Whether you are self-employed and looking for help, or you run a small business and your workload is increasing, there is usually a point at which recruitment becomes a necessity. Any growth presents opportunities, but also risks.
Being able to perform a background check on potential employees or business partners can help you to mitigate risks and find someone who can fulfill the role you have in mind.
If you intend to complete background checks, however, you need to know what you are allowed to do, which tools you can use, and how to make sure your screening process is transparent and effective.
The Legal Limitations of Background Checking in the USA
It is, of course, legal to check potential employees’ backgrounds in the U.S., but there are some limitations on what you can check and how you implement the process. In order to make sure your screening process compliant with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (or EEOC) regulations, you should:
- Screen all applicants that are in competition for the role.
- Not differentiate between candidates based on religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, or genetic history.
- Use a reputable background check service that complies with the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
A reputable service will operate within all applicable regulations, but you should also be aware of what you can and cannot ask about for your interview process. You can check or ask applicants about:
- Criminal history.
- Work history.
- Education history and professional qualifications.
- Credit history (when a potential employee might be working with money).
- Social media usage (where the usage could impact their ability to do the job or their compliance with company ethics. This is a fine line).
You cannot check or ask potential employees about:
- Genetic history.
- Religious beliefs.
- Medical history.
- Gender status (e.g. whether a potential employee is transgender, genderfluid, female, or male).
There is one exception to the medical history rule and that is as follows: you can enquire about medical conditions after a conditional job offer has been made. This can be done solely for the purpose of identifying whether the individual has medical issues that will prevent them from fulfilling the role or has any conditions that require adjustments to their workplace equipment.
How to Conduct an Effective Background Check
While it is possible to conduct a regulatory compliant background check as an individual, it is far more time efficient and effective to utilize a specialist service. MySanAntonio has a list of the best and cheapest background check online services that you can consider to help you find a great service. Once you find a great screening service, follow these basic steps to ensure your screening process is transparent and effective.
Standardize Your Screening Process and Priorities
If you are working with a background check agency, make sure that you discuss your priorities with the agency and what kind of candidates you are looking for. If you are using an online service personally, you should consider your own priorities and make a list to consider when you have the results of a background check.
For example, will candidates be working in a trusted position with money? Or small children? If so, it may be important to pay attention to their criminal and credit history.
Communicate Effectively with Candidates
Clarity and transparency are crucial when it comes to your screening process. Tell candidates for the role that you will be conducting a background check; this is an FCRA requirement. Tell them why you are undertaking a background check, why it is necessary, and how the process can impact their chances of employment.
You should establish your employment policy and screening guidelines, then make a copy of these policies available to all applicants, so they can decide whether to pursue the application. You must also provide an FCRA-required consent form and they must sign for you to be able to proceed with a screening.
Compile and Assess Background Reports
If a candidate agrees to the screening and application process, you can begin compiling the necessary information. A full name and social security number is generally enough information to begin a background check, but it is also helpful to have a full current address.
Once you have compiled a full report, you should assess it in line with your key concerns and considerations. Remember that you should assess the findings purely in light of the job description and whether the information impacts a candidate’s ability to do that job.
If you follow these guidelines, your screening process will be effective and, most importantly, compliant with all regulatory guidelines and requirements.