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Background Check Best Practices

The pre-screening process for new hire candidates is an important part of the recruiting process. Employers want to make sure they are hiring the right person for the job on the first try. Background checks have become a popular option for employers as part of the recruiting and hiring process. Pre-screening helps employers hire the right candidate and protect their current employees, customers, and company reputation. It’s essential for employers to approach background checks accurately and legally to avoid any potential lawsuits. Establishing a policy around how you will implement, communicate, and conduct the pre-screening will ensure a compliant and consistent process, as well as prevent legal issues. To assist with properly implementing background checks into your recruiting process, we’ve provided some best practices every employer should follow.

Federal and State Compliance

One of the most important items to remember with background checks is they need to be in compliance with state and federal employment laws. All background checks should be compliant with Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and state-specific ban-the-box laws. The FCRA mandates that all employers receive consent from the candidate prior to running the background check, and outline the steps the employer must take if the results of the background check will affect the hiring decision.[1]

Under federal law, an employer can run the background check on their candidate any time after receiving consent. However, certain states have specific ban-the-box requirements that affect this timeline, so employers will need to comply with the state or city-specific law when considering the time frame for conducting the pre-screening.[1]

Screen All or None

To avoid potential lawsuits and discrimination charges, the HR best practice is to conduct background checks on all candidates, or no candidates. As the employer, you cannot pick and choose which candidates you want to run a background check on and which you don’t—consistency is key. An exception can be made based on the specific position or level of position; however, every candidate applying for the same position must receive the same background check applicable to that position.[1]

Access to criminal records is another area that requires consistency. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recommends employers only consider a candidate’s convictions if they are directly related to the responsibilities of the position for which they applied. Rather than focus on specific types of crimes and rejecting candidates based on particular crimes, try focusing on all the information returned in the results and consider the nature of the position, the nature of the crime, and the amount of time since the candidate was convicted. When a background check runs information on criminal history, the types of records that are reviewed are: felony criminal convictions, misdemeanor criminal convictions, and infractions or violations. The report will include the name of the crime, whether the candidate was convicted, not-convicted, or pending, and the date of disposition.[2] It is then best practice to allow the candidate to provide more information based on the findings and take their account into consideration before deciding on rejection.[1]

Remote Work Screening

In the current state of the world, companies have gone mostly—or fully—remote. Even though the recruiting process may look a bit different with remote candidates, you can still implement your policy for background checks. A remote worker still needs to be able to perform their job requirements, and hiring a candidate without ever meeting them in person is a risk employers take, trusting the candidate can live up to their word and be productive and efficient while working remotely. That is why, when hiring a remote employee, it’s still important to consider safety, company reputation, and whether or not the candidate is able to perform the duties of the position for which they applied. Through background checks, you are able to screen driving records, criminal records, and perform drug screenings on your remote candidates, in addition to obtaining references from previous employment, to ensure you are hiring the best person for the position.[3]

There is a lot to consider for background checks on potential candidates. Partnering with Harbor America and our team of experts will give you the tools and resources you need to implement the most effective background check policies. Whether you need guidance on state and federal compliance laws, or need assistance with general best practices, our human resource management professionals will help you develop a thorough, fair, and compliant background check policy ensuring you select the best candidate to join your team.


[1] GoodHire- HR Best Practices: The 3 Cs of Background Checks

[2] GoodHire- Criminal Background Checks: What You Need to Know

[3] HR Cloud- 4 Tips for Effective Background for a Remote Worker