Conducting a Background Check – Why it’s Important

The hiring of new employees can be sort of like walking a tightrope. While it is important to find the right candidate with the qualifications to do the job, you also want that person to have integrity (doing the right thing even when no one is looking). In today’s hiring climate {more than ever}, it’s impossible to accept applicants at face value. People lie and they pad their resumés to make themselves look like the perfect candidate, then they get in the door and can’t even turn on a computer. It’s sad, but it’s just a fact of life.

 To be effective in the hiring process, it involves digging into the background of applicants to get a better idea of their abilities and employment performance. However, this has to be measured with respect for the privacy of each individual candidate as well as staying compliant with relevant laws. The purpose of the background check is to help evaluate aptitude, skills and past behavior as well as help recognize someone who has the potential to turn violent or even deadly.

Probably the biggest reason employers choose to perform background checks on potential employees is safety and security. Employers have an obligation under OSHA to provide a safe workplace—one that is free of known hazards. It can be easily argued that hiring an individual with violent or otherwise desired tendencies—tendencies that could have been discovered with due diligence—would represent a disregard for that obligation. As such, many employers opt to perform at least a criminal background check on potential employees before finalizing any offer of employment.

Similarly, if an individual causes harm to anyone—such as a customer or vendor—the employer may be liable if there was an opportunity to learn about this tendency, such as the existence of a public criminal record and they failed to do their research.

Verify Employment Qualifications
Any employer can be overwhelmed with the number of resumes received for an open position. There could be several applicants with outstanding qualifications to do a job. It can be difficult to determine one that sticks out. At the basic level, the background check is to determine if information provided by an applicant is true and accurate. It also helps paint a picture about the applicant beyond what is on paper or discovered in a short interview.

Background checks can also be done on a more limited or expanded scale. Technically, even calling just references is a form of background screening. In these situations, an employer is trying to gauge what the potential employee is like to work with and what kind of work habits the applicant has, to better ensure they will be a good fit. These can also be done to try to uncover any fabrications or exaggerations on the application, résumé, or during the interview. References can also provide information on personal characteristics.

Protecting the Organization
The background check can be considered as a preemptive measure to ensure the integrity of the organization and the safety of employees. Individuals may not be appropriate for certain positions due to some aspect of their history. Someone with a criminal background may not be appropriate for a security officer position. If someone has had issues with substance abuse, they may not be able to work in a hospital with accessibility to drugs and medication. Certain kinds of information can only be found with a background check.

Security is another concern, especially for jobs in which an individual is responsible for cash or for making decisions that affect the company’s profitability or reputation. For any individual in these roles, employers often consider doing a background check that confirms the individual does not have a history of fraud, negligence, or theft, for example.

Legal Issues with Background Checks
One of the most important aspects of the background check is that information is gathered for job related purposes. Some activities of a background check may not be necessary. It is easy for an organization to go overkill in a background check to err on the side of caution. Before a background check is initiated, evaluate what the purpose is for it. Certain information such medical and credit history require written consent from the applicant.

Background checks may be somewhat different for applicants and should be planned on a case by case basis, however they must be consistent for all candidates. If an applicant feels they were discriminated against for not being selected for a job, they can file a lawsuit against the hiring authority. If subject to review, any background investigation needs to reflect being strictly part of the hiring process based on ability and not personal private information.

The background investigation can be an essential part of the hiring process. It is a tool that helps identify qualifications of applicants. The hiring authority needs to take precautions in collecting information to get what they require without violating the privacy of applicants.

Contact us for a free company evaluation and consultation today. We can look at the needs of your company and recommend and build a background screening solution that works for you.