Companies do criminal background checks on their employees along with educational qualifications and skills; certain other parameters such as criminal background can be helpful in determining how a candidate’s performance will be working with the organization. A candidate with a troubled background will be more likely to cause trouble than the one with a clean background.
Organizations depend on employees to operate their business. They need workers who are productive and focused to uphold commitments and delivery deadlines. Running a business is not an easy job and it gets harder if you hire employees who are not as skilled as they looked during the interview. You, of course, need to go beyond what is mentioned on a candidate’s resume and check if those catchy claims stand true.
Organizations cannot predict the future of a relationship with an employee, but they can take pre-emptive steps by looking at his/her background. Historically, a candidate with a good background can be more in line with your expectations than the one with a problematic background. Background checks have been successful at predicting the future by looking at the past and that’s why we see more and more businesses taking up employee background checks before they hire a candidate.
What are criminal background checks for employment?
A criminal background check or pre-employment background check aims to look up and review any past criminal records in your name. Your personal and biometric information is searched through local as well as a nationwide criminal databases to see if something comes up. Whatever the results are, they are reviewed by your employer, who then has to make a hiring decision on the basis of the criminal background check report received.
Criminal background records are maintained by local, state, and national level law enforcement agencies. These agencies also share data as per their standard operating procedures. Generally, law enforcement agencies of smaller jurisdictions submit criminal records to the state or national level agencies. Your criminal background check application is submitted to a law enforcement agency (such as the Federal Breuer of Investigation) that holds the criminal records and facilitate civil background check services. Generally, a nationwide criminal database is checked against the submitted identity as a candidate may move to another state if they have a criminal record in one state.
How to get a criminal background check done?
Pre-employment background checks involve multiple steps that start from framing a fair and legally compliant employee background check policy to finally concluding the process and making a hiring decision on the basis of the final background check report.
Background check policy
Framing a background check policy is the first step toward establishing a fair and law-abiding employee background check process. A well-framed and written background check policy ensures that there would be no discrimination and that candidates will be fairly processed as per the guidelines laid by the document.
All the steps, procedures, and final decisions depending on the outcomes should be in writing in the background check policy document. This document should also be periodically reviewed to check its compliance with changing laws and it must be updated accordingly.
It will be wise to conduct the background check according to the position and responsibilities. For example, in an organization, finance department personnel may be checked for their credit history, while other employees who are unrelated to finance will not need it. Similarly, personnel involved in driving company vehicles would be interested in conducting driving record checks for the drivers.
The background check policy should specify at which stage of the recruitment process the background check would be conducted. Your background check policy document should clearly mention the actions your organization should take when the background check result is received. It should also mention how flexible can the management be considering the type and severity of the crime.
Ensuring compliance with regulations
Compliance is the part that cannot be ignored in the employee background check process as there are clearly coded regulations for it. Not complying with the regulations while framing your background check policy and processing candidates accordingly can attract regulatory actions, lawsuits, penalties, and more.
Employers should be aware of common as well as specific violations that may occur during the professional background check. Even if these violations occur out of ignorance or error, eventually employer will be held responsible for them.
As per the Fair Credit Reporting Act, employers should inform candidates about the employment/pre-employment background checks beforehand and take proper consent to proceed. That is not it, post background check, if an employer wishes to disqualify a candidate from the recruitment process, he/she has to send a formal notice following various steps. This notice is called an Adverse Action Notice, which is a formal written intimation to the candidate as per FCRA guidelines. It intimates the candidate or employee about his/her disqualification from the recruitment process due to certain findings in the employment background checks.
FCRA prescribes a 5 step adverse action process for employers
- Disclose the findings of the background check and send a pre-adverse action letter. This notice shall include a copy of the candidate’s background check report and a summary of his/her rights as described by the FCRA.
- The next step is to serve the candidate with a pre-adverse action notice, however, there should be some time gap between a pre-adverse action letter and a pre-adverse action notice. The candidate might want to review his/her background check report and raise any issues if found with the report. The employer should also provide clarifying information if the candidate wants clarification on certain aspects.
- The employer should address the candidate’s response and any potential issues raised by the candidate. It is basically the process of performing the review of the background check report again, to make sure that there is no error or omissions.
- The next step is to provide the candidate a notice for adverse action (i.e. the decision of rejecting the candidate on the grounds of information uncovered in background checks). This notice should also mention the rights of the candidate as defined by the FCRA.
