Whether you are an up-and-coming startup company or a large corporation, background checks are an essential part of the hiring process. Since a recent survey conducted by CareerBuilder found that 75% of HR managers have spotted ‘altered’ or even false information in applicants’ resumes, this is a matter of corporate security. After all, hiring the wrong person could end up costing a company both money and time in lawsuits and/or compensation.
So, what do background checks entail exactly? Typically, pre-employment checks include screening education and employment history, criminal records, and any other information that is relevant to the applicant’s position, such as credit history. Since approximately 78% of employers in the UK conduct background checks prior to hiring, it’s important to be aware of certain precautions that come with the process.
Are background checks allowed in the first place?
First of all, it is important to note that background checks in many Western countries are mandatory by law. In the UK, for example, an employer can face a £20,000 fine if they don’t conduct pre-employment screening. In the U.S., however, while background screening is an important concept, employers are only allowed to base their hiring decision on specific information that does not discriminate against any potential employee.
In a nutshell, an employer is allowed to check things that are relevant to the position in question. For example, if you are interviewing to be a truck driver, it would make sense if the employer asked for an eye test. Furthermore, all jobs involving healthcare or childcare require criminal background checks, which again, is a matter of security. The one major factor that employers are allowed to check, and is typically a requirement, is work eligibility. Ensuring that the applicant has a valid work permit or citizenship is a non-invasive yet crucial part of any hiring decision.
Criminal background checks
If a person is applying for a job that involves working with sensitive groups of people, such as children or the disabled, running a background check on criminal records is mandatory. In the UK, employers must use the official Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), which is a government-provided service for this type of background screening. This service, however, cannot be used by an individual, but rather a corporation for the purpose of hiring.
There are, however, exceptions to the rule, and not all criminal records are going to appear in the check. After a certain number of years (which is defined by each government separately), the convictions are considered to be irrelevant to job applications. In the UK, this is defined by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, where some criminal convictions are thought to be ‘expired’ when it comes to including them in the background screening. It’s important for every employer to familiarise themselves with these laws – if the conviction is ‘expired’, it may not appear in the screening.
Health checks – When are they allowed?
Though background checks may seem straightforward, it’s important to know what information you have the right to request from an applicant. When it comes to health checks, this is rarely appropriate in tech companies or office jobs. If, however, an employer have decided that the position requires specific health conditions and the lack of them would be dangerous for the employee, this may be requested.
An employee may choose to contradict this if they feel like the health check is unnecessary and does not prevent them from completing their tasks. In this case, an applicant could choose to file a complaint. This is why employers need to be careful when choosing the main focus of their background checks. If the job requires a certain level of physical endurance, this information will allow you to make a more constructive assessment. However, make sure you are confident of this prior to requesting this sort of testing.
Who can see the information from a background check?
Possibly one of the biggest precautions when it comes to sensitive applicant information is who gets access to the data. Most governments have data protection laws in order to ensure that the background check details don’t get into the wrong hands. One of the most important things to do is limit access to staff members who are properly trained to handle confidential reports. This means that unless an employee is qualified to store, handle, and make proper use of the information, they should not be involved in the process altogether.
If you are a candidate and your prospective employer has requested a background check, you have rights you need to keep in mind. While you can’t run the check on yourself and find out what the employer will find prior to the screening, you have every right to get access to the report. Furthermore, if any of the elements in the background check prevented you from getting the job, the employer is required to inform you of that. Feel like the final decision involved any sort of discrimination? Was there any false information included in the report? Don’t worry; the government has you covered.
Legal landmines and employee protection
If you are an employer, there is one thing you should never forget – there is a wide range of potential legal landmines involved in conducting background checks. For example, in the UK, the Equality Act of 2010 protects all employees and potential employees from discrimination based on irrelevant factors. These include age, gender, disability, race, sexual orientation, religion, and more sensitive information. This means that if an employee feels like they were denied a job offer based on any of these factors, this will get you in a world of trouble.
In the United States, the American With Disabilities Act performs a similar job protecting employees with disabilities from being discriminated against. Furthermore, the ADA ensures that employers are limited in using this sort of data as a part of the hiring process. In short, you cannot ask an employee about any sort of disabilities during the interview process or even the background check unless it is directly relevant to the position. Instead, employers are expected to base their decision on academic records, employer references, criminal records, credit records, and other objective applicant history.
Hiring a background check company
Want to avoid all the potential legal hassle of performing a background check on your employees? Luckily, there is a solid solution employed by many businesses that covers all the technical grounds, saves you time and money, and helps you make smarter hiring decisions. Outsourcing the background check process is a good idea for many reasons. First of all, companies specializing in pre-employment screening know the legal requirements through and through. This means that they will have you covered on all sort of risky forefronts, and ensure you are hiring the right employees whilst staying within the set legal frame.
Secondly, hiring the right person for a job is not always simple. If you are looking for a specialist to take on an executive role, or a role related to the company’s finances, you will need a person with relevant, credible skills. A background check company can afford to spend more time looking into candidates’ experience and education, allowing you to make the best, most constructive decision. Why spend all your time on government websites understanding how to perform pre-employment checks? Let the professionals handle it quickly and efficiently, and simply enjoy the results once the right person joins your team.
