Background checks are an everyday part of life for any corporation. Unfortunately, finding out what employers might see when they’re pre-screening you can be difficult. Professional services are restricted to corporations and agencies, and accessing them as an individual is nigh impossible. So how can you know what your prospective employer sees when they pre-screen you?
Well, one way is to use paid online services that help replicate the kind of report your interviewer might have in front of them. In this article, we’ll list some of the best services you can access, what is and isn’t legal when it comes to pre-employment screens, and which specific features and data sources you should look for. We’ll start with the latter.
Is pre-screening legal?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) governs jobseekers’ rights. According to this document, an employer can only run a background check after getting permission from a prospective employee. Moreover, if a hiring decision is made based on the background check, the prospect needs to be informed of the source of the information. If that source isn’t a certified, regulation-compliant background checking authority, an employer can get in trouble with the law for using it. Compliance with the FCRA is very important here; even a small departure from their rules can result in fines, penalties, and other punitive measures.
Having said all that, pre-screening certainly isn’t illegal in and of itself. In fact, it’s key to understand that background checks can help you avoid legal trouble. For example, let’s say your business serves consumers or other businesses. If an employee somehow ends up harming other people through their actions, your business could be liable for those damages. If it’s discovered that you failed to run a background check and hired someone with a history of negligence or malicious intent, you could end up facing very tough lawsuits. In other words, background checks aren’t just legal; they’re necessary. What matters is that they’re done using approved services and in compliance with FCRA regulations.
Important note for employers
As an employer, it is critical that you go through the proper channels to conduct any pre-screening. The FCRA strictly prohibits the use of unregulated consumer-grade background checking services to directly inform a hiring decision. Even the background checking services mentioned in this article warn against this–we recommend them only to give prospective employees a way to understand their own histories, and prepare for their interviews accordingly. If you are an employer, seek out FCRA-compliant background checking services only.
What information comes up on pre-screening tests?
If you’re going through an interview process, you may want to know what comes up on a pre-screening test. The answer is, “it varies”. Virtually all employers and organizations go through a few basic tests first. These include the identity check, which helps confirm that a person is who they say they are. This is a staple included in virtually every pre-screening checklist. Equally important are criminal record checks. These help verify that a person doesn’t have a criminal past that points to problematic on-the-job behavior. It’s not allowed to discriminate against prospects based on time served and prior convictions – but if criminal records indicate someone may be unsuitable because of their character, that’s fair game.
Beyond these, there are 2 more tests that come up on any background check. These are employment verification checks and education history checks. The first helps make sure that a person did the work they say they did, work in the organizations indicated, etc. It’s an important way for employers to verify who someone is in corporate terms – and given that this is one of the most frequently falsified parts of any resume, it’s almost guaranteed to come up in any check. Much of the same is true for education histories. These are frequently falsified.
To make sure an applicant has the qualifications and degrees they claim, agencies and employers do one of two things. First, they contact instututions directly to check someone’s credentials. Second, they pay to access special databases that have lists of academic achievements. The end result is that both educational and work histories and qualifications come up on most screens.
What can applicants facing pre-screening do to prepare?
Knowledge is power. By gaining a clear overview of your own record, you can enter into pre-employment screening with greater confidence. After all, knowing which challenges you’ll face ahead of time can be crucial to your success. Try running a background check on yourself for a glimpse into what might show up on your pre-employment screen. In searching for a service, you’ll want to keep these features in mind:
- Search speed – if you need background checks, search speed is key. You don’t want your results come in halfway through an application or interview process; look for speedy services.
- Research quality – when it comes to background checks, you need to be able to rely on the quality of your results. Make sure that the service you use draws on reliable sources.
- Reports – background check reports vary from short to very long. You want a service that manages to make reports of any length readable, scannable, and pleasing to look at. This is especially important if you’ll be presenting the reports to multiple individuals.
- Custom searches – corporate needs vary from organization to organization. It’s important that the service you chooses lets you make the specific searches you need. This means looking for customization; for example, you want to be able to opt out of financial checks if they’re irrelevant to you in your upcoming job application.
- Dashboard functionality – look for online dashboards that make it easy to search, look at reports, etc. A few seconds’ difference can add up when you’re a regular user.
- Mobile apps – a mobile app lets you make searches on the go and look at reports no matter where you are. Needless to say, providers with iOS and Android apps are best – but modern responsive websites can look and feel like apps, which makes them a fair replacement.
- Customer support – two things matter when it comes to support. First, the ability to help quickly and well. Second, the working hours. 24/7 is best, extended hours (e.g. 8 AM – 10 PM) are also common, but no phone line at all is a red flag that a provider should be avoided.
