10 Types of Background Checks

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Posted by: David Garcia

Topics: Background Check 101, Human Resources, Recruitment

The background screening process is an essential part of hiring new staff members. It ensures that the candidate is who they say they are and has the experience necessary for the role. 

There are numerous types of background checks, each with a different focus. With the compilation of these screenings, you can gain a holistic view of a job applicant’s history and experience.

It’s essential to understand each type of background check to avoid utilizing the wrong one or overlooking one. The risks vary from money wasted on an unnecessary screening to the costs of a bad hire and potential litigation for negligent hiring. 

With that in mind, we have compiled a list of ten different types of background checks. We're shining a light on it all, from employment verification to drug screening. By the end, you'll know which screenings you need to minimize risk and ensure your new hire is the ideal fit. 

Identity Verification

If the predominant aim of background checks is to verify a candidate is who they claim to be, identity verification is at the core of it. Identity theft is becoming prevalent at an increasing rate. If a candidate uses a stolen identity to apply for a role, employers need to know about it. 

Background screening will utilize various tools to confirm an applicant's identity, including name, address, social security number, and date of birth checks. 

Social Security Number Identification

The applicant’s SSN is vital for identity verification, but it deserves its own breakdown. The social security number is a unique, nine-digit code used to record wages and/or self-employment earnings throughout a person’s professional life. Legally, an SSN is required with every job a person has had or will ever have, which means it is exceptionally valuable to new employers. 

The SSN screening verifies that candidates did work where they say they did. It can also verify previous earnings, which you may have discussed with a candidate when deciding their offered salary. 

Finally, an SSN can confirm previous addresses, a vital component of identity verification. 

Employment Verification 

A prospective employee’s previous experience factors into any hiring decision. However, it isn't unheard of for candidates to lie about where they have previously worked and the duration that they worked there. 

If your job requires three years of experience, you don't want to hire someone who has only worked in the field for three months. Worse still, you don't want to hire someone who has no experience whatsoever. 

Hiring someone without the proper experience can cause problems deeper than some professional inefficiency. It is especially true if you work in an industry that requires specialist skills. Workplace injury or costly accidents, putting staff or customers in danger, and other hazards all become far more likely if your candidate isn't as experienced as they say they are. 

Suppose a new hire or even a current employee does cause an incident due to the lack of experience, and you did not verify their employment history. The liability would then fall on you as the employer, leaving you open to negligent hiring lawsuits. 

Employment verification mitigates all of this. It confirms where the applicant worked, how long, and the role they fulfilled. 

Education Verification

Like employment verification, education verification confirms that your candidate possesses the proper credentials. The screening accesses public records and documents such as high school diplomas, undergraduate and post-graduate degrees, or other certifications requiring schooling. 

It is not uncommon for candidates to lie about their education to gain an advantage, so verification is crucial.

It isn't enough to simply ask to see the relevant documentation either. Fraudulent education certificates are not difficult to come by, and some can look very convincing. Only by using a thorough background checking service can you know indisputably that your prospective employee has the necessary qualifications for the role. 

Just make sure you follow the proper process per the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which stipulates that prospective employers must obtain written consent to perform this check and provide advance notice if the information from the screening leads to an adverse hiring decision. 

Criminal History Checks

Criminal history screening is arguably one of the most critical parts of background screening. Knowing an applicant's criminal past is understandably vital for any employer, especially if the job role involves working closely with vulnerable people or handling large sums of money. 

Typically, criminal background checks will cover arrests, convictions, and misdemeanors on a county, state, and federal level. The screening also includes acquitted and dismissed charges. Essentially, any interaction with the law that your candidate has previously had will appear in a criminal history check.

The depth of this check depends on which screening service you go with and the nature of the job the candidate would be fulfilling. Healthcare, education, government, and finance positions typically require the most in-depth criminal history checks. 

Credit History Checks

If the job involves handling finances, you need to check the applicant’s credit history. This type of screening is also applicable to positions where they may be handling confidential information. Poor credit history can be a red flag that the applicant might be at risk for bribery or coercion. 

Credit checks will highlight the candidate's debt record, including credit lines, loans, and repayment history. Insight into an applicant's credit rating can give you a good indication of how healthy their relationship with money is and whether this translates to your business. 

