Background checks are now standard in most industries, and it’s easy to see why. As many as 34% of applicants lie on their applications and many others have checkered pasts that they conceal. Given how easy (and inexpensive) it is to check someone’s past online, it’s clear why employment and work-related checks have never been more popular.
Now, pre-employment screening is illegal in many countries – but that doesn’t mean companies don’t use it. Whether it’s legal where you live or not, you may want to get an idea of what prospective employers see should they screen you this way. To help you out, this article will explain which features are most important, why basic and advanced checks are different, and which specific services can be used to imitate official pre-employment screens.
How to find a great background checking service
Website and dashboard quality – the service you use should have a modern, intuitive website with a well-made dashboard. Searches should be easy to perform, with clear results and everything you need always a click away.
- Mobile apps – look for services that have an app compatible with your tablet or smartphone. This will make it much easier to take data with you and give you a way to present information without using a printer. If apps for your device are unavailable, look for responsive websites that look and feel good on your mobile.
- Research depth – a cursory look into publically available information will only reveal some of the information you need. To make sure your search results are solid, look for providers who perform deep searches that look at criminal backgrounds, deep web data, physical court documents, and other information sources.
- Report presentation and accuracy – any report used in a corporate environment should be neat, presentable, and informative. Use background checking websites and brands that have reliable, eye-pleasing reports.
- Result speed – sometimes, you only have very little time to get the results you need before an important interview. A quality provider will take minutes to run a basic check, and up to a couple of days for an advanced one. Any more than that, and you may want to consider an alternative.
- Custom searches – being able to select the exact information you need makes it easier to find accurate data as well as come up with neat reports. Top services can give you accurate results with little to no starting information.
- Customer support – knowledgeable customer support that responds quickly makes a major difference to your background check quality and comfort. Where possible, go for options where you get live support.
Best services for running a background check on yourself
Unlike employers, employees and applicants are free to use whatever consumer-grade background checking service they like. If you’re curious about what’s likely to show up on your impending pre-employment screen, be sure to use one of these top four best background check sites:
BeenVerified is one of the best and oldest providers on the web. The service comes in two tiers with each having different data sources and results. With a basic search, you get criminal records, financial history data, social media presence, and prior addresses.
You also get a lot of what’s publically available on the web. However, if you need a more advanced check, you can upgrade to include virtually any information that’s legal to get. This includes things like gun licenses and gives you the option to send a runner to fetch physical records from courthouses, which is convenient.
The searches made with BeenVerified are fast. The only exception is when you need to get physical records, which can take a few days. In both cases, the service paces the industry when it comes to speed.
The final reports you get are beautiful, data-rich, and straightforward, meaning you can find anything you need in seconds. Android and iOS users will be happy to know that native apps for both platforms are readily available. Whether you want to make searches outside the office or take information with you on the go, e.g. to your next interview, you’ll find it easy to do so using these. Last but not least, customer support is easy to reach during work hours as well as after them. All told, it’s virtually impossible to top BeenVerified – although a couple of the services below are on par with the service.
TruthFinder offers two tiers of service. With the basic subscription level, you get access to information like court and criminal records, driving records, known family and associates, possible photos, and current contact details. This is more than most other services give to basic subscribers, which makes TF’s basic version a good deal given its price point.
For an extra fee, you can get access to education history, voter registration records, gun licenses, and professional licenses. One of the cooler premium extras is the ability to pay and access deep-web Internet data to see information that’s online but completely invisible to Google. If you want to see what someone gets up to on the web, this is an immensely valuable tool to have. Another interesting one is the reverse-phone look up that lets you check someone’s information based on their current phone number; a feature that can be useful if you have little information on someone.
Design-wise, TruthFinder may be our favorite service. The dashboard is streamlined and intuitive, with searches and results easy to view and configure. The Android app is rich and features and easy to download from Google’s app store. There’s no iOS app, but the mobile version of the app is good enough that this is forgivable.
The final reports you get are detailed, concise, yet well presented. Last but not least, TF has what may be the best customer support in the niche. The operators are helpful, well-informed, and available 24/7 so you can get the help you need, when you need it, no matter where you happen to be.
Instant CheckMate stands out for the beauty of its reports. All data is labeled clearly, neatly, and in a way that lets you find everything you need quickly. The desktop version of the dashboard is excellent too, with an intuitive design, large buttons, and easy-to-scan results. If presentation is important to you, then give Instant CheckMate a careful consideration; the attention this brand gives to looks is evident immediately. This is also true when it comes to the Android app, which is stylish and easy to use. There’s no iOS app, but there’s a high-quality responsive website for users who want to use ICM from an iPhone, iPod or iPad.
In terms of searches and search results, Instant CheckMate is another two-tiered service provider. On the basic tier, you get access to surface information like criminal records, divorce and marriage records, relative details, address histories, and social media profiles (including possible photographs). If you want more information, you can pay extra to access financial histories, driving licenses, gun license records, and other in-depth facts about an individual.
