How To Run a Background Check on Someone: 4 Simple Steps

Back to blog
Posted by: David Garcia March 01, 2024

In a perfect world, everyone is completely honest in their job application. 

But the truth of the matter is that’s probably not always the case. 

Even if most applicants have the best intentions, you’ll find that it’s easy to falsify or embellish a resume. 

As an employer, your job is to make the best possible hire and put qualified people into the right seats. 

To avoid making bad hires, you’ll need to run background checks. 

We’ll cover everything you need to know about performing background checks, including the steps you’ll need to take and what information you can expect from this report. 

What Is a Background Check?

A background check is a report that verifies a person’s information from public and private sources. 

Background checks are usually done to confirm that a job candidate is who they say they are and uncover any potential conflicts. 

The screening is performed by a third party, usually a professional background screening provider like ScoutLogic. 

Providers use sources that include public records, credit bureaus, previous employers, academic records, and law enforcement. 

How Do You Run a Background Check on Someone?

Your workforce is the heartbeat of your organization. You need trustworthy, qualified employees to achieve your business goals. 

With 70% of workers admitting to lying on their resume, doing your due diligence is a must. A small fabrication might not sound like a big deal, but even the slightest embellishment could be dangerous for your staff, customers, and brand reputation. 

With that said, here are the steps to running a background screening on someone. 

1. Establishing an Employment Background Check Policy

The first step is to set the foundation for your company moving forward. It all starts with establishing an employment background check policy that details the guidelines for the screening process.

The policy should list all the information needed for each position in the company. On top of that, the policy must be compliant with local, state, and federal laws to avoid mishaps. 

The goal of the policy is to detail the best practices for conducting background screenings and how those results will affect hiring decisions. 

2. Understanding the Legal Requirements 

Navigating the legal landscape of background checks can be tricky. The simplest way to ensure compliance is to choose a reliable background check service like ScoutLogic. 

But regardless of how you conduct searches, you’ll want to understand the myriad of laws that impact your screening. 

Here’s a list of the laws to know: 

  • Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA): The FCRA says employers must ask for permission before doing background checks. 
  • State Laws: Each state has its own rules for background checks. For example, California has laws like ICRAA and CCRAA that focus on how investigations into an applicant’s character should be handled.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII: These laws stop employers from treating employees unfairly because of a disability or certain characteristics. Employers can’t use medical information to deny a candidate. 
  • Ban the Box Laws: Some states have laws that state that employers can’t ask about an applicant’s criminal history until they offer them a job.
  • Drug Screen Laws: In certain states, employers can’t test employees for marijuana or fire them just for using it. But some job fields, like transportation or nuclear energy, may still need drug tests.

These laws govern the steps to provide disclosure, request candidate consents, and how to use the results in hiring decisions. 

3. Choose a Background Check Company 

Finding a great background check company can be like finding a needle in a haystack. 

Not all service providers are bad, but knowing what to look for is equally challenging. 

It’s a good idea to jot down the type of information you’ll need to verify in a background check. Once you have that, you’ll want to understand your options. 

The two most common solutions are full-service companies and online DIY websites. 

  • Full-service companies take on the burden of the entire investigation for you. They inform and ask for content from the candidate on your behalf. On top of that, they remove the hassle of ensuring legal compliance as they generally are committed to abiding by FCRA regulations. 
  • DIY websites are online platforms that allow users to access public records. They generally scrap information from criminal records, social media profiles, contact details, etc. That said, there’s no guarantee you’re getting accurate or complete information. 

Generally, you want to look for background check service providers that use advanced teaching to ensure data accuracy and faster turnaround times

4. Communicate Candidate Rights 

Transparency is important when communicating with clients. Be open with all candidates that you’re conducting the screening and let them know you encourage their feedback. 

Make sure to tell all applicants who undergo screening that they’re welcome to dispute inaccurate information or explain any specific information that appears in the report. 

As mentioned earlier, here’s what you’ll need to do when communicating rights with candidates: 

  1. Notify each candidate you’ll perform a background screening and that it can impact your hiring decision. 
  2. Receive written consent to run the employment check through a third-party service provider. 
  3. Inform the candidate with a pre-adverse action notice if you decide not to hire them. In addition, you must provide a copy of the FCRA rights, a copy of the results, and the phone number of the background check company that ran the check. Generally, candidates have a specific period to dispute any inaccurate information found. 

Make sure to follow all the major rights outlined in the Summary of Rights to ensure your process complies with FCRA regulations. 

Can I Run a Background Check on Myself?

Background checks affect a person’s ability to get a new job, find a place to live, or take out a loan. 

That’s why you may find it beneficial to learn how to perform a background check on yourself. 