Of course, credit histories can't tell you everything. Just because a candidate has had previous difficulty with debt management doesn't mean they will be unsuitable for the role. 

However, you can still learn a lot by looking into their current financial situation. A series of unpaid loans does not bode well for an employee handling your money.

Reference Checks

References give you direct insight into how an employee conducts themselves in a professional setting. Their value depends on how you perform the screening. 

If you conduct a reference check yourself, you might find it difficult to ask the right questions to uncover the most information. Background screening services are professionals in performing reference checks. Leave it to them to discover who your candidate is. 

Drug Screening

A drug screening may not be relevant to all industries, but it’s invaluable for healthcare or jobs that require the use of machinery or vehicles. These screenings vary based on the requirement, but they often include five-panel or ten-panel urinalysis, breathalyzer, or hair testing. 

Some screens will test for drugs, alcohol, or both. Drug screening doesn’t check for a history of drug use, only what is present in the candidate's system. Any previous drug use that resulted in arrest or conviction will appear in a criminal history check.

Employers can only complete a drug screening with explicit permission from the applicant. Various federal laws govern how employers may conduct drug testing to protect applicants from the invasion of privacy to adverse hiring and discrimination. The best course of action is to seek legal counsel to avoid litigation. 

Driving Record

Some jobs require a driving license. If you need your candidate to be on the road with any frequency, you also need to know that they are a competent driver. Reviewing their driving record will highlight previous incidents such as traffic collisions, any points they may have accrued on their license, whether they possess any DUIs or any other traffic law violations. 

To complete this check, you will need to pass on the candidate's details to your chosen background screener. 

The information should include:

  • The candidate's full name
  • Date of birth
  • Driver's license number
  • Social security number
  • State of issue

Any employer wishing to perform a complete driving record check must also have the candidate's explicit permission to proceed. Never assume consent from an applicant, as this could give you some serious legal trouble. 

Social Media Checks

Last on our list, and potentially most concerning to some, are social media checks. While not traditionally included as part of background screening services, employers are increasingly assessing the public profiles of potential candidates. 

They can be revealing, to say the least. Unless you want to unwittingly embroil yourself in the next Twitter controversy, it's best to do some preliminary research before hiring your newest staff member. 

A social media screening can also help ascertain how the candidate will behave professionally. Job applications and resumés only highlight the best of an applicant. People tend to get a little more relaxed on social media, which can prove far more revealing than a cover letter. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How Many Different Types of Background Checks Are There?

We have highlighted ten in our breakdown, but there are many more. Each background screening service offers a different portfolio of checks to suit the needs of their clientele. 

Screeners that work with niche industries, such as hospitals or educational institutions, will be more likely to utilize more in-depth methods of information gathering. Standard service jobs will usually take less time to complete and won't use as many background checks for every candidate. 

Can a Candidate with a Criminal Record Still Get Hired?

Yes, a candidate with a criminal history should still be considered for employment. Indeed, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission prohibits discrimination based on criminal background. It encourages employers to give candidates equal consideration even with criminal records, within reason. 

Employers might consider questions such as the following to inform fair hiring practices:

  • How long ago was the conviction?
  • What was the nature of the crime?
  • How does the crime relate to your industry?
  • Has the candidate been convicted multiple times?
  • Was the candidate acquitted?
  • Has the candidate completed any rehabilitation programs?

Deciding whether or not a candidate with a criminal background is appropriate for hire is entirely down to you as the employer. However, if the criminal history leads to an adverse hiring decision, federal law requires the employer to notify the applicant. 

Why Are Background Checks Important to Employers?

Background checks can help reduce the risk of hiring someone inexperienced or unqualified for the role. Applicants lying about their experience is not a victimless crime, especially if their potential role puts others at risk. It is relevant to the safety of customers and existing staff members alike for employers to perform due diligence before hiring a new team member. In the worst situation, not performing a background check could lead to negligent hiring litigation

Conclusion

Different types of background checks are crucial for the hiring process. They give insight into a candidate that won’t necessarily be part of the resume or interview. The thoroughness of the screening will largely depend on the background check service.

At ScoutLogic, we have years of experience running background checks of every type. With a dedicated scout keeping you updated throughout the process, you can be confident in the applicant’s credibility and expertise. For more information, contact us today and start the background screening process. 

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