You’ve waved goodbye to the candidate you just spent an hour of your time getting to know. You feel really good about the interview and think this person would be a good fit for your small business staff. But you’re still new to the hiring process so you want to be absolutely certain you’re making a smart decision.
Conducting a background check on your potential employee can help give you that confidence in your hiring choice. However, before you decide to implement this type of screening, you should absolutely ensure that you’re doing it right.
Background Check Best Practices
A best practice for issuing a background check is to do so post-job offer. After you have sent the offer letter to your candidate is the most appropriate time so that you avoid any sort of discrimination issues.
Many states have laws limiting an employer’s use of credit reports and criminal records. Read up on the “ban the box” campaign and familiarize yourself with your particular state’s laws before going any further. [See our disclaimer below]
Here’s an idea of some of the things you can expect to learn from conducting background check:
- Driving records
- Credit reports
- Criminal records
- Employment verification
- Workers’ compensation
- Educational records
- Drug test records
Compliance with background checks falls under the Fair Credit Reporting Act umbrella. Here’s a quick checklist of things you should do to ensure compliance.
- Inform the applicant that you might use information in the background check for decisions related to their employment. The notification must be in a standalone format, not in the employment application.
- Obtain written permission from the applicant. This could be a signature from the aforementioned document.
- If you’re using a professional agency to conduct the check, certify compliance with that company. Certify that you notified the applicant and got their permission, complied with FCRA standards and that you will not discriminate against the applicant or otherwise misuse the information.
If the returned results of the background check influence your decision-making on the particular candidate, here is a quick checklist of the proper way to let them know:
- Notify the applicant.
- Provide them with a copy of the report.
- Give them reasonable time to review it and explain any negative information.
- Provide the candidate with a copy of their rights under the FCRA
Where and for how long should an employer maintain background check results?
Typically, employers have a couple of choices as it relates to the retention of pre-employment background checks. There is no absolute requirement that background checks be retained if the applicant is hired, and some employers will destroy the background checks once the employee is hired for privacy reasons. Other employers choose to retain the background check information, and the best practice recommendation for maintaining pre-employment background checks and authorizations is to keep these records in a separate confidential file apart from the personnel file. The information that follows is the Federal records retention requirements. Employers should also check the state retention rules and retain the records for the longer time period.
- For applicants not hired, these records should be maintained for a period of one (1) to two (2) years, depending upon the organization’s size and whether any executive orders or affirmative action statutes apply.
- For applicants who become employees, the retention requirement is to retain these documents for six (6) years after termination. If there is any type of legal or regulatory action impacting the former employee, the records should be retained until the employment action is resolved.
Background screening can prove to be a viable option when determining the validity of your potential new hire. But as with all human resources functions, it must be done with federal and state regulations top of mind.
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