What Employers Need to Know About Conducting Background Checks

If you’re a U.S.-based employer, it’s likely that you routinely conduct background checks on your
prospective employees. According to a recent survey, at least 72% of all employers do so for
the purpose of protecting their companies. It’s an elective measure that you can use during the
hiring process or in the case of promoting or reassigning employees within your company, but
conducting an employee background check can do more than just offer you some peace of
mind. Sometimes, it can uncover serious red flags about a candidate that you wouldn’t have
caught otherwise.

Background checks conducted the right way can:

  • ensure workplace safety,
  • mitigate liability,
  • protect your company reputation,
  • determine the candidate’s professional eligibility, and
  • verify the candidate’s claims of experience and qualification.

But there’s a wrong way to investigate candidates, too, which can expose you to costly litigation
and fees. Understanding the federal laws and commissions that regulate the use of background
information for employment purposes will help you protect your organization from penalties
while allowing you to make informed, quality personnel decisions.

Employer and Candidate Rights

An employer has every right to require that their candidates undergo a background check, to ask direct questions about their qualifications in the interview process, and to make hiring decisions based on the information that they find. But they must do so while complying with certain federal, state, and municipal laws that are designed to protect applicants and current employees from discrimination.

These nondiscrimination laws are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) while the rights of anyone subjected to a third-party background check
(including prospective employees) are protected by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

Before Conducting a Background Check

Here’s what you need to know about complying with the EEOC and FCRA before you even begin the process of conducting a background check:


In the investigative period of the hiring process, you are free to delve into the individual’s work and education history, criminal record, financial history, and even their social media presence
and habits. A standard employee background check covers all of these areas, but the EEOC mandates that if you are going to conduct a background check on any applicant, you must do so
on every applicant.

Just as it is illegal under EEOC guidelines to make adverse hiring decisions based on an individual’s status within a protected class, it is illegal to only conduct background checks based
on the same information: a person’s race, age, national origin, color, sex, religion, disability, or genetic information (including family medical history).

A few tips to protect yourself from accusations of discrimination at this stage, as outlined by the EEOC, are:

1. Have uniform policies in place that treat every candidate equally in the hiring process.

2. Don’t seek out or ask questions about a candidate’s genetic information. This information is further protected under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).

3. Refrain from asking questions about a candidate’s medical history before making a conditional job offer, and even post-hire, unless there is objective evidence that the individual cannot safely perform their job for medical reasons.


The Fair Credit and Reporting Act is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and outlines specific procedures and protocols that must be followed when working with a credit reporting agency (CRA), which is a third-party company in the business of collecting background information. Most, if not all, employers will work with a third-party company to conduct a comprehensive background check on their candidates.

Before you even begin the process of conducting a check, the FCRA requires that you to do following:

1. Make clear to the applicant that the results of the background check may be used to inform your decision to hire them. The notice must be in writing and provided in a document separate from an application for employment. You can include additional information on the notice, but you don’t want to confuse or detract from the core purpose of the notice.

2. If the background check will include an “investigative report,” you must notify the applicant of their right to a clear description of the scope and nature of the investigation and then provide such a description. An investigative report is a more subjective exploration of a candidate’s character, reputation, personal traits, and lifestyle.

3. Procure the applicant’s written permission to conduct the background check. This request for permission can be included in the notice described in item 1, which informs the applicant about the background check. If you want to establish an ongoing understanding that a background check may be requested at any time during the person’s employment with your company, you must make sure it’s explicitly stated in the notice.

4. If you are working with a third-party background screening company or CRA, you must certify with them that you: 1) have gotten permission from the applicant to run the report, 2) have made sure you’re in compliance with FCRA requirements, and 3)will not misuse the information or discriminate against the individual.

