You want your business to grow, and growth requires a variety of resources. One of the most important resources is more people. As you expand your operations, open new locations, take on new clients, and/or increase production, you’ll eventually hit the limit of what your existing staff can reasonably handle. You don’t want to fill positions with a first-apply-first-hired policy, however. It’s important to make sure you hire applicants that are the best fit for the positions you have, as well as don’t have, and that’s where background checks come in.
The Need for and Purpose of Background Checks
One of the biggest reasons background checks are important is you, as an employer, have a responsibility to provide a safe and secure workplace for your employees and customers. Conducting background checks on job applicants can help you identify any potential red flags, such as criminal records or past behavior, that could put the workplace at risk. Background checks can also help verify an applicant's education, work history, and credentials, ensuring that they have the necessary skills and experience for the job you’re looking to fill. By performing thorough background checks, you can make informed hiring decisions and minimize the risk of workplace misconduct, theft, or violence. Ultimately, background checks can help you create a safer and more productive work environment for everyone.
Another reason why background checks are important is they typically involve verifying an applicant's identity and conducting a review of their personal and professional history. This not only ensures that the applicant isn’t a risk to workplace safety or your brand’s reputation, but it also verifies their suitability to perform the duties the position requires.
What a Background Check Covers
Because background verification is so important, a thorough check will verify and gather information on several aspects of an applicant’s background. The four primary areas, what they include, and the reasons for looking at them are as follows:
- Criminal Record – checking an applicant for any history of embezzlement, felony convictions, or violent crime. In addition to concerns for workplace safety, some industries or jobs don’t allow hiring convicted criminals to fill the position.
- Employment Verifications – checking with previous employers listed on an application to verify the applicant wasn’t lying about their work history. It also helps distinguish skill sets, which are important to determine if an applicant is qualified.
- Credit Checks – checking an applicant’s personal credit history. This is important for jobs requiring applicants with good financial accountability.
- Reference Checks – checking with personal references on an application to determine an applicant’s work habits and skills. It’s important to not only ask general questions about an applicant’s work habits but also ones specifically about their ability to perform the duties the job requires.
The process may involve gathering information from public records, databases, and interviews with references and previous employers. The specific details of a background check will vary depending on the employer's requirements and the position being filled. Overall, a background check is a comprehensive review of an applicant's history to ensure they are a suitable fit for the position and do not pose a risk to the organization.
The Right People for Checking People
Due to how meticulous you need to be when performing a background check, you should make sure it’s a task that’s given undivided attention, rather than something done while trying to juggle other tasks. Because background checks are that important, employers like you may have in-house staff dedicated to the hiring process or may outsource the work to a third-party vendor specializing in background screening. Many large employers have an in-house human resources department that handles background checks as part of the hiring process. Smaller employers may outsource background checks to third-party vendors, who can conduct the checks more efficiently and cost-effectively. In either case, as the employer, you’re responsible for ensuring that the background check is conducted in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations, including obtaining the applicant's consent and providing them with any required disclosures.