Background checks are extremely important for all recruiters, regardless of their company or industry. Background checks for potential employees are crucial for the safety of their would-be coworkers and the good of the company. Background checks help to confirm or deny what an applicant puts on their resume, and they can uncover criminal infractions and other relevant information. Companies may use online resources such as Go Look Up, which provide services such as background checks, address lookups, inmate searches, and phone lookups, or they may hire recruiting agencies to perform background checks during the hiring process.

The need for thorough background checks becomes clear when you consider that roughly 53 percent of CVs contain inaccurate information in the U.S. These inaccuracies typically involve overstating job experience, education, or other qualifications. Failing to properly vet a candidate can result in significant financial losses for a company, and worse. In 2016, workplace homicides accounted for 10 percent of fatal workplace incidents. Candidates must be checked for violent behavior or otherwise troubling incidents that could affect their job performance and interactions with others.

What is included in a background check?

Generally speaking, a background check will give a recruiter access to an applicant’s credit history, driving records, previous employment and education, and their criminal record. The criminal record is the most likely to be problematic, particularly if the applicant has a felony on record. Spots on a driving record could affect jobs that require transporting people or hazardous materials, and financial institutions are likely to take candidate credit history seriously.

Criminal history includes convictions and non-convictions unless the applicant has had their record expunged. Particularly for those just getting out of prison, finding a stable job can be challenging, and it’s generally recommended to seek professional assistance. A felon with an engineering degree, for example, might work with professionals from an engineering temp agency to find an opening. Even those who have long since committed to a reformed lifestyle may encounter employment problems without the right help.

Limitations of background checks

The major limitation of employment background checks is that recruiters must receive written permission from the candidate to proceed. This consent is generally included as part of the job application form. Obtaining proper consent is one of the greatest responsibilities or recruiters, and trying to circumvent the rule can prove problematic.

Some employers have attempted to prescreen candidates using a social media check, for instance. This is essentially what it sounds like: a candidate’s social media profiles are scanned for information relevant to their character or the company’s standards. The greatest risk of this kind of check is that candidates will often post things on social media that they wouldn’t share with potential employers, and protected information may influence a recruiter’s decision. While there are some services that claim to filter such information, caution is advised.

Background check regulations

While recruiters will generally have the written permission from candidates to perform a formal background check, they’ll still have to follow government regulations via the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). These regulations affect the background check process from dictating how steps are taken to detailing how the information can be used.

Protected information, such as an employee’s race or religion, can’t be used in determining employment eligibility. Criminal information may also only be used if it’s relevant to the candidate’s ability to perform the job. If for any reason it’s decided that a candidate is denied a job opportunity based on background check findings, they must be given a report on the relevant findings.

Background checks are essential for modern hiring practices, but all professionals should be well-versed on their applications and guidelines to avoid costly incidents of misuse for both themselves and potential employees.