December 15 2023 Kimberly Ryan Limited Articles

The Beginner’s Guide to Background Checks

What is a Background Check?

According to Wikipedia, “a background check is the process a person or company uses to verify that an individual is who they claim to be, and this provides an opportunity to check and confirm the validity of someone’s criminal record, education, employment history, and other activities from their past.”

In plain words, organisations run background checks on individuals and groups to verify their identity, history and claims made during an application.

Why is a Background Check Important?

Background screening is typically complete when the employer successfully confirms the information provided by a job candidate. Depending on the structure and complexity of the company, background checks can range from work and education background to driving and criminal records.

The process of carrying out background checks on employees or prospective job candidates has become an integral part of numerous companies and businesses around the world. Background Checks have become increasingly important due to a higher demand for safer workplace environments. Companies and businesses are beginning to pay more attention to brand image and protection of sensitive materials but with the fast paced tempo of the business world, how can a business carry out effective background checks on its employees? While outsourcing your HR functions like background checks to a competent HR firm is a no-brainer, it can also be done in-house.

Benefits of Background Checks #1: Prevent Employee Theft

A thorough background check of employees can help an organisation prevent cases of employee theft and also protect company assets – tangible or intangible because people are the backbone of every business. It is very important that one can check, verify and attest to the personality and background records of every staff that works for an organisation.

Benefits of Background Check #2: Prevent Risks of Negligent Hiring

Think about this: You hire a new HOD and three months down the line, you find out this person has a temper issue, lacks vital leadership skills to head the department and worse still, he or she lied about their work experience and previous employers. This is a classic case of Negligent Hiring.

Issues like this can cause great harm to your business, employees and clients, but this is where background checks can save the day. By carrying out checks on an individual's personality, work history, guarantors/references, criminal records, etc., you can ensure a safe work environment and prevent incidents that may affect your company’s credibility.

What is Checked in a Background Check?

A linear background check doesn’t exist, and organisations differ in what they look for. Credit checks are usually done by financial institutions, but fast-food restaurants are unlikely to do so. Each employer chooses what’s acceptable and what’s not in a background check. Background checks may be conducted by employers using one or more third-party services. They may also do certain internal checks, such as evaluating references to verify the employee’s details.

Although background checks differs and can be pretty extensive, there are several important categories for every check process;

  • Referral Check

    A former manager or co-worker may also be contacted by an employer, unless they have been expressly requested not to do so. Depending on the state, there are several regulations that regulate reference checks.

    In general, prior employers can discuss a candidate’s employment history as long as they are accurate and don’t break anti-discrimination regulations. Obtaining written authorization before doing a reference check is also a standard procedure.

  • Academic Qualification Check

    To verify that candidates hold the degree mentioned on their application documents, organisations will either directly contact the academic institutions to verify the authenticity of such claims or contract a verification agency to do so. To acquire this information, applicants will need to give their graduation dates and former names where necessary.

  • Previous Work Experience Check

    Employees are usually required to provide proof of their previous employment. A few former employers may very well be ready to answer inquiries, while others may just confirm that the applicant worked there and when they did.

  • Address Check

    Everyone has a place they call home. In the same vein, every employer deserves to know where their employees or applicants call home. This knowledge can help to either prevent potential threats or risks to a business or solve a lingering case of abscondment. As such, address checks like this can come in handy in the toolkit of every recruiter and business professional.

  • Skills and Knowledge Testing

    To verify certain capabilities, some employers might require the job candidates to do a skill test interview. For instance, if a customer service role entails mailing customers; a candidate for this role may be requested to write a sample email in response to a hypothetical customer complaint.

    Other senior management roles may require candidates to deliver a presentation on how to increase sales. HR recruiters may be required to provide a recruitment improvement strategy as part of their application. Before a company makes a job offer, these types of demonstrations help to practically prove that the candidate possesses the claimed knowledge and abilities.

  • Verifying Criminal History

    If you have a negative criminal record, it may exclude you from successfully getting a job. The use of criminal background checks by employers is not a common criteria and is usually only required for sensitive job descriptions.

As more companies look for better ways to hire and keep quality staff, emphasis is being placed on carrying out efficient background checks. Whether you decide to perform an in-house check or you prefer to outsource your background check process, the steps listed in this beginner’s guide are important procedures to take note of.

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