Employee Background Screening
At AccountingJobsToday.com, we want to provide both employers and recruiters with easy to use background verification services. Conducting a criminal background search or court records can often be time consuming and delayed for various reasons. When you are looking to hire a new employee this can often become a source of frustration especially when hiring Accountants, Bookeepers or Controllers in a tight labor market.
10 Steps to Background Checking
Protect Your Business
Make a Commitment to Background Check.
Businesses have high standards, limited resources and need to hire fast when the time comes. Yet each applicant and employee adds risk. Fortunately, performing background checks on
applicants and employees is an effective way to discover potential issues that could affect your
business. Consider these facts:
- News articles report one-third of all application forms contain outright lies
- Studies show 3 out of 10 business failures are caused by employee theft.
Research concludes average awards in a workplace violence lawsuit exceed $1 million.
These are just some of the reasons why businesses are increasingly performing background
checks. One result is more informed employment decisions by businesses. Another is the
creation of a phenomenon called “adverse selection” where individuals with inappropriate
backgrounds seek positions with businesses not yet conducting background checks. Get
started now to increase the benefits from background checking.
Establish a Written Standard
Creating a policy doesn’t have to mean lots of research, but it does mean that you should
document who you are going to check and what you are going to check about them. This
ensures that every time your company performs a background check, it is done consistently
and information gathered is used appropriately for employment decisions. More sophisticated
policies may include different rules for different positions.
HireRight recommends that you seek
legal advice to review your formal policies.
Some of the applicable laws around employment background checks are detailed in the
Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and related information available from the Federal Trade
Commission’s web site at www.ftc.gov/credit. The FCRA sets the national standard for
employers who want to find out more about an applicant or current employee. It covers much
more than credit reports and the FCRA laws apply to most businesses regardless of size.
Obtain Written Consent
Government regulations generally require that you must have your applicant’s or employee’s
advanced written permission to perform a background check. This requires a disclosure and
consent form that should be separate from any employment application form. Some of the
applicable laws are detailed in the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) available from the Federal
Trade Commission’s web site at www.ftc.gov/credit.
Other applicable laws may differ state by
state, so the most conservative and best approach may be to also give a notice of rights at the
time a check is requested and include the right to get a copy of any report made.
Check Address History and
Social Security Number
The list of current and past addresses is the foundation for a thorough background check.
Knowing past counties the person has lived in is useful for both deciding where to look
for criminal records as well as to look for time gaps and location mismatches compared
to the information provided by the applicant. There are no perfect sources for past
addresses, so the list should be used for further investigation rather than as evidence that
a person provided false information.
A person’s Social Security Number (SSN) is typically issued sometime between their birth
and first job, so through a SSN Validation you can note if the SSN that your applicant
provided you was issued prior to the date of birth that they gave you. Although the Social
Security Administration won’t tell you if your candidate has the specific SSN you provided
or whether your applicant is lying, a problem with the SSN may cause you to ask for
Conduct a Comprehensive Criminal Check
The best criminal background searches are conducted at individual counties since there is
no centralized entity controlling all criminal records. One reason is the probability of finding
criminal records is highest in a person’s current county of residence since many crimes
are conducted near their home or work. County searches are also effective since felonies
and misdemeanors are typically prosecuted at county courthouses and their outcomes
may not always be reported to state or federal agencies. Comprehensive background
checks should include several counties to search locations of past residence and
Use a person’s date of birth and all names the applicant or employee has
used in recent years when searching for criminal records for best results.
For even more confidence, consider using national criminal database checks to locate
additional records from places an applicant or employee may have visited, or places of
residence and employment that were not revealed.
One caution with national criminal
database searches—it’s possible that relying on database records alone may not be
legal in some cases so always verify every national criminal database record found at the
corresponding county courthouse.
Verify Past Employment
You should attempt to verify employment dates, actual compensation and job titles with
descriptions by contacting past employers. You can choose to estimate employment
dates by asking an applicant to provide copies of first and last pay stubs and estimate
compensation by requesting copies of W-2 forms, if you prefer.
Some past employers may decline to provide any information, so ask the applicant to
provide a written request and release to previous employers authorizing their disclosure
of information when this happens. Be aware that not all past employers can be found
since some may have gone out of business or moved and others could have merged or
When degrees or education are important for a position, consider validating an applicant’s
claims by contacting their educational institutions. There have been several well publicized
incidents of employees overstating their education in recent years. While the causes
for this are unclear, perhaps some applicants assume education is not checked by
Most educational institutions will confirm dates of attendance and degree or
diploma obtained, although some may require a signed consent form. For colleges and
universities, try contacting their Office of Academic Records or Registrar’s Office.
Check Driving History
A motor vehicle records (MVR) report can be a good way to identify prospective employees
with inappropriate driving records in order to limit company risk when it comes to
employees who are driving on company time. It may even help keep your insurance rates
down. In some states, convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs cannot
be found on the criminal court records and can only be revealed with a MVR check.
The process to complete these searches is becoming cumbersome, in some cases.Many states consider the MVR to be confidential and restricted to jobs where operation
of a commercial vehicle is required. If driving is relevant to positions that you have, it may
be helpful to check with the Department of Motor Vehicles in your state to identify the
forms required and set expectations for the time it takes to receive information. You can
generally find links to Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices at state government
Comply with Laws and Regulations
As an employer, you may have certain additional legal obligations when you intend to
take any “adverse action” based in whole or in part on the information resulting from
a background check. The term “adverse action” in the employment screening context
means any denial of employment or any other decision for employment purposes that
adversely affects any current or prospective employee—e.g., you decide not to hire, not to
retain or not to promote someone based in part on their background check.
is the FCRA requirement that prior to taking any such adverse action against the applicant or employee, if based in whole or in part on information from the background check, you must
provide the individual with a “pre-adverse action” notice that includes a copy of their background
check report, and a summary of the applicant’s or employee’s rights as prescribed by the
Federal Trade Commission.
A fundamental goal of the “pre-adverse action” notice is to give the applicant or employee an
opportunity to review the report to ensure that it is accurate before the employer makes an
adverse decision based on that information. Then, if after a reasonable period of time following
the pre-adverse action letter you decide to take the adverse action, you must send another
notice (the “adverse action” notice) that informs the individual that you have taken the adverse
action. Some of the applicable laws are detailed in the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) available
from the Federal Trade Commission’s web site at www.ftc.gov/credit. Other applicable laws may
differ state by state.
Reassess Your Program Annually
Employment background checks are highly beneficial for businesses, but doing them yourself is
complicated and time-consuming. This is a situation when “do-it-yourself” probably doesn’t make
sense for most businesses, so find an experienced background checking provider and let them do
the work for you. Here are some questions to ask when comparing providers:
Perhaps more importantly, the background checking provider you select should help you manage
the background checking process and help you navigate applicable laws and regulations so you
can fully benefit from the results.
- Do you specialize in employment background checks exclusively?
- Will you guide my business through the background check process?
- Do you provide access to a library of useful forms, letters, checklists and more?
- Is the process Internet-based so I can start a check at anytime and from anywhere?
- How long do I have to wait for the final results of a background check?
- Have you been performing employment background checks for a decade or more?
- Are there thousands of companies that trust and rely on your background checks?
- Have you performed millions of background checks for your customers?