Reviewing the Background Report

Now that you’ve received the information you’ve requested, here’s what you need to know as you allow what you’ve learned to influence your hiring decisions:


Again, regardless of the source of the information, federal law prohibits you from using the information to discriminate. As a rule of thumb you should always:


  • Judge everyone according to the same standards. This means that if you decide not to reject an applicant of a one ethnicity despite certain financial or criminal histories, you must also consider applicants of other ethnicities who have the same or similar histories.
  • Pay close attention to and revise if necessary hiring policies and practices within your company that have, in legal terms, a “disparate impact” on certain protected demographics, and which are not “job related and consistent with business necessity.” This means that you must be careful not to follow policies that base hiring decisions on issues that may be more prevalent among individuals of a certain race, color, national origin, sex, or religion, and among those who have a disability or are aged 40 and older, and which aren’t a fair indicator of whether or not the individual will be an effective and safe employee.
  • If the report reveals a problem that is connected to an individual’s disability, be open to allowing the individual to demonstrate their ability to perform the requirements of the job. Unless doing so results in significant difficulty for your organization both financially and operationally, the candidate should not be automatically disqualified based on negative information that was directly caused by their disability.

The FCRA and Adverse Action

If your findings prompt you to take adverse action (the decision to fire an employee or not to extend a job offer to an applicant), the FCRA has outlined a certain protocol that must be followed to protect yourself from penalties:


  • Prior to finalizing any adverse action, you must provide the employee or applicant with:
    • a copy of the consumer report that informed your decision
    • a copy of a document called “A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.” This document should have been made available to you through the screening company that provided the report.


By providing prior notice, a copy of the report, and informing them of their rights, the individual will have the chance to review, dispute, and/or explain the information in question. Should your decision remain unchanged, you must follow these steps:


  • After taking adverse action, you must provide the individual in writing, orally, or electronically with the following information:
    • that they were rejected for the position because of information revealed in the report
    • the contact information of the CRA or screening company that sold the report
    • that the third-party company is uninvolved in all hiring decisions and can’t provide further information on the adverse action
    • that they have 60 days to dispute the contents of the report and to request another report for free from the same third-party vendor

Rise to New Heights with Enterprise Level Recruiting Software

Today’s thriving modern business owners have embraced the idea that the field of talent acquisition and recruitment is no longer a part of the complete human resources package. It’s an entirely separate animal that New Jersey-based software provider and one of VICTIG’s premier partners, iCIMS, has wrangled into a multi-million dollar industry.

iCIMS stands for Internet Collaborative Information Management Systems and delivers products that empower organizations of all sizes with dynamic, easy-to-use software designed to streamline the footwork of finding, impressing, screening, hiring, and onboarding top talent.

Why iCIMS?

Founded in 1999, iCIMS began as a leader in the industry of talent acquisition and remains a dominant player in the industry’s growth. As VICTIG’s strategic partner, iCIMS enables our different clients to do more with smaller, agile teams of human resource professionals while securing better results than what is now possible using older recruitment models.

The old model of posting a job and collecting resumes is no longer feasible in today’s highly accessible, digitized job market and talent community. Additionally, it’s just not a reliable way of finding the talent you need to make your business rise to new heights.

Finding “The Talent You Need”

According to iCIMS, 80% of hiring managers and 84% of recruiters recognize a direct impact between hiring “right” and their company’s ability to see their long-term goals come to fruition. There’s a lot at stake when an important position remains unfilled, or you hire the wrong fit for the job.

According to the U.S. Chamber Foundation, in “Managing the Talent Pipeline” it was projected that an organization can experience a loss in profit and revenue of as much as $23,000 per unfilled position. This danger of poor staffing was precipitated by at least two key factors and has intensified the need for the intuitive talent and human resource management systems pioneered by iCIMS.

These two factors are:

  • today’s unemployment rates
  • the rising relevance of social recruiting

Dropping Unemployment Rates

As of the summer of 2017, U.S. unemployment rates sloped down to 4.3 percent according to statistics provided by the Bureau of Labor. Naturally, dropping unemployment rates are a national cause for celebration, but for employers the competition for top talent gets heated when there are fewer available workers shopping the job market. Employers are incentivized to put their best foot forward and the products available with iCIMS allow them to do just that.

