, they do the required procedure to ascertain the credibility of the license.

These were a few types of background checks you must run in your workplace.

So, now that we’re aware of “what,” let’s go ahead with the “how.”

How To Approach An Employee Background Check

1. Design a Policy

Before doing any check, you must always design a policy. Here, you must have a pre-determined flow chart of work and checks to initiate. You should also note down the repercussions when you find false claims. In short, your policy should be as detailed as possible.

2. Legal Consultation

Background checks are a part of the legal obligation as well. It is because sometimes, you can stumble across sensitive details, which may have serious implications. In such a case, you need to have legal consultations to avoid any wrongdoings and lawsuits.

Also, as part of the background checks, you cannot check into every single detail. Here, legal assistance will help you navigate through these checks in the right way.

3. A chance to clear the name

Before going forward with any background checks, you should give candidates a chance to clear the air. It means giving the candidates a chance to come clean and admit their false claims if any. Also, sometimes background checks can give inaccurate results as well.

Here, you should also give the candidates a chance to review the information and add any comments if they see fit.

4. FCRA Compliant tests

FCRA stands for Fair Credit Reporting Act, and they govern most of the checks. FCRA Compliance lays some guidelines on what employers can and cannot do in a background check. Here, all employers must adhere to the guidelines laid down by FCRA. Here, be sure that you understand all these guidelines.

5. Be Sincere

Sometimes, these background checks can be very extensive. So, you must have the sincerest of employees handling the situation. If you have trouble finding the best employees for the checking procedure, you can hire third parties to do the checks.

Many establishments are providing extensive background check services for a fee.

6. Give Notice

It is the most crucial part of any background check; consent of the candidates. Before doing any checks, you must inform the candidates that you will do certain background checks.

These were a few of the steps you should take before starting a background check. You can take these points as the first steps to start any checks you wish to initiate.

Frequently Asked Questions about Employee Background Check

Question: What does an employee background check look into?
Answer: Background check includes looking at past employment, education, credit check, licensing, criminal activity, etc.

Question: What information is required for most background checks?
Answer: You will need the candidate’s name, date of birth, social security number, and address for most checks.

Question: Are background checks a legal procedure?
Answer: FCRA governs the background check, so yes, they are legal. But, you must adhere to the rules laid down by FCRA. It is because you cannot look at absolutely everything while doing background checks.

Question: Do employers need permission to do background checks?
Answer: Yes, you will need the candidate’s permission to undertake background checks. Here, you must get the consent in a written document during the job application stage.

Question: How long does a background check take?
Answer: Different background checks can take a different amount of time. Most background checks take 1-5 days to verify the SSN, name, addresses and then go along with the verification process of credit checks, legal checks, criminal checks, etc.

Question: What is considered as a fail in background checks?
Answer: In background checks, any false information can be treated as a fail for the candidate. The most drastic fails, in this case, are lies in the application process, criminal records, etc.

Question: Which background checks do most employers undertake?
Answer: Employment background checks, criminal checks, education, qualification checks, employer verification check, etc.

These were a few of the FAQ's regarding employee background checks.


Background checks are a crucial part of the hiring strategies in the current corporate recruitment process. Therefore, you need to understand the concept clearly. To help you get a better idea of the concept, we hope this piece helped you well.

This article is written by Jyoti Prakash Barman. He is an in-house Content Marketer at Vantage Circle with interests in music and automobiles. For any related queries, contact