Tips For Properly Conducting An Employee Background Check


It’s standard practice these days for any employer to run a background check on any candidate they are thinking of hiring. Effectively vetting a candidate is often a process of peeling back layers of obscurity, and a background check reveals important information you won’t get anywhere else. We’ve collected some strategies to help you conduct the process as accurately, legally, and rapidly as possible.

Credit Reports

It’s debatable whether a candidate’s personal financial history says something about their professional qualifications. Either way, many companies choose to run a credit report before extending a job offer. This is perfectly legal as long as certain regulations are followed. The employer must first get the candidate’s written consent, and if the report reveals information that keeps you from hiring or promoting someone, you must supply a copy of the report and inform the candidate that they can contest the decision. More detailed information is available from the Federal Trade Commission.

Criminal History

Every state has different laws outlining the extent to which employers can consider criminal history in hiring decisions. For that reason, it’s best to consult with a lawyer before making this a feature of your recruitment process. Consult the FBI Resources for Businesses for more information.

Lie Detector Tests

In almost all cases, private employers are prohibited from administering polygraph tests as part of a pre-employment screening process. Exceptions are available, most relevantly to companies that manufacture and distribute pharmaceuticals, but a lawyer should be consulted before pursuing this course of action. Written honesty tests are not explicitly prohibited, but they often conflict with privacy and anti-discrimination laws.

Medical Records

Employers are expressly prohibited from making hiring decisions based on medical conditions. They can, however, inquire about a candidate’s ability to perform specific physical functions required for the job.


Bankruptcies are a matter of public record and usually show up on a credit report. Employers are not prohibited from investigating the matter, but they can’t use the information to inform their hiring decision.

Military Service

The consent of the applicant is typically required if military service records are going to be released, and even then they may be subject to limitations and restrictions.

School Records

Schools at all levels are restricted from releasing transcripts and other records without the student/graduate’s consent. Employers are welcome to request this information as part of the hiring process though.

If there is one takeaway, it’s that you need to do your research, but do it carefully. If you don’t stay strictly within the boundaries of the law your company could be vulnerable to lawsuits and penalties. If you would rather let a staffing partner deal with the hassles of employee background checks, contact the technical staffing team at JH Technical Services

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