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How Are Background Checks Really Used? Examining Common Practices and Procedures

How is a Background Check Used?

Background checks are an essential part of the hiring process, giving employers a deeper understanding of a candidate’s personal and professional history. It is a powerful tool to protect a company’s assets and reputation in the highly competitive job market. Not only are they utilized during the hiring process, but they can also be conducted throughout the employee’s tenure to ensure that your team remains a trustworthy and reliable workforce. Here is a closer look at how background checks are used, their benefits, challenges, tools, best practices, and techniques to achieve success.

How is a Background Check Used?

An integral part of the hiring process, background checks have been used for many years to assess information such as criminal records, employment history, and education verification. Employers use them to uncover potential hiring risks, determine the trustworthiness of employees, and ensure regulatory compliance.

The information discovered during a background check may vary, depending on the company's policies, the position being filled, and the industry in which the company operates. For most organizations, a criminal records check is the most common type of background check.

Additional checks may include a credit history check, education and employment verification, and a drug test. While it may be tempting to hire someone quickly, taking the time to conduct a thorough screening process may ultimately protect your business from risks in the future.

How to Succeed in Background Checks?

A successful background check depends on thorough research and attention to detail. It’s essential to create a checklist and ensure that all required checks are completed before making an offer of employment. It may be beneficial to have a designated HR employee, or a third-party provider, who specializes in conducting background checks.

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Effective communication is also crucial when conducting background checks. You need to explain the purpose of the check and what information you are looking for from the candidate. It’s essential to have transparency throughout the process to avoid any confusion or misunderstandings.

Another aspect of conducting background checks is to ensure that you are following all legal requirements related to privacy and discrimination. Being aware of these guidelines will ensure that you’re not violating the candidate’s rights and opening yourself up to litigation in the future.

The Benefits of Background Checks

Background checks can determine whether a candidate is fit for the job and how well they match the organization’s values, culture, and the position requirements.

Background checks can also protect companies from potential legal action. Suppose a candidate is hired without a background check, and they later cause an accident or commit a crime. In that case, the employer may be held liable for negligent hiring practices. Therefore, conducting a background check helps a company avoid such legal issues, mitigating risk and safeguarding the company's assets.

Furthermore, background checks can help reduce turnover rates. By vetting candidates ahead of hiring, you are far more likely to obtain employees who are more likely to stick around. Reduced turnover rates are essential for creating a stable working environment where employees can settle into the job and focus on their long-term career growth.

Challenges of Background Checks and How to Overcome Them

One significant challenge of conducting background checks is potential resistance from candidates. Some job seekers may feel that the check is unnecessary, claiming it violates their privacy. In such cases, it's essential to explain the reasons behind the checks, how they are conducted, and reassure the candidates that the information obtained is confidential.

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Matching information obtained in a background check to the candidate can be difficult. While records are kept about people with similar names and birth dates, social security numbers and other identifiers are usually used to distinguish individuals.

Another hurdle is the time needed to complete a thorough background check. Some records are maintained in different regions, making it time-consuming for HR personnel to request records from various organizations, especially if the candidate has lived or worked in multiple cities or states. Using an automated background check platform can reduce the time and cost involved in obtaining records because the records can be accessed from one centralized location.

Tools and Technologies for Effective Background Checks

One trend in background screening is automation. Automated platforms provide centralized, web-based access to online records, making the process quicker, more reliable, and less expensive. These tools allow HR personnel to obtain background check results, including criminal histories, social security number verification, address history, and drug screening results.

Another significant trend in background checks is the use of artificial intelligence which aims to streamline the screening process while improving the accuracy of the check itself. AI-powered tools can interpret vast amounts of data and quickly deliver clear, concise results.

Best Practices for Managing Background Checks

One of the best practices when managing background checks is to be transparent about the process. Communicate what is being screened for, what sources are used, and how long it will take. It is essential to obtain written consent from candidates before conducting any checks, as failure to do so can lead to privacy lawsuits.

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Another best practice is to create policies that outline what types of background checks are done for various positions. Ensure that these policies comply with the latest employment laws, such as privacy and anti-discrimination legislation.

Maintaining confidentiality of the results is critical, and all sensitive data must be stored in a secure location. HR personnel handling background checks must follow data protection guidelines, including securely shredding documents related to the background checks.


Background checks are an essential tool that can help companies hire better and more reliable employees, prevent legal and public relations issues while reducing turnover rates. With the right tools and relationship with providers, careful communication with candidates, following best practices, and compliance with legal regulations, HR personnel can conduct an effective and successful background check. These hardworking professionals appreciate it, and will help protect and grow your business for the long haul.

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