Pre-employment Screening Tips

By: Shelly Cruz

So you know all about Negligent Hiring and how to protect yourself and your company against a Negligent Hiring lawsuit. You know all the reasons why it is so imperative that you conduct pre employment screening on potential employees. You know that you need to check for criminal pasts, verify an applicant's education, references, licenses and previous employment. What you really want to know is where to start and what types of checks should you be conducting on which people. You just want some answers!

Let's start with the basics. First off you need to determine what types of background checks you would like to conduct on the applicant or employee. If you are working with a pre employment screening company already, they can help you out and give you some advice as to which searches would be best. When deciding which types of checks to conduct you need to take in account the nature of the work and the position the applicant is applying for, and decide which checks are appropriate. If you are looking to employ someone who will be a driver or using a company car, it is a good idea to conduct a MVR search and perhaps a drug and alcohol screen. If you are hiring a top executive or someone who is going to be handling the company's money, it is a good idea to cover all of your bases and conduct education and employment verifications, criminal checks at the state or county level, federal criminal checks and a credit report. Anytime that an applicant provides previous employment information or references take the time to check them out. Anytime that an applicant is required to have a degree for the position they are being hired for, you most certainly want to check the degree information to be sure it is in fact valid.

Taking the time to verify any degrees or licenses that the applicant has received and past employment he or she has supplied is essential. This can be done in house, or you can hire a third party to do the verifications for you. You want to be sure to verify the school, degree type awarded, dates of attendance and major. For employment verifications be sure to verify the company name, business title and dates of employment. License verifications should be checked for validity by verifying the license type, where it was received and date it was received. It is well worth the effort to get this information, as according to a recent study done by the American Psychological Association, 67% of job applications and resumes in the U.S. contain misrepresentations.

Next you may want to conduct a criminal search. If you are working with a pre employment screening company that provides a social security number trace product, you should take advantage of this. The social security number trace will provide any aka's that the person may use, previous address history and tell you whether or not the social security number is valid. Based on the address history that you receive from the trace you can determine the type of criminal search to conduct.

When choosing a criminal search you want to get an idea of where the applicant has resided in the last few years. If he or she has lived in the same county for many years, it is probably best to conduct a county search. A county criminal search is the most accurate criminal search as criminal records originate at the county courthouse. This search will pick up misdemeanor and felony convictions up to 7 years back. (Some states allow you to search back further then the standard 7 years.) This type of search is hand searched by researchers who go directly to the courthouse. The next step up would be a statewide criminal search. If you notice that your applicant has resided in various parts of a state, your best option is to conduct a statewide search. Statewide criminal searches obtain records from the state's criminal repository, covering every county in the state for misdemeanors and felonies. Please note that some states do not offer statewide criminal searches, in which case you will need to search in multiple counties. The states that do not offer criminal searches are; California, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming. Nationwide and regional searches are also available but are oftentimes less accurate and should be used as a supplement to county or statewide criminal searches. It would be best to speak with a representative of your background check company to further explore your options.

If you are hiring someone for a high ranking position or an executive, it is a good idea to conduct a federal criminal check. This type of check accesses the Federal Crime Repository to identify criminal convictions on Federal charges including, but not limited to, securities and tax law violations, immigration violations, embezzlement, terrorism, weapons violations, interstate drug crimes and civil rights violations.

There are other types of background checks that you might consider for your employees depending on their job responsibilities, the nature of your company's business and your background check policy. These searches include, but are not limited to credit checks, MVR checks, drug screening, Registered Sex Offender and Wants and Warrants searches. If you are an employer who also hires people internationally, remember that there are international verifications and international criminal checks available as well, and are equally important to domestic background checks. To get a better idea of the services that would be best suited for you and your company speak with a representative from your background check company.

Individuals have privacy rights, which are protected by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). As an employer there are certain parts of this law that you must adhere to when conducting a background investigation. You must provide a written disclosure to the applicant clearly stating that you will be obtaining a consumer report on them for employment purposes. (A consumer report refers to any and all information that you would obtain written or oral pertaining to the background investigation). This written disclosure must be a separate document not included as part of the application. Before obtaining the report your company must receive this written authorization signed by the applicant or employee.

Remember that it is important to implement a pre employment screening policy, and it is equally import to choose background checks that appropriate for your company and the position you are hiring for. It is a good idea to work with a background check company who is FCRA compliant and is familiar with the individual laws set forth by each state.

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