8 Common Background Check Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

When screening candidates for employment, housing, or volunteer work, a background check will be your greatest asset in determining whether or not the person will be an appropriate and beneficial fit for your organization. Beyond gut feelings and first impressions, a background check provides hard data by which you can make informed decisions as you narrow your options. 

Before starting a background check, however, there are several common pitfalls that you need to be aware of so as to avoid making costly mistakes and exposing yourself to risk. The last thing you need is to subject your business to litigation that arises from the mishandling of sensitive information or allegations of discrimination and FCRA non-compliance.

What NOT to Do When Conducting a Background Check

    1. Fail to obtain written consent

    The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that you obtain written consent before running a background check. This request must be made separately from the employment application and should clearly state that the results of the check will be used to make a hiring decision. You’re also required to inform applicants of their rights to correct any inaccuracies that adversely affect your ability to hire them.

    1. Fail to obtain all pertinent identifiers

    When collecting information for a background check, be sure to collect maiden names, middle initials, birth dates, etc. If you don’t, you could end up pulling up someone else’s (or several other people’s) data, which leads to a mountain of extra work and a headache for everyone involved. 

    1. Fail to run targeted searches on all places of residence

    A thorough background check should pull information on every place a candidate has ever lived, which is especially important when selecting for positions that deal with high-risk clientele, such as children, the elderly, and the disabled. If you don’t run a check on all places of residence, concerning events that occurred in one state could be entirely missed.

    1. Conduct searches outside the purview of the position in question

    It’s important to conduct searches that are specific to the job position in question, in order to minimize complications surrounding sensitive information. For example, if the position will not require driving, there is no need to delve into the candidate’s driving history.

    1. Fail to screen all applicants

    You may be hiring from a pool of candidates from all over the country, which means the costs of screening may vary. Never elect to screen one candidate and not another for any reason, as this could be interpreted as discrimination. The best practice is to outline when a background check will be conducted in your policy and then conduct one for every person who reaches that stage.

    1. Overwhelm yourself with data

    If it’s not totally necessary to run a certain type of check (credit, driving history, medical history, etc.), don’t run it. Your locality may even prohibit certain checks for certain positions. Consult with your vendor or legal counsel for more information on your limitations.

    1. Give arrest records as much weight as convictions

    The “ban-the-box” movement discourages employers from disqualifying those with criminal records from employment. Arrests are not as damning on a background check as a conviction; it is important to consider that arrest records do not indicate guilt and, as such, should not automatically disqualify candidates from certain types of positions. You must consider the nature of the offense and the requirements of the job.

    1. Fail to provide candidate an opportunity to dispute negative information

    Employers are required to inform candidates when negative information surfaces in a background check that may impact the hiring decision. You should always give the candidate the opportunity to dispute or correct such information.

Protect Yourself and Your Business With VICTIG Screening Solutions

Minimize risk and avoid these common errors as you conduct your background checks by contracting with a qualified third-party vendor like VICTIG. We can answer any additional questions regarding what you may or may not do during a check. Contact us today for more information.

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