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Jul 15, 2015

Running a background check on potential employees offers the chance to identify the best professionals in your industry.

Unfortunately, it is possible to make mistakes when you run a background check on an individual.

By learning about the most common mistakes before starting the process, you can avoid any unnecessary errors and ensure that the employee suits your specific needs.

1. Inappropriate timing

Inappropriate timing for the background check is an error that harms your ability to find the best employees and a potential employee’s opportunity to work in your company. If you look up personal information too early in the interview process, then you automatically reject potential employees for any problems on their record.

In some cases, a background check will show a problem like a criminal record, a poor driving history or similar details. Depending on the position and the situation, the historical data does not always reflect the individual’s abilities or skills.

Run a background check near the end of the interview process (or even after an offer of employment or a contingent offer of employment has been made). By waiting until the end, you learn more about the individual and his/her skill sets. You also gain the opportunity to discuss his/her beliefs, ideas or concerns before learning about his/her history.

Keep in mind that the timing issue is often dependent upon the prevailing laws related to the use of criminal record history in the hiring context in the jurisdictions within which you operate as an employer. Make sure that you understand and work within the parameters of the various “ban the box” and other types of “fair chance” laws that may impact your background screening programs.

Your background screening vendor should be able to assist you in having the appropriate dialogue with your legal counsel in order to set up a legally compliant screening program.

2. Mistaken identity during a background check

Mixing up the identity of an individual with another person harms the outcome of a background check because you obtain false or inaccurate information. In some cases, mistaken identity actually costs a company the best employees for the position and prevents potential employees from obtaining a position in your company.

The primary reason that a mistaken identity occurs is the speed of a background check. A fast database service means that unexpected errors occur.

Reduce this risk when running a background check by asking for a formal application. Ask an applicant during a formal interview to double check information like his/her full name and social security number. Also, obtain a copy of a state-issued identity card or a federal passport.

By obtaining accurate information on an application or resume, you reduce the risk of mistaken identity impacting the background check process. When you learn about an arrest, drug charges or other similar concerns, inform the candidate and make sure that it is accurate information and have an open conversation with the candidate before you make an employment or retention decision!

3. Outdated paperwork

Federal and state regulations change over time as new laws regarding fair employment practices develop. Throughout the hiring process, you must provide accurate and up-to-date paperwork (including required disclosures) to your potential employees.

Make sure that you obtain permission from the potential employee before seeking any information. An employer must have written permission from a potential employee before starting a background check.

You must also explain why you need the information and the type of data before starting the process. For example, a company that works with children or handles a large amount of money will run a criminal background check to avoid hiring an inappropriate professional for the position.

Potential employees are within their rights to refuse a background check. If an individual refuses to sign the permission forms for any reason, then you can eliminate the candidate from the work opportunity and move on to a different candidate.

4. Limited response times

When the background check raises concerns about an individual’s ability to handle the tasks at work, you must inform him/her about the problem. Since errors occur on some occasions, the individual needs time to respond to any accusations or concerns before you move on to the next candidate.

The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and its many state analogues require a two-step notification process before taking an “adverse” action. Make sure that your background screening vendor and your corporate counsel have taken appropriate steps to ensure your compliance with local, state and federal law. Keep in mind that some jurisdictions (like the State of California) actually preempt the federal law, so don’t assume that because you follow the federal law that you are necessarily in full compliance!

A background check provides information that helps you select an appropriate candidate for a job, but you can make mistakes throughout the process. Make sure that you have accurate information before you eliminate a potential candidate from further interviews and make sure that you protect the applicants/employees’ rights throughout the screening process!

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