Conducting your own background check online
When it comes to background check precautions, a quality company will cut these risks to a minimum. An online background check is one of the most efficient, affordable, and reliable ways to look into a person’s personal and professional history. With so many different websites on the market, however, we decided to test out some of the industry leaders in order to effectively recommend the best ones to our readers.
On top of testing the major websites, we relied on user feedback in order to make our picks. This feedback, together with the criteria outlined below, helped us make constructive decisions when it comes to the best sites available for background checking.
- Research quality – In a nutshell, the more available sources a website has for conducting the research, the more reliable the information will be. All our recommended websites offer high-quality, extensive report building based on as many data sources as possible.
- Easy-to-read reports – Although a comprehensive report is top priority, it’s important that you can make sense of all the data. This means that the website in question must be user-friendly, delivering reports that are simple to read, understand, and share.
- Quick turnover – Whether you are looking into a candidate’s criminal records or want to check your own credit history, waiting days or even weeks for the data can be frustrating. Although turnover times vary from site to site, the best ones can produce results almost instantly. Furthermore, a full profile should take no longer than one working week.
- Easy-to-use dashboard – Since most of the work will be done through the web browser, the online dashboard is of essence. The dashboard needs to be simple and intuitive enough for you to seamlessly search your history and previous reports, as well as any other data you have gathered through the website.
- Mobile availability – Why wait until you’re home to conduct a background check? Since everything convenient is now available on mobile devices, make sure to choose a website that has dedicated apps for major operating systems on smartphones.
Now that you are aware of what you’re looking for in a background checking website, there is one thing you should keep in mind. Background checking involves a lot of sensitive information gathered from a myriad of sources. This means that some information, unfortunately, may not be 100% accurate. However, below, we have selected four websites that we recommend based on all of the criteria above, as well as user feedback. This means that they are some of the most reliable in the industry.
BeenVerified is our top choice for online background checking for its user-friendly yet thorough service. You will have the option to choose between two tier of service: basic and premium. The basic subscription covers everything from criminal records to personal information and social media activity. The premium service, however, is better suited for in-depth research.
Despite the myriad of data sources, the final report is made to be comprehensive to everyone who looks through it. This is particularly useful for presenting or scanning through the report for thorough yet simple details. BeenVerified has apps available for both Android and iOS devices, which is great news for those on the go. Furthermore, the dashboard is extremely use-friendly, making it easier to search and filter the data generated. BeenVerified has you covered if you have any questions regarding the service. The customer support is reachable via email or phone most hours of the day.
Similar to BeenVerified, Instant CheckMate allows you to choose from two different levels of service, namely basic and premium. The basic background check gathers information from sources including criminal history, marriage and divorce records, and social media presence. If you are willing to opt for the premium service, you can take your report as far as credit history and weapons licenses. Regardless of which subscription you choose, however, you can be sure that the final result will be a comprehensive, detailed report that will be full of reliable information.
With a handy dashboard, CheckMate allows you to search through, filter, and access all your reports with just a few simple clicks. Furthermore, the is available on Android devices as well as through the web, so you can conveniently access all your data without being tied down to a computer. Should you face any issues regarding the service, there is an excellent, always-available customer support service where you can ask all questions, be they technical or case-specific. The intuitive interface makes all of the above extremely accessible for users of all levels of experience.
TruthFinder is one of the most thorough services when it comes to online background checking. The service looks at details ranging from social media presence and criminal history. TruthFinder uses deep-web archives in order to put together a clearer picture of a person, particularly when it comes to possible dangers like weapon licensing. The unique deep web search feature sorts through criminal and court records, driving records, photographs and even family history with no hassle. This level of research allows you to even see potential cases of identity theft. Therefore, you can rely on an in-depth report regarding a person’s entire history, both personal and professional.
With the premium package, you can even access information about a person’s voter registration records and education. However, despite the fact that TruthFinder sorts through millions of records, the reports are simple to use. TruthFinder is also available through an app for Android users, whereas iOS users can access the intuitive dashboard through a mobile browser. The customer support is considered as the industry’s gold standard, and you will be able to contact a representative any time of day, 7 days a week.
Intelius is a solid choice when it comes to putting together a wide range of information into a single understandable report. The service researches data from criminal records to sex offender registrations and financial history, as well as academic records. Intelius also happens to provide one of the most affordable services on the market, even though the range of capabilities is not shy of the rest of its competitors.
Regardless of whether you are using a computer or a smartphone, Android or iOS, Intelius makes the service accessible to you. With apps designed specifically for the devices named above, you can search and filter through the data generated for you with ease. Furthermore, Intelius’ customer support is available for long hours, but if you need assistance immediately, there is an excellent online troubleshooter tool which has answers to most of your questions.
Whether you are a small company or a large corporation, making the right hiring decisions is not a simple process. This could take weeks of interviewing, researching, and of course, background checking. Whether you are looking to perform the screening through a third-party company or doing it in-house, it’s important to familiarize yourself with all the rules and regulations set by your government.
Some of the most important things to remember concern employee protection. First of all, make sure your potential employees are aware of the fact that you are going to perform a background check. Secondly, invest time into understanding which information is relevant and which isn’t. This will help you avoid any sort of legal trouble concerning basing your decision on irrelevant applicant information.