Source: Stuart Miles /

The background check is a method of verifying the credentials and general character of candidates. Also referred to as pre-employment investigations, they are used as a tool by HR professionals and staffing recruiters to determine an applicant’s ability to do the job applied for.  It is also often used to verify the information provided on the resume to find the best candidate for each assignment.

The extent of the back ground check, the how’s and why’s of this process can vary depending on the job applied for.

Sources of Candidate Background Information

There are many different areas where information can be obtained on a candidate during the background check. Academic qualifications can be found through school records. The characteristics of a worker can be ascertained from previous employers and references. Additional information can be found through driving records, military service, and a criminal convictions check.

Keep in mind that under current employment laws, certain information may require written permission from the applicant for background checks which include personal credit checks, drug tests, medical and disability information. The department responsible for conducting the background check has to gauge the extent and sources of information necessary, depending on the position applied for.

When To Do an Employment Background Check

After the first couple of rounds of initial interviews, the employer has started to have an idea of who they want to hire. Recruiters have begun to weed out the applicants with the desired qualifications.  The best time to do a candidate background check may be when management has a short list of applicants they are seriously considering filling a position, and before a job offer has been made. This includes pre-employment drug tests. It is illegal to conduct an employment or crimianl background check after a candidate has been offered a job or begun working.

The employment background check can help determine who is the best candidate for a position. Having a small number of applicants to work with also makes conducting background investigations easier by condensing time and resources put into the checks.  Again, in order to avoid discriminatory hiring practices, it’s important to conduct background checks consistently on all candidates.

Methods Of Conducting a Background Check

There are several methods of completing a candidate background check.  The nature of the position will usually determine how extensive a pre-employment investigation needs to be. A position with a high level of responsibility with security concerns will require a more comprehensive review. Staff within the Human Resources department may do enough to satisfy the needs of the background check through contacting references and previous employers.

In addition, there are background investigative services available online that can conduct searches for information over the Internet. Care must be taken in the use of these services to avoid cases of mistaken identity of applicants. In the USA, the I-9 form is used to compare the candidate’s information to the Social Security and Department of Motor Vehicles via Homeland Security, to prevent this from happening. This is important because a criminal reference can be found on someone with the same name as another applicant and could be misinterpreted. There are also companies that specialize in conducting full background investigations.

Whenever a employment background check is conducted, it is important to focus on the candidate‘s ability to do the job, and if the candidate has been truthful in the application and interview process. Every background check should be approached in the same manner with the goal of verifying qualifications.

Want to avoid the common pitfalls with candidate background checks? Consult with the staffing professionals at TempStaff for quality, pre-screened candidates.

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