Best background checking sites for prospective employees
To help you narrow down a crowded marketplace, we present to you the top four background checking services:
BeenVerified is one of the oldest and most reliable brands in the background checking space. It offers both a basic search feature as well as the ability to comb through advanced, premium data sources.
On the basic level, you get criminal records, financial records, basic social media information, as well as all kinds of personal info. Of course, you may feel that you need more information because of the state you live in, the industry you work in, or the job you’re hiring for. If this is the case, there’a number of more advanced features available, including gun information.
Using BeenVerified couldn’t be easier. For starters, customer support is available at extended hours. The only time you’re left without help is late at night, which is perfectly fine for corporate use. The web dashboard is straightforward and intuitive, with it only taking a few seconds to configure the exact, specific search you need and want. The mobile apps, available for iOS and Android, are well-designed, quick to download, and just as easy to use as the dashboard.
There’s even a wonderful responsive website for mobile users who don’t want to (or can’t) download the app they need. The reports themselves are made to present a vast amount of data quickly and succinctly; something they do successfully. If you want to see what professionals see when they pre-screen you, you’ll find it hard to go wrong with BeenVerified.
TruthFinder is another two-tier service that has a few cool, unique tricks up its sleeve. On the basic price tier, you get access to straightforward data on driving records, criminal records, contact details, possible photos, and known family members. If you upgrade and expand your search, you also get access to education history, voter registration records, and more. One unique feature that makes TruthFinder stand out from the pack is the ability to do deep web searches. With these, TruthFinder looks through information that’s otherwise completely invisible on the Internet. This lets you find out biographical details that have been hidden, which is a valuable and unique advantage to have.
Design-wise, TruthFinder’s apps and dashboard are both made to be natural to use. If you use the desktop website, you’ll find it easy to make searches, including custom ones, and access the resulting reports. With the Android app, much of the same is true. You may have a couple less features, but the quality of the design and the general functionality are both there. The reports themselves are useful and convenient, with virtually all the data you need presented in a clear, easy-to-understand manner. Customer support is available 24/7, meaning that even if you do get lost at any point, you’ll quickly get the help you need. Last but not least, a responsive website is available for iOS users so you can make searches and look at your results anytime.
Instant CheckMate‘s core reports include information from criminal records, marriage and divorce histories, known relatives, current and past contact details, as well as public social media information (including likely photographs). You can also choose to pay a little extra to get financial histories, driving licenses, weapons licenses, and more. We find that most users are more than happy with the basic tier – but if you want to be particularly thorough, or are applying to an industry or business that’s very stringent, it’s good to know you have options.
The service is easy to access using a modern, stylish website. The online dashboard makes it easy to run standard and custom searches, while finding past search results is a breeze as well. The same is true for the Android app, which downloads quickly and works well. There’s no iOS app, but fear not; users can all enjoy a beautiful, responsive website on any type of device. Speaking of which, of the responsive websites we tested, we found ICM’s to among the very best. The reports are excellent too, both on mobile and desktop devices. Closing out the list of features is 24/7 customer support, which is surprisingly knowledgeable (usually, round-the-clock lines are less helpful). There’s even a toll-free US line so you don’t have to spend any money while figuring out your problems.
With well over 13 million customers, Intelius is one of the most popular background checking services on the web. The core offering is simple: Intelius looks through a number of sources and presents the data it gleans from them in a single report. The sources include criminal records, sex offender registrations, credit histories, property records, and academic background data. Putting all these together, you can verify virtually anything an applicant says on their resume or during their interview in mere seconds. The speed and thoroughness of Intelius’ results are top-notch.
In addition to the basic search feature, Intelius is strong in secondary benefits, too. The web dashboard is clean, with searches being extremely easy to execute and manage. Even a complete IT novice could figure this service out in minutes given how well-made the dashboard is. Beyond that, apps are available for Android and iOS devices – and there’s a responsive website for anyone who can’t (or won’t) download the native apps. This makes Intelius one of the most mobile-friendly services in the niche; another salient advantage. The reports themselves are beautiful on all device types, whether custom or standard. Between all these features and 24/7 customer support, it’s easy to see why Intelius is a top choice for millions of customers. Its only weakness is the absence of more advanced search features.
Now you know what pre-screening checks are, what they include, and how they’re used. You also know how to run a check on yourself to get an idea of what employers will see if they pre-screen you.
Have you ever found something on your record you didn’t expect? How has your background effected your pre-employment screenings and interviews? Let us know in the comments below!