Social Recruiting

Although there’s an ideological and practical separation between talent acquisition and the remaining suite of HR responsibilities, the work of talent acquisition remains the tip of the HR spear. Everything else funnels through recruitment and in today’s low unemployment environment, the search for talent begins proactively in the areas where said talent spends a good deal of its time: social media.

The no-frills definition of social recruiting (AKA social hiring, social media recruitment, and omnichannel talent acquisition) is the use of social platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and even Instagram for advertising, outreach, and research. There’s a lot to be learned from a candidate’s many profiles, blogs, and other online repositories and iCIMS facilitates recruitment through these channels with applicant tracking software that embraces the technology of social recruiting.

Impressing “The Talent You Need”

Today’s job market is seeing the rise of the discerning job seeker. In light of low unemployment rates, it’s important to remember that while an organization is reviewing candidates, it is as much under review by the candidates themselves. So what sources does your average candidate value most when researching prospective employers?

In 2017, iCIMS published survey findings in the Modern Job Seeker Report that cited these two content sources as the most valuable to their research:

  1. Employer reviews
  2. Company website

Glassdoor, a leading employer review site, garners a combined 41 million visitors each month on its mobile app and websites. A candidate’s experience during recruitment has a reverberating effect when they add their voice to these review sites and other social channels. The more positive the candidate’s experience, the more likely they are to share positive feedback about the organization with their peers through their networks, whether or not they landed the job offer.

Job Seekers Are Also Consumers

Consuming is something we all know how to do. And the discerning shopper can’t help but use their value-hunting skills when they’re searching the job market for their next position. Consumers and job seekers are one and the same and the increased competition among employers have made it a buyer’s market.

With the instant availability of information at their fingertips, job seekers are armed with the tools they need to shop smart. Employers who use the bygone methods of talent acquisition are comparable to the door-to-door salesmen of another era. They arrive at each doorstep on their own schedule, hoping for a moment of the homeowner’s (or candidate’s) time to make their pitch. Perhaps the homeowner will inspect the purchase or read the prepared literature provided by the salesman, but for an impartial perspective they must then rely on the available word-of-mouth testimonials of their neighbors and family before agreeing to make a purchase.

And the risk is enormous.

Now, however, shopping for a job is like shopping for a mattress on Amazon. Currently, the top-reviewed mattress has collected exactly 19,627 reviews from across the nation and an average of 4 stars. With such a treasure trove of information and a return policy you can’t beat, Amazon is the specialized technology that facilitates the connection between vendor and consumer, helps the discerning consumer with their research, and then sees that the transaction runs smoothly.

The mattress, or job, must promise comfort, longevity, and the security of a consistently good night’s sleep. This is the position that job seekers want, and the technology required to bring the two smoothly and efficiently together is made possible through iCIMS.

The Benefits of iCIMS Talent Acquisition Software

Impressing your potential candidates begins with providing a streamlined recruitment experience from the get-go. Your agile HR team won’t complain either as iCIMS empowers their process with industry-leading talent acquisition software, which includes iCIMS RECRUIT, iCIMS CONNECT, and iCIMS ONBOARD.

Some of the key benefits of iCIMS are:

  1. Advanced applicant tracking
  2. One-click job posting
  3. Mobile-friendly functionality
  4. Specialized efficiency tools for hiring managers
  5. Improved candidate communication and compliance
  6. Powerful social recruiting tools
  7. Intuitive scheduling platforms for candidate interviews, etc.
  8. Automated application and screening processes
  9. User-friendly reporting of key recruitment metrics

Advanced Applicant Tracking

As the cornerstone of a solid recruitment process, iCIMS’s applicant tracking system (ATS) is the hub where all recruiting information is located and the launching point for each item on the talent acquisition menu. The end result is cohesion within your team and unbeatable efficiency. No more dropped balls and passed bucks!

