How to Get the Most Out of a Background Check

You’ve found the perfect candidate. Education credentials look stellar. Work history demonstrates the skills your business needs to grow. Interviews show character traits that mesh with your company culture. References strengthen the whole package. All that remains is a background check.

In my previous column, I explained why SMBs should run pre-employment background checks. In this post, I’ll explain how to get the most out of a pre-employment background check.

Beyond the Basic Background Check

You can check many details through a background check – dates of employment, salaries, education, and more – but many small businesses are just looking for risk indicators. In other words, they want to know whether there’s anything in the job seeker’s background that could expose the business, employees, or customers to avoidable risk.

But not all background checks are the same.

The most basic screening option is a “National Criminal” search; including a Social Security number trace, address history verification, national criminal database search, and sex offender check. These reports can be returned in less than an hour, and are a good first step.

What’s important to note is that while movies and TV shows make it seem like there’s a single database containing all criminal records, no single source exists in the real world.

The FBI maintains a database of criminal records, but it relies on each state to report it in a timely manner. And the states have to collect the information from the counties where the records originated. Not all records get reported to the FBI, and those that do may lack key details.

Keep in mind, too, that fewer than half of U.S. counties make their criminal records available online. As a result, “National Criminal” database searches don’t contain all criminal records.

That’s why, for a more complete picture, most HR professionals choose a seven-year county court house records check.

The County Criminal Court Records Check

Though you may be accustomed to using your smartphone or Googling to find information or directions, not all county court records originate as digital documents. Most are still paper based, and those paper records need to be converted into bytes before being added to the national criminal records database.

That process requires time and manpower, and may not happen immediately. So on any given day, national criminal records databases (including the FBI’s) may be out of date. County court records are the most up-to-date criminal records available.

What to Know About County Criminal Records Check

The obvious place to start is with the county where where the job seeker currently resides. It makes sense to also include any counties of recent previous addresses.

County criminal record checks can take a few days. That’s because someone has to go to the county courthouse in person to search the records. Not all counties allow public access to their records, however. In those cases, a county clerk must assist the searcher in retrieving records manually.

Most of the time, a county criminal records check takes one or two business days. Counties vary in size and record-request volume, though, so it can take longer in some cases.

What if the Report Contains (or Doesn’t Contain) Criminal Records

Although employment screening is an important tool, there’s no such thing as a 100% foolproof background check.

No background check can cover every possible record in every court jurisdiction where a person may have spent time. And reports sometimes contain inaccuracies. When two people share the same name and date of birth, for example, a record might be associated with the wrong person.

That’s one of the reasons why the federal law that governs background checks, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), requires that background screening companies take reasonable steps to ensure accuracy – and that they provide a dispute resolution process for people whose reports may contain errors.

Keep in mind that the FCRA requires employers to delay making negative decisions (to not hire a candidate, for example) until the candidate has been given a copy of the report, notified of the potential negative decision, and given a reasonable amount of time (typically five days) to challenge the report.

How to Run a GoodHire Background Check Through ZipRecruiter

ZipRecruiter and GoodHire make background checks (and compliance with applicable laws) easy. In fact, you can make them an extension of your recruiting process.

During the digital onboarding process in ZipRecruiter, simply select the option to run a background check. Once it’s complete, we’ll alert you in the ZipRecruiter dashboard. It’s that easy.

Bio: Jonathan Duarte is a 19-year veteran entrepreneur providing workforce automation solutions for customers in the Internet recruiting market. As the Director of Business Development, for GoodHire, the fastest growing pre-employment background check company in the United States, Jonathan is responsible for building technology and referral partnerships that automate the recruiting and onboarding process.

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