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7 Elements of a Thorough Background Check for Employers

7 Elements of a Thorough Background Check for Employers


A recent survey by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) revealed a level of inaction among many companies as it relates to pre-employment screening and how serious they are about avoiding bad hires.

While 95 per cent of companies’ report conducting some type of employment background screening, the robustness of said background checks seem to be lacking. For example, the survey found that four in ten companies don’t bother to verify a candidate’s education, six in ten don’t perform international background checks and one in four don’t validate the professional licenses candidates claim they’ve earned.

Most interesting was the fact that 3 per cent of companies surveyed don’t conduct criminal record checks. This seems like a small number, but if we extrapolate that across the country, 900,000 businesses have no idea whether or not their people are in danger.

So what’s standing in the way of a thorough background check?

According to the survey, two fairly substantial barriers that shouldn’t surprise you at all: time and money.

  • 65% of respondents to the survey felt it took too long to receive the report, thus holding up the hiring process.
  • And 62 per cent of respondents cited cost as a problem, which can be especially true for companies hiring en masse.

But the time and money you’d have to spend if you didn’t perform pre-employment screening could be substantially more if things didn’t work out.

According to a survey conducted by MindFlash, a bad hire cost

  • 41% of companies more than $25,000
  • 25% of companies more than $50,000

and that doesn’t count the opportunity cost of the hours lost to the process.

If you’re going to invest in background checks for employers, invest wisely

Whether you perform the background check at the interview stage (as 27% of companies surveyed do) or after you’ve extended a conditional job offer (as 62 per cent of the companies surveyed do) you can maximize the money you spend by squeezing everything you can out of the current background check framework capability. A thorough background check for employers covers two general areas: credibility and safety. And both apply to the company itself, its employees, its customers and its brand. Each of a background check’s seven elements falls into one of the two categories.

Let’s examine them now.

  1. Criminal Background Check — SAFETY

    This should be a no-brainer. You shouldn’t put your employees in a position to feel unsafe by being forced to work next to someone with a criminal record. And whether or not your employees have grounds to feel unsafe is irrelevant. If they feel unsafe, they may quit and/or convince others to quit as well, leaving you short-short-staffed and scrambling. If your employees are part of a union, they could file a grievance that would tie you up in action.


    But even if none of these happen, an unsafe feeling at work (and the feeling that you as the employer created that unsafe feeling through your hiring practices) will negatively impact the culture and absolutely impact quality and productivity.

  2. Employment History — CREDIBILITY

    Lies on a resume are the standard now. In fact, according to this CBNC article, a recent survey found that a full 3/4 of Americans lie on their resumes. This can put you in an awkward position with clients who take the time to check up on the people they’re working with, or dangerous situations on jobs where the expectation is that your employee can do something. The last thing you’d want is an unqualified person representing you, especially if the job requires a degree of experience.


    A thorough employment history will verify that your candidate did what they say they did, earned what they say they earned and that any accolades they put on their resumes are real.

  3.  Education History — CREDIBILITY

    Similar to employment history this step verifies that your candidate has the necessary training to perform the job at a high level. In the past, we’ve seen careers (and subsequently companies) brought down because of this. Most famously was the case of Liv Løberg, a health care administrator in Norway who claimed on her resume to have health degrees from the London School of Economics and Norges Handelshøyskole, and to be a registered nurse. Neither was true; she wound up spending 14 months in jail and damaged the credibility of the Norwegian health care system.

  4. Homeland Security Check — SAFETY

    As Americans, we all have a responsibility to protect the safety and sanctity of our country. Part of that responsibility is helping to identify those among us who have been deemed a threat by our government.


    And like the rationale for investing in a criminal background check, putting your current employees in the position to feel unsafe is a recipe for poor morale, compromised productivity and a wave of attrition.


  5. Reference Check — CREDIBILITY

    We talked earlier about the outrageous number of people who lie on their resumes, and you’d be surprised how far some people go. Some enlist their friends in an elaborate back story to try fooling a potential employer. Sometimes it works. Other times, not so much.

  6. Driver Abstract — SAFETY

    This is obviously only important if the job involves driving, but in those cases, it’s probably the most important because it’s legitimately a life and death issue.

    Think about how much training is required to drive a truck, and how dangerous it would

    be for any driver close to an unqualified driver behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler. Same is true for delivery van drivers, cab drivers, public bus drivers and especially school bus drivers.

    In addition to qualifications to operate a special vehicle, a driver abstract will give you insights into who they are as regular drivers, including their history of impaired driving, speeding, reckless driving, driver’s license details, active suspensions, status of license and fines.