One-click Job Posting

With iCIMS, drudge work is a thing of the past. One click allows you to launch a single job posting to thousands of job boards, saving your team hours upon hours of time.

Mobile-friendly Functionality

Consumers and job seekers alike want the option to go mobile. Ensuring mobile-functionality embraces the philosophy of social recruiting by placing your brand where your candidates live. In the case of mobile accessibility, that means putting your job postings in their very hand. Not only are candidates able to access your branded career portals on any mobile device, but they can search and apply for jobs on the go as well.

Hiring managers likewise have the ability to use their own suite of mobile tools to do their jobs on the fly, including:

  • managing open positions
  • processing offer approvals
  • funneling candidates through the process

Improved Candidate Communication and Compliance

The secret to a great relationship is great communication. iCIMS equips its ATS with branded and automated communication tools to ensure that the critical line of communication between you and your choice candidates is never broken, allowing you to foster positive relationships with top talent from the very beginning.

Additionally, by ensuring that all avenues of communication are centralized and trackable, including texts, iCIMS helps its users meet important compliance requirements.

Powerful Social Recruiting Tools

According to a 2016 LinkedIn report, 43% of companies said that social professional networks were their main resource for recruiting quality talent. Tapping the potential of social is a mouse click away with social recruiting software features that allow you to:

  • publish your postings on 300+ networks
  • automate your postings across key social sites
  • accept applications via candidates’ social profiles
  • hack Twitter’s 140 character limit with Twitter cards
  • create a FB jobs microsite for applicants to job search and refer friends

Scheduling Platforms

The scheduling aspect of recruiting often takes up more time than you anticipate. With iCIMS software, the work of coordinating schedules and confirming dates is all managed from one view.

Automated Application and Screening Processes

Make it easy for your prospective candidates to send you their information. iCIMS optimizes the application process by allowing your applicants to upload their resumes in any form and from any device, or to submit their social profiles. In the initial stages of the screening process, you can also bypass the need for onsite interviews by utilizing video for a convenient, modern way to connect outside of a phone call.

User-friendly Reporting of Key Recruitment Metrics

It’s impossible to improve a process without data.

  • Job board performance
  • Social recruiting activity
  • Costs per hire
  • Application volume
  • And so much more!

Companies of all sizes need access to actionable metrics of success and iCIMS provides dozens of standard reports as well as the option for users to build reports of their own.

The Onboarding Process Checklist

After the work of finding, recruiting, and screening your candidates is done, there’s the task of hiring and onboarding those chosen few in a way that sets them up for success within the company. A solid onboarding process increases retention and helps you build a stable, purpose-driven team with the longevity your company needs to achieve is goals.

iCIMS ONBOARD software:

  • Completes the end-to-end talent acquisition lifecycle
  • Reduces paperwork and improves productivity
  • Provides powerfully effective task management tools
  • Personalizes the onboarding experience
  • Streamlines I-9 and E-Verify process
  • Allows news hires to contribute sooner and more effectively

Onboarding is NOT Orientation

Orientation is a one-off event often delivered in a classroom-type setting while onboarding a new hire is a process that can take between three to six months or all the way up to a year, depending on the new hire’s position. One size does not fit all in the case of onboarding. The process should reflect a uniform view of the company’s culture, brand, and objectives, but it should also be tailored specifically for the position.

In order to successfully increase retention and accelerate new hire productivity, the most effective onboarding processes:

  • Make it easy to access tasks and forms
  • Outline clear and consistent communication channels
  • Bring new hires up to speed on company culture and policies
  • Clearly set success metrics and milestones to gauge new hire’s performance

The End-to-End Talent Acquisition Lifecycle

As VICTIG’s strategic partner, iCIMS adheres to our mission to empower employers with the tools they need to build their teams with confidence. By the end of the talent acquisition process, iCIMS software is designed to deliver full-fledged, valuable employees to any professional team. Contact VICTIG today to learn more about how VICTIG’s partnership with iCIMS can benefit your business.

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