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Background Check for Employment – What Employers Need to Know

4 min read
background check for employment

A background check for employment is a legal investigation to verify the identity, credentials and criminal background of an individual. It is a vital part of the recruitment process as it helps companies ensure they are hiring honest and trustworthy new recruits that can perform the duties of a position.

Pre-employment checks can create challenges for HR managers if they are not up to date with compliance requirements. Find out what the various types of pre-employment screening checks are, how they differ between the UK and the US, and how an integrated applicant tracking system can help streamline the process.

What is a Background Check for Employment? 

Pre-employment screening usually involves a criminal background check, employment history verification, and professional reference checks. Depending on the job, it can also include drug screening and competency checks to test an applicant’s skills, although this is usually carried out after a job offer has been made. Ultimately, it’s an opportunity for an employer to check that an applicant is who they say they are and to verify the information contained in a CV.

Although the frequency, purpose, and legitimacy of background check for employment vary between countries and industries, most include the following:

Types of employment screening checks:

  • Standard checks to verify qualifications and educational background
  • An employment reference check
  • Employment history checks and investigations into employment gaps
  • Criminal records checks
  • Identity checks
  • Right to work checks
  • Checks for workers’ compensation claims or employer sanctions
  • Driving record checks 
  • Credit checks
  • Social media screening

Human Resources must conduct a series of database and reference checks to verify the status of individual applicants. Some checks are advisable, others are legal requirements. Additionally, certain checks may require the prior consent of applicants to ensure compliance with data protection regulations. It is the responsibility of the HR manager to stay up to date with local requirements and processes.

Pre-Employment Screening Checks in the US

Background checks and other pre employment screening checks are a requirement across all states in the USA. The various comprehensive checks help organizations select the right candidate for the job. They also reduce the risk of encountering potential negligent hiring claims and lawsuits. Additionally, they can help to provide a safe working environment for employees, especially in industries where operations rely on skilled, trained employees.

The employment background screening industry in the US is governed by federal and state laws, including the following: 

A background check for employment in the US can include the following:

Identity checks

Verify basic personal information including identity, social security verification, motor vehicle reports and passport validation. It is usually the first completed by a recruitment manager. 

Criminal search services

Provide employers with past criminal records at a county, national and federal level.

Verification services

These include employment and education verification, residential address verification, military service and reference verification, and professional license checks. 

Additional services

These can include credit reports, civil reports, social media checks, drug and alcohol screening, and Facis 1, 2, 3 checks (Fraud and Abuse Control Information Systems).

Pre-Employment Screening Checks in the UK 

Although pre-employment screening checks in the UK are similar, they are regulated by different laws and restrictions.

Criminal record checks

They must be proportionate and relevant to the role being applied for. They must also comply with the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) 1974. Spent convictions (where someone who has committed a criminal offense but has not reoffended in a given period) cannot be requested.

Education and credential checks

Used to verify the knowledge and skills included in a candidate’s CV. These include checking university degrees, technical training, and other education and credential verifications. 

Reference checks

References from previous employers are verified to ensure the right fit for a job. This can be done via phone or letter/email. Discriminatory questions must be avoided at all times.

Right to Work checks

These ensure an applicant is legally allowed to work in the UK. These must be undertaken for all applicants, regardless of race, nationality or ethnic origin, to avoid discrimination claims. Records must be maintained for all checks.

Credit checks

Usually reserved for those working in the financial sector and checks must be proportionate to the role in question (i.e. relevant for a financial director but not for an admin assistant).

DVLA checks

Relevant for employees who drive on company time (such as sales reps or haulers). Names and dates of birth must be cross-referenced with information supplied on the criminal record consent form. A requirement of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.

Social media screening

Optional. These checks can be carried out to provide valuable insight into a candidate’s values and attitude. It can be used to detect any potentially incriminating activity that could impact the organization. Care must be taken to avoid any potential claims relating to discrimination.

How Can an Applicant Tracking System Help? 

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is an automated platform that manages the recruiting and hiring process, including job postings and job applications. It helps consolidate and automate all processes relating to job candidates. Once a hiring decision is made, a new employee background check can be integrated with a company’s ATS. Background checks on current employees are also easy to integrate.

Benefits of using an ATS for pre-employment vetting:

  • A customized careers page can help you easily collect applicant information. You can fill in custom fields for candidates to complete, including background check information.
  • By integrating screening services with recruitment software instead of outsourcing them you save time and money as all processes are centralized and automated, including requests for background report consent
  • Integration reduces the number of interfaces needed to process an employment application and verify all data. This also results in better user experience.
  • By integrating the background check for employment with your ATS  you can ensure a fair and transparent screening process, as well as minimizing any risks of litigation.

Easily manage employee pre-check screening documents in one place thanks to Factorial.

Written by Cat Symonds; Edited by Tanya Lesiuk

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