Background checks are very important. Nowadays you can’t afford to be too trusting. A potential new employee, romantic interest, or friendly new neighbor may each be hiding financial problems or a worrisome criminal history.
Fortunately, you can easily do background checks to uncover interesting information about someone's past that you may not already know. Approximately 92% of employers conduct background checks on potential employees, but there are also several other reasons you may wish to perform a background check.
There are different types of background checks, and some are more comprehensive than others.
Background checks typically include an overview of the individual’s credit history, a criminal history search for arrests and criminal convictions, and an employment background search.
There are a variety of reasons you may want to run a background check. Employers conduct background checks to find out whether a potential employee is dependable and trustworthy. You may even want to perform a background check on yourself, to ensure that all information about your history is accurate and that nobody has stolen your identity.
If you've recently started dating someone you met online, you may want to conduct a background check to ensure he or she doesn’t have a criminal history. And, if you're a landlord or property owner, you'll need to do background checks on potential tenants or buyers to make sure they’ll pay the rent and won't cause problems later.
There are several things you’ll need to keep in mind before running background checks. First, it's important to make sure all the personal information that you use in the background check is accurate.
The minimum information for an accurate background search includes the name, approximate date of birth, place of residence, and prior employment.
Even though you only need an individual’s name to perform background checks, you’ll want to know as much as possible to distinguish that person from others with the same name, to avoid confusion later.
It’s also imperative to use the right service to run background checks. Some services that allow you to conduct background checks may return inaccurate results and outdated or incomplete information.
You should be particularly cautious when using background check services other than those offered here. Some other search services may lack information and display incorrect results.
Depending on the nature of your background check, privacy may also be a consideration. Before conducting any background checks, decide what information is most valuable so that you can narrow the scope of the search.
For example, you may only want to run criminal background checks if you’re screening a romantic interest or a new neighbor.
If you’re running a background check on yourself, a new romantic interest or neighbor, you don’t need to obtain consent. However, if you’re running a background check for employment purposes, it’s important to abide by all state laws.
Consent is necessary if you plan on running background checks on potential employees. In most cases, you’ll need a formal consent form and a contract informing the prospective employee about his or her rights.
States such as California only allow employers to ask about convictions, so you can’t disqualify any applicant solely based on an arrest. Other state laws may also bar you from considering offenses that don’t relate to the job.
If you’re running background checks on potential employees, you'll probably want to conduct more comprehensive employment background checks that include credit histories, bankruptcies, and work history.
Even though background checks provide very detailed information, you’ll need to use balanced judgment while interpreting them.
Background checks may show obvious red flags, such as convictions for sexual assault or recent bankruptcies. However, you need to be more subjective when analyzing other information included in a background check.
You should ask the right questions. Did the person file for bankruptcy over a decade ago? Did his or her criminal background checks show a conviction for a minor, nonviolent drug possession a few years ago? You may not want to disqualify someone based on youthful indiscretions.
You’ll also need to decide how quickly you want the results. Standard background checks are usually completed within three to seven days, but more comprehensive probes take as long as a month. You can expedite background checks, but have to pay a higher fee to do so.
Some other sites allow you to conduct instant background checks, but the information is usually less accurate and often incomplete. If accuracy over speed is your priority, then you’re better off doing it right the first time.
If you’re doing employment background checks, you should compare the results against any statements your potential employees made in their applications or interviews. Did the applicant lie about or exaggerate work history? An applicant may claim he was a manager when the employment background check shows he was only an assistant.
You’ll need to use your judgment when deciding whether to hold it against them. You might also want to verify how long the applicant worked with previous companies, and whether those employers were satisfied.
Background checks can provide a wealth of information about anyone. It’s easy to be overwhelmed with the information, so you should decide which information is most relevant, set acceptable minimal standards that should be met, and decide how to handle the inevitable minor red flags that pop up.
Keep in mind that nobody is perfect, so you may want to be tolerant about certain issues. However, it's always a good idea to ask questions.
For example, if you’re planning to hire a truck drive, but the background check revealed a DUI five years ago, you shouldn't necessarily rescind the job offer. However, you should speak candidly with the job candidate before deciding whether drinking may still be a problem.
Likewise, if you've recently begun dating someone convicted of assault in the past, you should ask about the context of that conviction.