The Life of a Background Screen

You’ve got a promising job candidate and now you’re ready to do a background screen.

How does the process work, and what can you expect to learn? Is there anything you need to do to prepare? And what exactly will your background screening provider handle for you?

To properly navigate the background screening process — and make well-informed hiring decisions ­­— it’s important to understand the steps involved and what is expected of you (the employer).


Step 1: Lay the Legal Groundwork

Before you screen any candidate, make sure your organization follows guidelines of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as well as the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). To help ensure compliance, you will want to:

  • Create a written background screening policy.
  • Apply consistent and specific screening methods for each job.
  • Provide proper disclosure and obtain written consent from jobcandidates being screened, among other actions.

FCRA and EEOC rules are complex, and if you don’t comply with them properly, you could be subject to legal consequences. Some background screening companies offer compliance assistance and sample forms to help you verify that all your procedures are correct and compliant. To remove a lot of the guesswork, choose a screening company whose employees are FCRA-certified and highly experienced in proper screening procedures.

Additionally, confirm whether your region is subject to a “ban the box” law. So far, 35 U.S. states and 150 cities and counties have passed some form of these laws. Three-fourths of the U.S. population now lives in a jurisdiction that has banned the box laws.

These laws were created to give people who have been convicted of a crime a fair chance at finding employment. They all require that you eliminate the checkbox on job applications asking whether someone has a criminal record, and most require you to delay a screen until after the first interview, or after an offer is extended.


Step 2: Choose Which Checks to Run

Criminal history is an important part of background screening, but a professional screening company will also cover, employment and education verification, reference checks, and more, depending on your needs and your industry. Here are some checks a background screening company might run for you:

  • Criminal history
  • Government Sanctions
  • SSN Verification
  • Education and Employment Verification checks
  • Medical Sanctions
  • Driving history
  • Credit checks
  • Drug screening

Talk with the screening company about developing background check “templates” for different positions within your organization. Using technology, they can identify the right combination of checks needed for each role you might fill, and then automate the screening process for future candidates.


Step 3: Run Your Searches

Next, you and/or your candidate will need to provide some information to the background screening company that will perform your background check.

If you are using a mobile candidate portal, your candidate will receive an email link initiated by your business. They can use the link to securely submit their personal information to the background screening company, which will then have approval to conduct the background check.

Note: What information is required from your candidate will depend on the specific searches you want to perform. For example, some screeners will verify Social Security numbers and do I9 and E-Verify checks to make sure you’re hiring people authorized to work in the United States.

Here’s how your screening company will perform various searches.

  1. Criminal history – Most screening companies collects criminal record information from federal, state and municipal courts, but some don’t stop there. An experienced background screening company will comb through records from the nationwide sex offender registry, traffic courts, state police departments, corrections departments, probation departments and other agencies. Some screeners also examine records from the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the Government Services Agency and other international databases.

Criminal cases can range from infractions to misdemeanors to felonies. Your report will state the case outcome — whether the person was convicted or acquitted, or whether the case is still pending.

If a case was dismissed, it may or may not show up on your background report, depending on jurisdictional laws. In some cases, past offenders can have their cases sealed, or “expunged.” Expunged records will not show up on the background report. 

How far back criminal checks can search depends on the jurisdiction. The normal range is seven to 10 years.

Be sure to follow EEOC guidelines and FCRA rules when judging the results of a criminal screen. If you’re not sure what to do, consult your screening company.

  1. Verification checks – Lying on resumes is unfortunately commonplace. Human resources managers have discovered discrepencies on 75% on candidate resumes.

In an employment verification check, the screening company verifies dates of work, job title, salary and responsibilities. They can also confirm the candidate’s academic attendance, degrees and field of study.

If a job applicant lists references, the screening company can contact those individuals, as well. This saves your organization valuable time, and it can help you determine whether your candidate is reliable, a team player and a good fit for your organization.

  1. Driving history – If transportation is in the job description, it’s important to check the applicant’s driving record. The screening company will inform you about both personal and commercial licenses.

If a license has been suspended or restricted, you’ll find out, along with discovering traffic violations and penalties. Serious offenses like reckless driving, driving without a license, hit-and-run and vehicular homicide will typically show up in the criminal history section of your report.

  1. Credit checks – Credit information is useful for judging your candidate’s trustworthiness. The credit check will reveal the person’s creditworthiness and payment history, including any accounts sent to collections and sometimes their credit score.

Landlords, franchise owners and other businesses can use this check to learn the risk of doing business with prospective partners.

  1. Drug screening – Drug screening is essential to ensuring a safe, healthy and productive workplace. A study by treatment provider Detox found that nearly 70 percent of drug users have used drugs on the job.

According to the National Safety Council, lost productivity from prescription drug misuse results in losses of $25.6 billion to $53.4 billion a year.

Drug use also eats into an employer’s insurance costs. People with opioid use disorders spend five times as many days in the hospital than others and are 4.5 times more likely to visit the emergency room.


Step 4: Review Your Comprehensive Report

As you can see, your background screen will provide you with a great deal of useful information. Once all necessary checks are completed for your candidate, the background screening company will provide you a comprehensive report with the results. These results are always available online, even if you use an applicant tracking system.


Step 5: Make Your Hiring Decision (and Take Appropriate Steps)

In addition to preventing bad hiring decisions, background screening helps you find people who are responsible, trustworthy and a good fit for your organization. But you have to be careful about how you use your screening report.

The FCRA requires employers to follow specific “adverse action” procedures if you decide not to hire a candidate based on information contained in the background check report. The process includes allowing a candidate to dispute the findings in the report.

In addition, the EEOC says that background results cannot be used to deny employment for discriminatory reasons, and offers specific guidance for dealing with criminal records. A screening company with expertise in both FCRA and EEOC rules can help you stay compliant with these complex laws throughout the screening process — and when you make your final hiring decisions.

Are you ready to fill your next position?


Make your next hire with IntelliCorp. Comprehensive, Convenient, & Compliant.

IntelliCorp is a NAPBS accredited background screening company with knowledgeable, experienced  staff that uses technology to provide compliant background screening services for growing organizations. Discover why IntelliCorp has been named to HRO Today magazine’s list of top screening providers nine times. Contact us at (216) 450-5200 or visit


Blog post currently doesn't have any comments.

Add Your Comment