How to Perform a Successful Employee Background Check

Hire Smart Now So You Don’t Have to Fire Later

One of the best things you can do for your company is hire quality employees — and don’t take their word for it. Whether you are a businessman or a businesswoman, you want to create the best possible staff for your company. There are several ways a company can determine whether an employee will be a good fit without taking a blind leap of faith; one being background checks.

Background checks allow you to know exactly who you are hiring before making the job offer. According to, over 35% of job applications and resumes reveal a distortion, and according to William M. Mercer, Inc., turnover costs a minimum of $10,000. Although background checks are becoming more and more popular (and unfortunately more necessary) with companies, performing a Google search or checking a potential candidates Facebook simply isn’t enough. The best way to avoid these types of unnecessary costs is to catch the problem before it starts and complete a few simple checks.

What to Check and What to Avoid

There are several types of records that you should check before hiring a prospective employee and some that have to be avoided:





  • Credit reports
  • Drug tests
  • Driving records
  • Past employers
  • Court records
  • State licensing records
  • Sex offender lists
  • Criminal Records
  • Medical Records
  • Military Records
  • Educational Records
  • Bankruptcies
  • Worker’s Compensation


The reason that some records should be avoided is because they are not always accessible to just any company, and in many states these kinds of background checks are not supported. In some states an employer is allowed to ask about things such as criminal records, while other states cannot. If you feel you need to check someone that is typically avoided, the best thing you can do is check with a lawyer to determine your states policy.

Tips to Hiring that Perfect Employee

  1. Consent – An employer must always get the consent of the applicant before performing any sort of background tests. If an applicant has nothing to hide, this should not be a problem. The easiest way to do this is to create a portion of your job application that asks whether or not the applicant would be willing to undergo a list of specific background checks. This way, if there is an issue it will come up before all the formalities of an interview.
  2. Pick and Choose Your Battles –When conducting a background check, make sure that your tests and checks are related to the job position your candidate is applying (you are not expected to conduct every test you can). For example, if you are looking to hire an office worker, driving records would not be necessary. It is up to the employer to decide which tests make sense for the position. In fact, if your tests are unreasonable you run the risk of being sued.
  3. Credit Report Issues – The background check that would probably give you the most problems would be credit reports. In some states, looking at an applicant’s credit is not allowed. If this is allowed in your state and you want to use a credit report to make your decision, be advised that the applicant has a right to challenge your decision if they are not hired.
  4. Use Public Record Databases – Much of the information you need to conduct a background check, such as driving records or court records, can be found online. Other things you need, such as drug tests or past employment references, can be done in your office.
  5. Double Check Those Resumes – It is worth your time to call Universities for education verification and past employers for work history confirmation. Many applicants can come in for an interview and smooth talk their way into your good graces, but once the job starts you may find yourself spending too much time on the training a past education or job seemed to “miss.”

Unfortunately, many start-up companies see backgrounds checks as confusing and intimidating, and therefore ignore them. This is sure to cost you more trouble in the future if you do hire an employee who is bad news, so follow a few of the simple tips listed above. After all, you can NEVER be too safe with your business.

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3 thoughts on “How to Perform a Successful Employee Background Check

  1. Today, these background checks are very popular and useful
    for all organizations. They can really help employers hire the perfect
    employee. great tips for performing a successful employee background check!
    very informative article! I enjoyed reading it!

    1. Thank you so much Kim! Background checks absolutely need to be taken seriously. It can be confusing, but hopefully these tips will help businesses feel more confident (and actually go through with background checks correctly). Thank you for reading!

  2. While I am not a hiring manager, if I were a small business especially, I would put more of a focus on free research — such as verifying references, public database searches, etc. Anything that had you pay a third party for, I would throw by the wayside. It may be controversial, but to me, drug tests are not worth it. Drug users know how to cheat in order to pass them, and then go back to using them after they are hired. Credit checks are coming under scrutiny as well since many people were adversely affected through the recession.

    I worked for a small business where the manager “passed” all of these tests; yet she embezzled over $150K from the company. A free, online search of supervised persons in the county (she was on probation) would have revealed that she was previously convicted of identity fraud. Also a talk to her previous employer would have done the same. Ironically, these are two things that you are barred from doing as a hiring manager (in some states, a former employer is only obligated to confirm hiring and termination dates…nothing more). Just food for thought.

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