Industry Insights

HR 101: So, you Need to Run A Background Check, Where Do you Begin?

Background checks can be quite diverse, making it tricky for employers to decipher exactly what is necessary or required for their hiring standards. When implementing a background screening program for your company you should know all the products and services available, understand and abide by your state laws, and maintain compliance by following the guidelines of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Employers are required to disclose to the applicant that a background check will be run and to receive written consent from the applicant to move forward with conducting the searches.

If you’re creating a background screening program or updating yours in the event of an audit, here are some products and procedures to consider.

Common Search Products

Criminal and Civil History Searches
Reports can be done by federal, county, or state for criminal checks and both federal and county for civil checks. Depending on what the employer chooses to conduct, reports can include felonies, misdemeanors, civil court cases, lawsuits, etc.

SSN Validity Check
Validates the accuracy of a social security number and detects fraudulent numbers.

Employment Verification

Verifies an applicant’s employment history and typically includes employer name, dates of employment, job title, eligibility for rehire, and reason for leaving.

Education Verification
Verifies an applicant’s level of education and degree(s) and can include the name of the institution, dates of attendance and graduation, degree obtained, and field of study.

Personal Reference Verification
Assists employers in learning more about the applicant through personal references by asking questions that can determine their personality, work ethic, skills, etc. to ensure they will make a good fit for the position.

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Industry Specific Search Products

State Driving Records
These records are especially important for applicants in the transportation industry, and can show arrests, violations, suspensions, etc. that will uncover behavioral problems that could be a risk for the employer.

Professional Licenses and Credentials
This search is only conducted for certain positions that require a professional license or certification. The verification process can include the applicant’s license number, type of license/certification issued, date issued, expiration date, and any disciplinary actions, suspensions or revocations.

Credit Reports
Credit reports may be ordered only for specific positions and industries that usually involve financial responsibilities. A credit report may indicate how responsible the applicant is with their own personal financial affairs and whether or not they can be trusted with financial information with the company.

Government Sanctions Lists
Verifies that an individual is not listed in the database search for known or suspected terrorists who are on government watch lists.

Sex Offender Search
This search will reveal information relative to applicants with histories of sexual crimes, and may include arrest dates and severity of the offense. This information is especially important for employers who are hiring for particular positions, such as education, child care, etc.

Department of Transportation (DOT) Testing History
For those applying to safety-sensitive positions in the transportation industry, DOT drug and alcohol testing history needs to be collected for each DOT regulated driver within 30 days of hire for each previous employer the applicant held a DOT position for the last three years.

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Requirements for All Employers

FCRA and Adverse Action

All businesses must abide by the rules set forth by the FCRA. Employers must meet the following when making hiring decisions:

  • Permissible Purpose: An approved reason under the FCRA to conduct a background investigation (i.e., credit, employment, tenant screening, insurance, government license, child support enforcement or court order)
  • Provide a disclosure in a clear and conspicuous written document
  • Obtain written authorization (in a standalone disclosure) from the candidate to perform a background check
  • Follow the adverse action process before denying employment based upon the background report

If a background check reveals any adverse information, then the employer must follow the adverse action process. The employer must first provide the applicant with a pre-adverse notice, which simply tells the applicant that something adverse has returned in their background check which may or may not affect their hiring decision. This allows the applicant the opportunity to file a dispute before an adverse action notice is sent. An adverse action notice must only be sent if the employer denies the applicant the position based solely on the information from the background check.

Once They’re Hired: I-9 and E-Verify

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security requires every new employee to complete an I-9 form within the first three days of employment to verify an individual’s identity. Once the employee completes Form I-9, then E-Verify is used to confirm that the information is accurate. E-Verify is an Internet-based system that compares the information on a Form I-9 to data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records to confirm employment eligibility.

State Laws

Not all state laws are the same when it comes to background checks. Every employer should know and understand their state laws before creating and implementing a custom background screening program for their company. One example of a state law that doesn’t apply to every employer is the Ban-the-Box laws. These laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but essentially require employers to omit the box found on job applications requesting the applicant to check if they’ve ever been convicted of a crime, incarcerated, or arrested. Since laws vary by state, it’s important that employers thoroughly research and understand what is required for their hiring process.

As background screening procedures continue to evolve and change, employers need to ensure compliance by staying up-to-date on the latest information to protect their company. Whether you’re the applicant or the employer, background checks can be downright confusing, but there’s no need to panic. With the right third-party administrator and preparations, your company’s background screening program can fulfill all compliance requirements without difficulty.

Still have questions regarding employment screening? DISA can help! Get answers directly from DISA’s subject matter experts with ‘Ask DISA’.

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For more than 30 years, DISA has been a provider of workplace safety and compliance services. DISA helps companies make more informed staffing decisions by offering a broad array of industry-leading methodologies to make employee screening faster and more accurate. For more information about DISA call 1-800-752-6432 or email