Talent Acquisition

How to Conduct a Background Check for Employment

As a business owner or HR pro, you put a lot of time, thought, and effort into finding, interviewing, and eventually hiring the right person for the job. When you hire a new employee, it’s an investment in your business’s growth. Conducting a thorough background check for employment lets you confidently make hiring decisions.

Why Conduct an Employee Background Check?

In the hiring world, a background check for employment ensures trust, compliance, and a successful recruitment process by verifying a candidate’s credentials and history. It’s like double-checking references for quality assurance before making a decision. 

Many industries and roles require background checks. Certain positions that involve working with vulnerable populations or handling sensitive information may require stringent background checks. These checks help guarantee the safety and security of all parties concerned.

Additionally, a background check safeguards your company by revealing relevant information about a candidate’s history, allowing for informed decisions. It also demonstrates due diligence in hiring, reducing the likelihood of legal liabilities and safeguarding the company’s integrity. 

Does Wizehire offer background checks?

Yes! Wizehire partnered with Checkr to provide fast and accurate background checks on job candidates.

What Does a Candidate Background Check Look For?

The essential information gathered from a background check varies depending on the company and the specific role. However, a standard background check generally includes:

  • Identity verification: Cross-references government-issued IDs with candidate-provided information.
  • Employment history: Confirms previous job titles, dates of employment, and job responsibilities. 
  • Education verification: Confirms educational credentials such as degrees earned, graduation dates, and institutions attended.
  • Criminal history: The depth of this check can vary, and some positions may require a more thorough investigation.
  • Credit history: Certain positions, especially those in finance or positions requiring access to sensitive financial information, may involve a credit check to assess financial responsibility.
  • Drug testing: Testing may be a priority for positions involving safety concerns or sensitive roles.
  • Driving record: If the job involves driving, a driving history check, including any accidents or traffic violations.

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What Does a More Comprehensive Background Check Show?

When it comes to background checks, going deeper paints a clearer picture of someone’s past. Depending on your company’s needs and the legal landscape, you might include some or none of these extras.

  • Civil records: Searches for civil court records, including lawsuits, judgments, or other legal disputes.
  • Social media and online presence: Scans candidates’ profiles and online presence to learn about their behavior, interests, and public persona.
  • Professional license verification: Confirms the validity of any professional licenses or certifications required for the job.
  • Bankruptcy and financial records: This check looks for potential signs of economic distress that may impact candidates’ suitability for certain positions.
  • Military service records: Confirms the candidate’s military service record, including dates of service, rank, and discharge status.

Laws About Employment Background Checks

When conducting a background check, it’s up to you to handle the information responsibly and comply with the law. Check your local, state, and federal laws to learn about specific laws governing background checks in your jurisdiction. Here are common regulations that apply in many places:

  • Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) regulates the use of consumer reports, including background checks, and requires employers to obtain written consent before conducting a background check. 
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Guidelines prohibit discrimination based on race, color, national origin, gender, religion, sex, age, and disability. 
  • Privacy laws restrict how personal information can be collected, stored, and used during background checks. 
  • State and local laws have regulations governing background checks, which may impose additional requirements.
  • Industry-specific regulations: Some industries, such as healthcare and financial services, have specific rules governing applicant background checks. 
  • Ban the box laws: Twenty-six states have implemented laws restricting employers from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history or conducting a background check until a company makes a conditional job offer.

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How to Ask Permission for a Background Check

Disclosure and consent always kick-start the process. Tell your candidate the intent behind the background check, the specific information under consideration, and any legal responsibilities or rights that apply throughout the process. It is also a good idea to remind the candidate that background checks are a part of the onboarding process.

Always let candidates ask questions or seek clarification. Remember that employers need written consent from candidates per the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) before conducting a background check for employment. 

Should You Hire a Background Check Company?

Long story short: it all depends on your specific needs and resources. A reputable background check company can be a great help if you conduct background checks regularly, hire candidates in bulk, or require in-depth information. They have the expertise, database access, and compliance knowledge to get accurate info and stay in compliance.

However, for smaller businesses with occasional hiring needs, conducting background checks in-house or through online services may be more cost-effective. We recommend weighing the complexity of your hiring process, budget, and ROI confidence level when deciding whether to hire a background check company or handle it internally. Remember that compliance and adherence to regulations are required regardless of your choice.

Questions to Ask Your Candidate’s References

Employers typically find checking references a straightforward aspect of the background check process. Crafting thoughtful reference questions can reveal valuable insights into a candidate’s strengths and areas for development based on their past job performance. Here’s a list of open-ended questions to consider:

Job-Related Competencies

  • Can you paint a picture of this person’s standout strengths and skills that align with the position?
  • How would you rate their performance in their previous role on a scale from good to outstanding?
  • What were star moments when they truly shone, making a significant impact during their time with your company?
  • Can you share stories of how they gracefully navigated challenges or thrived in high-pressure situations?

 Communication and Teamwork

  • How did this person typically interact with colleagues, managers, and customers?
  • Please discuss their ability to work collaboratively on a team and communicate effectively.
  • Did they show any leadership qualities or take on additional responsibilities?

Problem-Solving and Adaptability

  • Can you share instances where the candidate showed creativity or adaptability to resolve issues?
  • How did they handle changes in job responsibilities or company dynamics?
  • Did they actively seek opportunities for improvement and growth?

Reliability and Accountability

  • Did this person take responsibility for their mistakes and learn from them?
  • Can you provide examples of their overall reliability and accountability?

Company Values and Interpersonal Skills

  • Did this person align with your company’s culture and values?
  • How did they contribute to a positive work environment?
  • Were there any challenges related to their interpersonal interactions?

Areas for Development

  • Are there areas where this person could improve or develop further?
  • What advice would you give to help them succeed in their next role?

Wize Words

Your business thrives on the people you bring in, shaping its long-term success. Recognizing your employees as invaluable assets underscores the importance of conducting meticulous background checks. When done in compliance with guidelines and regulations, the process respects everyone’s interests by protecting your candidates’ rights and your company’s future.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do I do if I can’t find specific information in an employee background check?

Ask the candidate for clarification if you need help finding specific information during an employee background check. Next, cross-reference multiple sources and databases to verify any missing data. If discrepancies persist, proceed cautiously and evaluate the candidate based on available information while adhering to legal guidelines. Keep communication open with the candidate, explain any concerns, and ensure the decision-making process stays fair and unbiased. Ultimately, the hiring decision should align with the candidate’s qualifications, the nature of the role, and applicable regulations, even without specific information.

What do I do if a candidate disputes their background check?

It’s the candidate’s responsibility, not the employer’s, to notify the screening company of a discrepancy in their background check. If a candidate disputes their background check, employers receive a dispute notification from the screening company. Adhere to legal requirements, such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) in the United States, by waiting a reasonable time before taking adverse action against your candidate. Employers don’t need to hold the position open until the dispute is finished. Ultimately, the goal is to achieve accurate and unbiased background check results.


  • Deirdre Sullivan

    Deirdre has more than 20 years of experience in content creation, leading creative teams and producing engaging online experiences. With a strong background in content marketing, she is committed to delivering valuable and captivating content to Wizehire's audience, going beyond recruitment tips.

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The article was reviewed by Marisa Ramirez

Deirdre Sullivan

Deirdre has more than 20 years of experience in content creation, leading creative teams and producing engaging online experiences. With a strong background in content marketing, she is committed to delivering valuable and captivating content to Wizehire's audience, going beyond recruitment tips.

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