Doing it yourself is a good way to check for potential errors. Credit bureaus and even courts can sometimes report inaccurate information, so it’s important to regularly review files and spot those errors. 

Beyond that, conducting a background check on yourself can help you understand the process so you know what type of information to expect when you run them on job applicants. 

What Information Does a Background Check Report Show?

You may be wondering what shows up on a background check

While the information in reports varies, here are a few common types of details you can expect to find. 

Criminal Records 

When a company does a background check, they can find out if you have any past criminal convictions

This includes information such as smaller misdemeanors, spending charges, and more serious felony convictions. 

Plus, you’ll see any charges that were dismissed or where the candidate wasn’t found not guilty. 

Education and Work History 

Background check reports often uncover a candidate’s education and work history. 

It’s a huge topic of discussion, as many applicants can easily lie about their prior work experiences to make them appear qualified for a position. 

Generally, the service contacts educational institutions and previous employers to verify the information submitted in the application or resume. 

Then, it confirms important information such as: 

  • Date of Attendance 
  • Degrees earned 
  • Field of study 
  • Job titles and responsibilities
  • Salary information 
  • Reason for leaving 

If the information doesn’t line up with the applicant’s submission, it’s easy to bring these up during the hiring process. That way, you can make informed decisions based on the candidate’s qualifications and suitability for the position. 

Identity Verification 

Confirming the identity of job applicants is a crucial step in conducting a background check before hiring an employee. 

Typically, during a background check, official databases are examined to verify if the provided information, such as a social security number, is valid, associated with the applicant, or has been previously used. 

How Long Does a Background Check Typically Take?

The turnaround time for background checks usually takes 3 to 5 business days. 

That said, it varies depending on the information included. 

For example, database screenings from the Sex Offender Registry Checks and National Criminal Records Checks can be returned in minutes. 

To give you a better idea, here are a few general timelines to expect based on the type of screening: 

  • Criminal background check: 1 to 3 days 
  • Driving record: 1 to 3 days 
  • Reference check: 2 to 5 days 
  • Drug testing: 10 minutes for onsite testing to 3 to 10 days for lab-based 
  • Employment verification: A few minutes to 2 to 7 days for manual entry 

Keep in mind that running employment background checks internally can take weeks. That’s because the HR team must request and review public records, coordinate drug testing, and contact past employers. 

What Is the Cost of Performing a Background Check?

The cost of performing background checks varies. Generally, they cost about $30 to $50 per employee. 

However, more comprehensive checks with additional information may cost up to $100 per employee. 

One of the most common mistakes employers make is finding the cheapest product available. 

It’s easy to shop online and sign up for any company with a screening service. Little did you know, they could run instant national U.S. database checks. 

Many counties nationwide don’t share criminal records with the national database. Even if they do share those records, they could update inconsistently. 

We recommend looking for background check providers who measure up to the FCRA compliance standards, and all records are validated by the local jurisdiction. 

Decisions made based on inaccurate information could be a nightmare to deal with, especially if a candidate files a lawsuit against your company. 

Final Thoughts

Failing to perform background checks could damage the company brand and jeopardize the safety of others. 

But trying to run them manually can be like walking a tightrope. With many federal, state, and local laws in place, it’s easy to fall out of compliance. Beyond that, getting highly accurate and reliable information to make sound hiring decisions isn’t a cakewalk. 

However, when you choose to work with ScoutLogic, we design a tailored program to fit your recruitment needs. We provide a wide range of search types sourced from a variety of databases, so you get exactly the information you need. 

Contact us to get started today.

Latest blog posts
April 05, 2024
6 Justified Reasons for Employee Termination
Terminating an employee should not be taken lightly. While it's always essential to adhere to legal rules and ethical standards that most of us can agree to, there does come a time...
April 02, 2024
What Is an Exit Interview?
Employment comes and goes. While it may have been a case of 40-year careers with the same organization not too long ago, times have changed, and we now see more movement than ever....
March 29, 2024
What Are the Different Types of Termination of Employment? 
There are several different ways an employer can terminate an employee’s contract. Termination of employment is often the last step in a long process; this could be for a staff...
March 27, 2024
How To Prove Constructive Dismissal
Constructive dismissal, sometimes known as constructive termination or constructive discharge, is when an employee resigns from their position because they feel they have been a...
March 25, 2024
Cyber Security Background Checks
Careers in cyber security can be very lucrative, as these positions pay well and have a lot of upward mobility, making them attractive career choices. Cyber security professionals are...
Looking for a better background check company? Start by preparing with this free guide.

Download this free guide to go into the searching process prepared. This guide includes actionable steps to:

  • Gather your requirements
  • Determine vendors
  • Check references
  • Determine success metrics
get a free e-book

Get a free e-book