3 Steps to a Compliant Background Check

October 14, 2021
Checkr Editor

Editor’s note: Nothing in Checkr’s Blog should be construed as legal advice, guidance, or counsel. Companies should consult their own legal counsel about their compliance responsibilities under the FCRA and applicable state and local laws. Checkr expressly disclaims any warranties or responsibility or damages associated with or arising out of information provided. 

Many HR teams these days are overworked and understaffed, so they may have to cut corners on certain tasks in order to be efficient. However, when it comes to background checks, every step matters, and taking a shortcut could end up creating even more work in the long run.

Why? Because if you want to get an accurate background check, you need to follow standard, consistent processes every step of the way. If you miss a step, you could receive erroneous information, or worse, get in trouble for noncompliance.

Make sure you’re dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s with this helpful checklist for a compliant background check:

1. Confirm the candidate’s identity 

This step seems easy, right? Not so fast. Candidates can make mistakes (intentional or not) on their resume or employment application, and if those errors aren’t caught, there could be consequences. In fact, research shows that hiring managers find discrepancies on over 50 percent of applications and resumes.

In order to ensure you’ve got the right person, you’ll want to double check that the candidate has entered in the right details, including the correct spelling of their name. A background check provider will then use this information to begin a search using the candidate’s social security number (SSN) or other personally identifiable information (PII) across commercially available databases as well as information from credit bureaus to identify potential addresses or aliases the candidate has used.

Note: An SSN trace is not the same as ID verification. While the SSN trace checks whether submitted information matches commercially available data associated with the particular SSN, it is not meant to determine whether the person entering that information is who they claim to be. That type of verification is best performed by the party directly engaging with the employee – whether that’s the employer or the contracting company.

2. Search, screen and investigate

Next, the background check will move to the “discovery” phase, which is essentially a broad search to identify where the candidate has lived or worked and where they’ve potentially had contact with law enforcement. Their credentials will also be used to conduct a national criminal database search, casting a wide net in order to find any other potential offenses.

If the candidate shows up in any of these databases, additional research should occur to make sure it’s actually the candidate in question and not someone else with the same name, as well as whether or not the candidate was guilty of the offense. From there, additional investigation will be conducted at the source of the records—most often, the county courthouse.

3. Review the report 

The next part takes some patience–because while many background checks can be completed within three to five days, some, including those that require deeper searches and investigation across multiple locations, could take longer. 

Once the data is compiled, it will be presented in a report. Reports vary by provider, but will generally include:

  • Candidate information, such as the name, zip code and date of birth
  • Aliases and addresses found in the report
  • All of the screenings processed for the report

Evaluate the results to help you determine whether the candidate is still eligible for the role in question. Remember, if a candidate requested a copy of a report, you’re legally obligated to provide them with one. If a report contains results that could impact the candidate’s eligibility for the role,  then you’ll need to begin the process of adverse action. Check out our article explaining the process for more information.

Background checks are a win-win for your business

Companies have come to understand the importance of background checks—in fact, 94 percent of employers conduct at least one type of employment screening. Having a consistent and standard process for your background checks not only helps to establish trust and transparency between an employee and employer, it also helps you stay compliant and reduce any risks that could disrupt your business’s success.   

And given the many intricacies of the validation, discovery and investigation phases, it’s clear why having a third-party service to assist with background checks can give companies like yours peace of mind.

For a deeper dive into background checks, download Beyond the Basics: Making Background Checks Work for You.

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