  7. International Background Check — SAFETY

    The global economy gives people plenty of space to hide their baggage. But you’ll need to know of any overseas transgressions, what they were, and if they’re going to pose a problem for you and your organization.


Now that you know what an employer background check should include, how do you choose a company to perform it?

Some HR departments will have preferred vendors in this area. If you have one, it’s worth double checking that their services include all the elements listed above. If one or more isn’t part of their offering, you should ask them why.

If you don’t have a preferred vendor, the first place you’ll most likely look is Google. As you review your options, keep the following in mind:

  • Offered Services

    This is directly related to the thoroughness we’ve been discussing so far. And some employer background check companies fall woefully short.


    Some will say they do criminal background checks, but don’t include a Homeland Security check. That’s a problem because an employee with a DHS flag could put you in a more compromised position than an employee with a criminal record, and it would definitely be a PR nightmare.


    Others will verify qualifications but not do reference checks. In this case, you’d only be getting half the story because a piece of paper can only tell you so much, and it certainly can’t be as revealing as a conversation with someone who’s worked with the candidate you’re considering.


    Look for a company with a full array of services.

  • Price

    Most background checks for employers include a base price and additional fees for services. Find out what’s included in the base price and what’s extra. Some companies will include everything they offer as part of their standard package. Others will charge you per check, and that can get expensive if thoroughness is a priority for you.


    Also, as you evaluate costs, remember that, as with everything else in life, you get what you pay for. The cheapest price is usually associated with the least thorough service offering. Yes, you’d save a bit of money on the front end if you went with a cheap background check vendor, but you’ll wind up paying 20x that amount to terminate, recruit and re-train.

  • Reputation

    You’ll want to read the reviews and pay close attention to any reviewers who complain about inaccurate results. This is important because many of the more critical elements involved in a background check (like work experience and skill set) can’t be verified by a third party after the fact (actually that’s what we do, we verify their skill and experience after the fact). So, if you see a pattern of inaccuracy, this should be cause for concern.


    What you may want to do is ask them how they ensure accuracy. A documented process they’re willing to share with you will do wonders for your confidence in their ability to give you what you need.

  • Compliance

    The rules and regulations governing employee or candidate consent before conducting employer background checks are stringent. A vendor that doesn’t follow them could be putting you in an actionable position. But worse than that, it could damage your reputation to the point where attracting quality candidates is close to impossible.


    The company you choose to perform background checks should have processes in place to protect you in these ways, and they should be able to tell you what you can and can’t   do with the information you get.

  • Geography

    Some background check companies will only look into a candidate’s local or in-state history, whereas others have the breadth to do national or even international searches. The farther a background check goes, the more you’ll pay for it, so weigh the kind of business you have and the kind of candidates you plan on considering with the price of an employer background check. If you plan on recruiting from across the country or around the world, it’s worth the extra money to exhaustively verify candidate histories.

  • Output

    What are you going to get from the company? Will it be an easy-to-read report or a bunch of random facts and figures you have to make sense of yourself? Are they able to perform background checks on multiple candidates simultaneously to save you time and money or are they only able to do one at a time? Will they be able to custom create a report based on your requirements or is it more of a “what we do is what you’ll get” situation?

  • Speed

    Time is money, especially when you’re looking to fill positions and increase productivity. Every day spent waiting for the results of a background check is a day not moving forward. But be cautious of any vendor who promises you something in less than five business days, as it’s usually a sign of a rushed job.

  • A NAPBS Membership

    We spoke about the National Association of Professional Background Screeners earlier. Any company that belongs to NAPBS will be up to date on best practices in the  industry and understand all the legislation that employer background checks have to follow.

Finally, is a background check worth the money?
Short answer: absolutely.

As we mentioned earlier, the cost of a bad hire can be financially crippling. But that pales in comparison to what a bad hire could cost you from a company morale and a company reputation standpoint.

One bad member of a team could affect the happiness, productivity and output of everyone else. And if that bad hire happens to be a manager or supervisor, they could affect the entire company.

At the same time, a poor hire (depending on how they’re poor) could lead to negative publicity, which could lead to client loss and an inability to recruit top talent in the future.

As long as you’re fully transparent with the candidate, performing a background check is the best move you can make. The fewer surprises you have to plan for regarding the people who work for you, the less risk there is for you to find yourself in a compromised position.

Triton is an industry leader providing background checks for employers to provide professional pre-employment screening. At the fastest turnaround times in the industry because we know you need your background checks done quickly.

For more information about getting a background check for employers and how to set them up, please contact:


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