A Guide to Employment Background Checks in 2024

Employers and recruiters have the tough job of selecting people to join the company. With every hire, there is the hope that the employee will be an asset to the team, but there is also the worry that they might be a catastrophic failure. It can be difficult to determine whether to take someone on board by simply reading over their resume or meeting them in person one time. Background checks are often performed before offering a candidate the job, as they are a good method of deciding whether or not the individual will be a good fit for the position.

Why Perform Background Checks?


For some positions, taking someone at their word simply isn’t enough reassurance about how they act in a professional setting. This is often in the case of jobs in areas dealing with vulnerable people, such as in schools, nursing homes, mental health clinics, daycares, or hospitals.

Background checks are fairly simple to perform, as there are online databases where employers can quickly impute a candidate’s information to find out if anything concerning shows up from their past. For instance, is a resource that can check for things such as a candidate’s credit history, social media activity, and criminal past, including any sexual offenses.

How to Use Employment Background Checks

The background check is all good and well, but it needs to be justified. If there’s a need to check out an applicant or a person who is already an employee, there’s a need to be a reason behind it. Furthermore, it needs to be a reasonable one and to justify the request itself. Once the test is all done, you can only use it for the purpose you stated in the request. If the reason for your check was to see if an applicant is good enough for the position he or she applied for. Even if you later need that data, it can’t be sued for other purposes. It can’t even be used by other departments within the company or to give it a boost or a down vote on promotion for the same person. It is one of those documents that need to be stored after being used for its original purpose and sealed away not to be taken advantage of.

What Information Can You Ask For?


You are not legally able to use certain data to decide a candidate’s employment eligibility. This includes information that is older than a specified length of time, usually seven years. Employers are also not allowed to request information about sexual orientation, political opinions, ethnicity, or age. Other than that, the type of records that are typically collected during a routine background check include the following:

  • Criminal history – This one isn’t hard to comprehend. You’ll want to know if your future employee has an encounter with the law you’re not aware of. This is important to most companies, mostly if you work in a field that includes trust/security. This part needs to be checked both locally and on the state and nation levels.
  • Driving records – It is not only about a driving license. You need to know if your future employee was involved in any traffic accident, felony or does he or she has a DUI tied to their name.
  • Credit reports and bankruptcy filings – While this might look like something that doesn’t affect the worker you’re hiring, it can have an effect, especially if someone is coming with a lot of debt.
  • Education records – it all depends on the position you’re hiring. Essentially people will bring their educational papers, but some are prepared to forge them, so you need to be sure.
  • Court records – Similarly to criminal records, you want to know if someone is frequent on the court or if he had a feud with a former employer. You don’t want someone quick to enter a legal dispute without a valid reason.
  • Past addresses – It is essential to know if your employee changed address in the past and how frequently has he been doing this. You might not want to hire someone who moves a lot and it isn’t a loyal employee.
    These records can vary depending on what state you live in. Certain states prohibit the release of some information, so check the laws before you begin.

The Process – Tell the Candidate

The first step of the process is to tell your candidate that you are going to be performing a background check on them. This is often posted in the job description itself, but it doesn’t hurt to remind them once again. You will need written permission from the candidate to start the check. Write out a clear document that identifies the general areas that you plan on looking into, and why you are doing so. After both parties sign the document, you are free to start the background check.



Checking references is a good place to start your search. Many employers skip this step because it can be very time-consuming, but it is a good way to tell if your candidate lied on their resume. Ask questions that relate to the employee’s performance history, strengths, weaknesses, and verify the dates of employment. Some candidates try to stretch out the dates on their resume with the purpose of hiding gaps in their employment history. If you find that your candidate has lied to you right off the bat, that is not a good sign for their future employment at your company.

Collect Records

The two main approaches to performing background checks are hiring a third-party company or (as mentioned above) using online databases yourself. Other companies can do the work for you, but this cost tends to add up if you are using them for checking the background of multiple candidates. Doing the work by yourself means that you need to check through databases and fill out applications to request information such as credit reports. You may need to use multiple databases to ensure that you gather everything that you are looking for. An easier aspect of the process is checking the candidate’s social media activity, much of which you can usually find by a simple internet search.

Review the Report


Once all the data is together, take the time to sit down and review it all. Much of the information will likely be typical and you will have no cause for alarm. If you come across something a little concerning, try asking the candidate about it before you disqualify them completely. They may have a perfectly reasonable explanation that will satisfy your worries. It may even turn out to be a mistake, in which case the candidate would need to get the error corrected immediately. If you end up disqualifying the candidate because of the information found in their background check, you will need to inform them.

How Long Does a Background Check Take?

It all depends. If you are in a pinch to hire someone fast, you can get it done quickly. This is never a recommended route, as you could miss some vital data. Of course, it also depends on whether you are doing the check yourself or hiring an outside agency to do it for you. There are agencies out there who can do the job quickly but with quality. It also comes down to it how in-depth background checks do you want to run. If it’s only fundamental, it can be done quickly. But, a thorough examination needs time, and this is a process you don’t want to rush if you want a detailed report.

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