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Best Practices for Pre-employment Background Checks

Best Practices for Pre-employment Background Checks

Pre-employment background screenings are a routine component of onboarding new hires for a vast majority of US companies big and small. Background checks, and more specifically criminal background checks, are viewed as a way to protect against liability issues related to negligent hiring and to ensure greater workplace safety for employees and customers. Following best practices when establishing your background check program will help your organization use this tool wisely and to your greatest advantage.

Best Practices

Not every background check program is the same. Different businesses require different approaches. For example, government-regulated industries are highly controlled, global organizations require international employment background screenings, and organizations that employ drivers must comply with DOT guidelines. All these differences aside, any successful background check program employs the following best practices:

Standardized policies and uniform processes across the organization.

Your policy should begin with a statement of purpose and scope that defines why you are conducting background checks and how they serve your organization. Having a uniform policy does not mean that background checks will be the same for every position; it is entirely reasonable that some positions may require different types of checks and have different criteria for hire/no hire decisions. Rather, a uniform policy defines the following across the organization:

·         The purpose and scope of background screenings

·         The organizational responsibilities to conduct screenings

·         The legal parameters and guidelines that will be followed

·         How background checks will be performed, including what will be checked, how often they will be run, which positions require a background check, and what criteria will separate hire from don’t hire

Clear communication with candidates.

Candidates are an important part of the background check process; the check is only as good as the information they provide. Mobile technologies make it easy for candidates to input their relevant information and receive updates on how their check is progressing. Alwaysobtain consent from your potential new hiresprior to conducting any kind of pre-employment background check. It’s the law. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires that any applicant or employee undergoing an employment background check must be notified that theinformation acquired will be used for employment purposes and the individual must agree to such use in writing.

The FCRA also delineates communication guidelines about any adverse findings in the report. Essentially, candidates must be informed of adverse findings and be given the chance to correct erros or provide explanations.


Adherence to all applicable regulations governing employment background checks is critical. The FCRA and EEOC spell out guidelines relating to every step of the background check process, from drafting your policy all the way through to the final hiring decision and everything in between. Working with a professional background screening company well-versed in the complexities of the law will help your organization successfully navigate compliance issues.

The Takeaway

A carefully designed background check process that follows best practices protects your organization. Standardized processes, clear communication, and diligent attention to compliance will help you conduct valuable background checks and make wise hiring decisions.

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