How to Do an Employee Background Check

It’s often been said that a company’s employees are its most important assets. The people you hire to perform your work, to interface with clients, and to protect your confidential information can make or break your business. That’s why pre-employment background checks are so important to your company’s success. It’s especially vital for small- to mid-sized companies, many of which tend to be financially vulnerable. Just one or two ill-advised hires can have a devastating effect: According to the US Chamber of Commerce, 30 percent of small companies fail due to employee theft. Here are some key points to consider as you search for the best individuals to bring into your company.

Employee Criminal background

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires that employers tell an applicant they intend to run a background check, and that the results may factor into whether they are hired. Pay careful attention to your state’s laws regarding the information you compile. Companies can gather information going back seven years, though some states don’t permit employers to consider arrests not leading to a conviction. Be aware that some states prohibit employers from doing a criminal background check until after a conditional job offer has been made.

The FCRA regulates who may access a consumer’s background information, so be sure to use an accredited consumer reporting agency. Visit the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) website to find an experienced consumer reporting agency.

A consumer report includes criminal records along with credit information, though offenses, liens, judgments and accounts in collection won’t show up if they occurred more than seven years ago. Bear in mind that you must inform potential hires if negative information in a background check convinces you not to hire them. Always provide a copy of the summary of their FCRA rights, and be aware that any information included in your report can be challenged.

Doing the Background Check of an Employee Yourself Online

If you choose not to use a consumer reporting agency, you can find plenty of background information using the internet. Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Bing, Glassdoor and Whitepages.com are just a few of the online resources you can use to put together a report on an individual seeking employment with you. However, remember that the information you find via the internet may prove false and can be difficult to verify.

Most criminal information will be searchable in public records through court and other government websites, and make sure your search includes county, city and state records so you don’t miss something important. You can also use web-based companies like US Search, Net Detective and Intelius to compile information on a would-be employee, though you will need to pay a nominal fee for these services.

Remember, researching a potential employee yourself means running the risk of finding and acting on information that may not be verifiable. In some cases, you might not even be able to tell whether you’ve got the right individual, and some of the information you find may not be legal when it comes to deciding whether to hire a prospective employee. Considering the importance of accurate, legal information and the consequences of hiring the wrong person, it makes good sense to go with a professional search firm. It’s affordable — usually about $90 per search — and you can rest easy knowing the information is valid, legally actionable and verifiable.