What Is a Pre-Employment Background Check? 

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

Job candidates often have to furnish a lot of information during the hiring process, like their identity, work experience, training background, education history, and certifications or licenses. Some employers may require even more information, such as a credit report, criminal records check, drug testing, or motor vehicle record check.

Specific requirements vary between different fields – for example, someone applying to work in childcare will likely face a more stringent vetting process than someone applying to work in retail. Employers must also verify the information that the candidate provides, which can be time-consuming, especially if there are multiple candidates.

What Does a Pre-Employment Background Check Entail?

Pre-employment background checks can include different types depending on the job, local regulations, industry requirements, and company policy. However, there are a few basic components that most checks have in common: verifying the candidate’s identity, experience, and work history. There are several more types of background checks an employer can request, depending on the information they need. Here is a list of some of the most common background checks:

Identity verification: one of the most important checks is identity verification – ensuring the candidate is who they claim to be. This may use information like birth certificates and Social Security numbers.

Education check: This check ensures a candidate’s education credentials are true and accurate. It verifies their degrees, training, or certifications, which may be requirements in some fields like banking or medicine.

Employment history: This check compares employment records with the records provided by the applicant to help the hiring team gauge their experience level.

Government-issued licenses: Some positions require formal licensing, like medical professionals, contractors, or teachers. This check verifies the necessary credentials are correct and up to date.

Criminal record: Several industries require a criminal records check and may disqualify a candidate based on an ineligible criminal record. This helps ensure job safety and company compliance with regulatory standards.

Credit history: Credit report checks may not be appropriate for every candidate, but they are common for positions like C-suite or upper-level management to ensure the applicant is financially responsible.

Motor vehicle record: Motor vehicle records checks are most common for positions that require an applicant to drive or operate some vehicle. These are often required for insurance purposes and help ensure you are not putting an irresponsible driver behind the wheel.

Why is Conducting Pre-Employment Background Checks Essential?

Pre-employment background checks are standard practice in most industries. They verify the applicant’s information and credentials, and can even protect employers if the applicant causes problems later on. Here are some other reasons why it’s important to conduct background checks:

  • Ensure the candidate has the necessary qualifications – one of the most important reasons for background checks, is to ensure an applicant’s qualifications are current and valid.
  • Comply with regulatory requirements – some industries, like teaching or finance, require employers to conduct background checks for the safety of clients and customers.
  • Support workplace safety – background checks also help ensure safety in the workplace by screening for things like criminal records or vehicle violations.
  • Reduce company liability – companies who fail to conduct proper background screenings can be held liable if their employees cause damage or harm, especially if they have a record.

Legal Regulations of Pre-Employment Background Checks

Background checks deal with much private information and can be very invasive. Luckily, several laws in place dictate how this information can be used and to protect people from unfair or discriminatory practices.

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

The Fair Credit Reporting Act is a law that gives people the right to contest incorrect or incomplete background checks. Under this law, subjects have limited protection and avenues of recourse if something in their background check is inaccurate. This is very important as these checks can impact major parts of a person’s life, such as job and housing opportunities. The FCRA requires employers to comply with several notice requirements that allow potential hires to access and refute findings. Some states have additional rules and guidelines; the employer must know and comply with these laws.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sets rules about what information employers are allowed to use and how they’re allowed to use it. It specifically prohibits hiring decisions based on aspects like race, gender, age, or disability status. This applies to information from a background screening and information gathered during interviews. It also gives examples of prohibited practices not to be used during the hiring process, such as asking discriminatory questions in an interview. For example, an employer cannot ask if a candidate is pregnant or if they plan on having children in the future, as this could be used to not hire candidates they think may use maternity or family leave.

How to Conduct Pre-Employment Background Checks

Pre-employment background checks have several components, depending on job requirements, industry regulations, and company policy. Conducting these checks properly is vital to ensure compliance with laws and regulations and to ensure the candidates are qualified for the position. However, checks must be conducted fairly and in compliance with state and federal laws. There are several ways for a company to conduct a check, depending on factors like the company’s size, number of potential hires, and preference. Here is an example workflow:

  1. Make an official policy – make a single company policy that includes any paperwork candidates must provide, such as a summary of rights or a disclosure and release form. Be sure your policy is reviewed by a legal expert who specializes in pre-employment law to ensure it aligns with regulations. They can also advise on best practices for handling information and negative results.
  2. Research FCRA Obligations – Ensure you understand your company’s responsibilities and obligations under state law and the FCRA. This ensures the process is as fair as possible and can help avoid legal penalties.
  3. Hire a Third-Party FCRA-Compliant Background Check Service – Conducting background checks is time and resource-intensive. Using a third-party service can save time and money, but be sure that the service you hire uses FCRA-compliant practices.
  4. Notify Applicants of Check – Per FCRA, employers must obtain an applicant’s consent to conduct a background check, and the consent form must comply with FCRA standards.
  5. Make Offer Contingent On Results – If a background check is required for an applicant to fill a position, they must be informed that any job offer is contingent on them passing the background screening. This helps protect the company in the event that negative results are discovered and can help the applicant set reasonable expectations for the onboarding timeline.
  6. Review Findings – Background checks can generate large reports. Plan to spend sufficient time carefully reviewing the results, and consider consulting with an HR or legal expert for their opinion.
  7. Follow up – If the results show something that disqualifies the applicant, the FCRA requires the applicant to be sent a copy of the report and a pre-adverse action letter. Companies are required to give applicants a chance to respond and refute incorrect information before the job offer is withdrawn.
  8. Use Best-Practices Recordkeeping – The FCRA also requires employers to use proper safeguards for storing background check paperwork to protect the applicant’s personally identifiable information (PII).

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a Pre-Employment Check?

A pre-employment check is used to verify information provided by a candidate, such as their education and previous work experience. It may also check information like criminal and motor vehicle records, credit scores, and professional certifications. This helps the employer ensure they are hiring someone with the right qualifications and history.

Final Thoughts

Pre-employment background checks are a vital part of the interview process. They help verify a candidate’s credentials and help protect the company from liabilities or violations of industry standards. However, conducting a thorough and legally compliant background check takes time and resources. ScoutLogic can help. As a third-party screening service, we offer several types of background checks, which saves employers time and money.

Latest blog posts
June 03, 2024
What Is HR Compliance?
We often hear this term, and many instinctively shudder at its perceived complexity.  In this article, we'll aim to simplify and explain HR compliance by clearing up many of...
May 31, 2024
What Is Full-Cycle Recruiting?
Full-cycle recruiting is a comprehensive approach that involves a single recruiter managing every step of the hiring process. From initial job requisition and sourcing candidates to...
May 29, 2024
FCRA Compliant Background Check: The Complete Employers' Guide
In recent years, more employers have opted to implement stringent background checks on potential employees. The hiring process is already complex, though adding these additional...
May 27, 2024
Millennials vs. Gen Z in the Workplace
As the Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers get closer and closer to retirement, the spotlight has begun to shine on the younger generations, who are quickly paving a path all their own....
May 04, 2024
What Is a Peer Interview?
A peer interview is a good tool to assess your candidate. These can be conducted formally or informally and indicate whether or not the new candidate will fit into your already...
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