The last area in which Instant CheckMate shines is customer support. Their toll free line is easy to use from Internet-enabled devices and phones. They don’t work outside office hours, but other than that, the help you get is fast, insightful, and warm. You can also use a variety of social networks to ask your message during off hours, getting a reply as soon as ICM staffers are back to work.
Last but not least, we’ve got Intelius. With over 115 million reports served to 13 million customers, it’s safe to say this is one of the most popular stateside background search services – and it’s easy to see why. Searches are instant, meaning you can pre-screen someone who just walked through your door in a matter of seconds. Lookups are private and secure. The price point is fair, and unique features include reverse phone lookups that help you find a current or past caller’s phone type, owner name, address, and more.
Of course, Intelius can also parse through dozens of sources including criminal records, sex offender lists, financial documents, property records, and education. Once it does that, it turns you around a comprehensive, in-depth report that makes it easy for you to find all the information you need quickly and easily. Even better, you can easily customize the appearance of your results using a sleek, easy-to-use dashboard on the desktop website. Alternatively, you can make your searches using the service’s mobile apps, available for both iOS and Android. If you choose this option, you’ll be able to easily present your pre-employment screening data when you need it.
Which information is most important during the pre-employment screening process?
Trying to understand how prospective employers might pre-screen you or someone else? Then read on. The most important steps of a pre-employment screening are very straightforward. First, employers check out someone’s identity. This helps make sure that the person is who they say they are. Next, it’s time to check an employee’s past employment history. This verifies whether someone is honest about the work they’ve done in the past, as well as confirming their professional qualifications. If this isn’t possible, applicants may be asked for proof of payment – for example, via a payslip or a past W-2. Last but not least there’s the education check that confirms someone’s past academic record and places of study.
What happens next depends on the specific situation. If you are applying to work in an organization that handles sensitive data and operations – the military, federal agencies, research laboratories, etc – you may get screened for criminal records, known associates, gun licenses, and more. Fortunately, the service providers we introduce above can help get a fair idea of what others will see during checks like these. You may also want to run an advanced check on yourself if you’re applying for an important position that’s going to be evaluated strictly.
In exceptional circumstances, you may want to go further still. In specific cases, you might pay someone to scour the dark web for traces of activity that don’t show up on the regular Internet. You might hire a private investigator to confirm something that seems off or suspicious. Or you can simply use the services on this page to get a runner to visit a courthouse and retrieve specific documents pertaining to criminal records, divorce records, etc. In short, there’s virtually no limit to the quality and quantity of information you can get in a background check.
Why do companies check backgrounds?
According to CareerBuilder.com, 49% of 3,100 hiring managers surveyed caught job applicants fabricating their resumes. That’s an astounding figure – but another study by the American Psychological Association found that 2 in 3 job applications and resumes had falsehoods. The general attitude for many job seekers is that these don’t matter so long as they’re not very big or important, but consider the following.
Hiring an incompetent manager could lead to multiple failed projects, lost opportunities, and public embarrassment. Hiring someone with character problems could put your employees in danger or lead to unpleasant experiences for all involved. Accepting a student who fabricated some or all of their achievements could rob someone more apt and motivated of a valuable learning opportunity. In short, there’s nothing unimportant about making sure that the person you’re accepting for a position is exactly who they say they are. For the most part, companies use whatever means they have to run legal background checks on applicants. Pre-screening isn’t legal everywhere – but when it is, it tends to be used.
Also, don’t assume that screening should only be done prior to hiring someone. Fraud and abuse costs U.S. businesses an annual $400 billion. It’s estimated that the average organization loses as much as 6% of its revenue to various forms of fraud and abuse, so it really pays to make background checks on current employees – especially before promoting someone. This way, HRs get a chance to find the kind of information that’s usually hidden when conducting more basic checks.
What about free background checks?
A few words on free background checks. If you’re using your own resources – social media, Google, etc – one of two things are likely to happen. First, you’re bound to find some information that’s outdated, inaccurate, or completely irrelevant, e.g. because it applies to a different individual with a similar name. Second, the best case scenario is that the information you find will be accurate, but it won’t be 100% thorough. For these reasons, this kind of free background check isn’t recommended. It’s just not a good predictor of what employers will see when they screen you. Ultimately, free services usually search through the same information you can find on your own. This can help save time in many scenarios – but it doesn’t replace a real, in-depth check carried out by professionals.
It’s cliche, but true: knowledge is power, and you owe it to yourself to ascertain just what might appear on your pre-employment screening. Coming prepared with a context or reasoned explanation can make the difference between a hire and a pass.
Now that you know how pre-employment screening works, what are you going to do with your knowledge? Do you foresee any issues that might give potential employers pause when they conduct their own screens on you? Let us know in the comments below.