- As a final step, the employer is required to dispose of all the digital as well as physical (i.e. printed copies) records of background check results. This step is also required by FCRA.
Role of a background check agency
A professional background check agency can play a crucial role in conducting employment/pre-employment background checks for your candidates. Today, there are dedicated businesses to perform professional background checks on your behalf and they can do it more professionally than you can achieve by doing them yourself.
These agencies charge a fee to perform a professional background check, which depends on the type of the background check package you chose. There are a number of factors to consider before hiring a background check agency to conduct a professional background check on your behalf. Major factors to consider would include: the numbers of candidates to hire, types of the background checks to perform, the number of locations to include, business size, requirements of internal background check policy, etc.
Professional background check agencies can be really helpful to reduce your recruitment burden. These agencies can search criminal records check online in the nationwide criminal database. They have professionals that are well versed with national as well as local background check regulations and can do a good job keeping you in compliance, provided you are able to find a good one.
Types of background checks
Though a criminal background check is the most intrusive type of background check in an employment background check portfolio, it is not the only type of background check an employer may be interested in.
Verification of educational qualification
This is the most common type of background check conducted by most employers. Higher education claims from reputed institutions increase the probability of selection and securing a higher salary. These benefits might tempt some candidates to make fake educational claims, which are needed to be verified.
Work experience screening
Just like in higher education, candidates with work experience are preferred by employers. Work experience claims increase the probability of securing the job as well as a higher salary. Some candidates might try inflating their work experience and skills that they do not possess. A thorough work experience screening becomes essential to separate genuine work experience claims from fake ones.
Driving record checks
Some job types such as commercial driver, in which a candidate will be driving a commercial vehicle, makes the driving record check crucial. Driving history screening can unveil information such as past records of DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs), traffic violations, suspensions, etc., which can play a crucial role in making the hiring decision.
Credit history background checks
Certain employment positions that grant the candidate access to financial assets as a manager or a custodian, may require credit history background checks. Credit history screening is done to review how a candidate has been able to manage his/her debt. A candidate with poor credit history, high debt, defaults, etc. is more likely to take undue advantage of his/her position as a money manager.
Employers do not want their employers to use prescription or illegal drugs as it can contribute to productivity and behavioral issues, and increase absenteeism and turnover at work. The use of drugs by the employees can also increase the chance of accidents at work. So to avoid these issues beforehand, performing drug screening is always a good idea.
Personal criminal background check
Have you ever wondered what information the law enforcement agencies hold in your name? Have you ever been arrested or prosecuted and afraid that it might become a problem if your employer runs a background check? Or you are just curious and want to review your own criminal history records if any?
The good thing is that you can conduct a personal criminal background check to know what the law enforcement agencies have stored with your identity. Reviewing a personal criminal background check can be particularly helpful if you have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime.
To conduct a personal criminal background check, you need to submit an application to a contact center designated by the respective law enforcement agency. In the United States, you can submit a personal criminal background check application to the FBI directly or via a live scan fingerprinting service provider. A live scan fingerprinting service provider is a third-party entity, which helps you through your personal criminal background check for a fee.
If an individual does not want to submit criminal background check online, he/she may also have them printed on fingerprint cards and sent by mail if the agency concerned accepts it that way. Ink impressions are also accepted, however, ink-based fingerprinting can be tricky. Since it is an all-manual process to capture fingerprints, there is no way to be sure about the quality issues in the fingerprint impression. On the other hand, live scan fingerprinting is considered the best criminal background check method as the live scan system performs rigorous quality checks before criminal background check online submissions.
In some organizations, it can be a regulatory requirement to hire individuals without any criminal background. Contrary to criminal background screening, in which people are scrutinized for getting certain employment types due to their criminal history, the U.S. government’s Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) program encourages employers to hire ex-felons for certain employment types to bring the ex-convicts back to the mainstream.
Criminal background is a clear red flag in employee background checks. However, depending on the industry type, work profile, and the nature of the crime, an employer may still consider the candidacy despite his/her name appearing in criminal background check for employment. “Sterling Talent Solutions’ Background Screening Trends & Best Practices Report” found that a majority of employers (as much as 59%) disqualified only 5% or fewer candidates for failing criminal background checks for employment.