We receive many questions about background checks, so we thought we'd compile three of the most common here.
What does a background check include?
Many people hear the word "background check" and think it's synonymous with criminal background check. But a criminal background check is only one portion of a comprehensive background check.
A comprehensive background check should include the following:
- Pre-hire drug test
- Social media screening
- Criminal background check
- Employment and education verification
You can certainly run just a criminal background check if you want. But remember this: that will only show you the person's past. A social media screening and pre-hire drug test will provide insights regarding who the person is today (which we think is good information to have when making a hiring decision).
For example, a person might pass their criminal background check, leading you to feel it's "safe" to hire them. But what if the person regularly posts sexually explicit/offensive materials on Twitter and Instagram? Isn't that information you'd want to know since that behavior could influence the workplace?
We think so, which is one of many reasons why we recommend ongoing monitoring in addition to initial background checks.
How far back do background checks go?
Again, most people equate background checks with criminal background checks. Regarding how far "look back" periods go, the answer is it depends on where the applicants live and where they work. Some states say you can look back forever and report on everything, including arrest records. Other states say that you can only go back seven years and report on convictions and pending cases. Still, other states say you can report on convictions, except in cases where the conviction was expunged or sealed.
As you can see, it's a tangled web regarding what can and can't be reported (or how long the "look back" period is), which is why you should work with a reputable screening vendor that knows the ins and outs.
What is FCRA compliance?
FCRA stands for Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Enacted in 1970, this federal legislation was initially designed to protect consumers who needed to correct inaccuracies on their credit reports. In the mid-90s, the scope expanded to include other types of consumer reports, such as background checks.
Your background checks MUST be FCRA compliant or else you'll run afoul of federal law, which can be equal parts problematic and costly (and this is especially true when it comes to the adverse action process).
But here's the thing: you can't just worry about federal law. State and local jurisdictions also have legislation governing consumer reports, such as background checks.
So whenever a background check is conducted, you need to consider compliance from three varying jurisdictional levels: federal, state, and local.
For example, are you providing the job applicant with the correct disclosures, authorizations, and information about the background check? That is where a lot of employers get into trouble. Those are regulated at all three levels, so you have to be very careful with the content and delivery of disclosures and authorizations and make sure you're not violating any of the applicant's rights.
Not an easy task, as you can imagine, which is why working with a vendor well versed in compliance is a must.