How Long Should a Quality Employment Background Check Take – Part 2

What’s Included in a Thorough Background Check

Many employers use a third party employment background check provider to conduct the different types of checks that make up the background check as a whole, but a good deal of companies divide the process of checking a candidate’s qualifications between a third party provider and an in-house HR team. But what are these checks and how does each individual one contribute to the potential length of the employment background check overall?

A thorough employment background check will deploy all or most of the following types of checks in depth:

1. Social Security Trace 2. Criminal Database 3. Sex Offender Registries 4. DMV Records 5. Drug Tests 6. Credit Score 7. Employment and Education History 8. Licensing and Certifications 9. Social Media

It’s important to remember that some jobs won’t require checking into every single one of these pieces. For example, some employers may choose to omit checking into a candidate’s credit history or driving records. However, these checks may be omitted while the background check overall remains a thorough and reliable measure of the candidate’s ability to successfully meet the demands of a position.

Of the 72% of employers conducting a background check on candidates, CareerBuilder breaks down the percentage of employers conducting each type of check in these ways: 82% check the candidate’s criminal background, 62% manually confirm employment history, 60% specifically confirm candidate identity, 50% confirm education history and degrees attained, 44% check for illegal drug use, 38% confirm licensing where applicable, and only 29% actually review a candidate’s credit history.

Social Security Trace

Conducting a social security trace is the tip of the spear when it comes to professional employee background checks. It will be the first thing an employer will investigate because a candidate’s social security number (SSN) reveals the activities the candidate has been involved in which required the processing of their SSN at the time. Think of rental agreements, car loans, and even other background checks. All of these activities are recorded in connection to the SSN and the information will provide the employer insight as to where the candidate has lived, where they’ve previously worked, whether or not the SSN is attached to other aliases (such as former surnames), and of course, if the given SSN appears in criminal databases.

The information accessible through a social security trace can be cross-checked with the employment history listed on a resume or job application or will simply confirm the identity of the person you’re dealing with. The turnaround time for a trace is immediate and if there are no issues with the returned information, this step can be finished just as quickly. But the length of time increases when the candidate has had issues with their SSN in the past. If so, further verification will be needed. Has their identity ever been stolen? Was the SSN attached to suspicious activity? And was the candidate upfront about the potential for issues from the beginning? All of these questions will come into play at this point in the process and will help you determine the eligibility of the candidate.

Criminal Database

As the CareerBuilder data reports, the large majority (82%) of employers who conducted background checks focused especially on this area. While “ban-the-box” initiatives across the country seek to ensure the unbiased employability of individuals with criminal histories, there remain certain industries, such as childcare, home care, and caretaking of the elderly, in which employers must be especially careful in their hires or risk exposing their vulnerable clientele to harm.

This second step in the background check process includes investigating sex offender registries and can be expected to take at least a day. It requires particular thoroughness and is all too often the step in which critical information slips through the net. Why? This is because there is no single, catch-all criminal database that is complete or totally accurate.

Verifiers must comb through multiple local, national, and international databases (such as global watch lists on occasion) in order to paint a complete picture of the candidate’s criminal history, if one exists. This is why knowing where a candidate has lived is important, so that criminal searches can be conducted in each locality. Additionally, not every database is automated, which means that retrieval requests must be processed through a human courthouse clerk. This can affect your turnaround time as well, but not as much as finding a red flag, which will require further investigation.

DMV Records and Drug Tests

Though this step typically takes up to 3 business days, employers want to know that their potential employees are aboveboard and trustworthy. If the job description involves piloting a vehicle, DMV records will reveal if the candidate has a history of DUIs and license suspensions, reckless endangerment, or even speeding tickets. Additionally, this added step is further verification that the candidate is who they say they are.
Drug tests are often outsourced and have a prompt turnaround. These are especially important for high-risk positions in which the employee will be handling heavy machinery or operating vehicles.

Credit Score

Credit checks take only a few minutes, and the rules for conducting them as an employer varies by state. Each state, however, must abide by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which dictates, among other things, that the candidate must provide written authorization for the check to be run and given the opportunity to contest or correct negative results.

Determining employment eligibility based on credit scores can be a controversial practice in some industries, but many employers do it as a precautionary measure if the job description warrants it, such as those that grant access to large sums of money or highly sensitive materials and information. Does the candidate have a gambling problem? Have they been bankrupt? Do they have a history of exorbitant debt and missed payments? Fraud and embezzlement charges may turn up on criminal records, but credit scores can sometimes provide valuable indicators of risk for such behaviors before they can occur at your organization.

Employment and Education History

Of the employers who reported making a bad hire in the CareerBuilder survey, at least 49% claimed that the new hire’s skills were misrepresented at the time of screening, a fact that was only discovered post-hire. Six years ago, a report published indicated that 66% of employers surveyed had caught some form of falsehood on applicant resumes and applications. That’s up to 85% as of 2017.

With these statistics in mind, it’s clear to see why employers ought to take the time to verify employment and education history as well as applicable licensure and certification which the applicant claims to have attained. The length of time this step will take will depend on the processes used to mitigate phone tag with former supervisors, references, academic offices, etc. and how quickly they provide the necessary information. As long as no discrepancies are found, this type of check will easily fall within the 24-72 hour timeframe.

Social Media

If you’ve ever done “online research” on a potential love interest, you know the value someone’s digital footprint can offer when you’re trying to decide what kind of person they are. It’s no different for employers trying to spot the red flags of a prospective hire as well as uncover reinforcing details about the candidate’s veins of interest and personality. The red flags they are looking for are or may be:

● References to drug and alcohol abuse
● Derogatory or inflammatory speech
● Signs of bullying and violence
● Sexually explicit materials
● Unseemly talk about past places of work, coworkers, and customers

While social media checks may be considered an informal part of the screening process for now, it’s an increasingly common practice and should take only as long as your standard Google search.