Background Check Do's and Don’ts

ByTop10.com StaffOct.21, 2018

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Background checks are growing in popularity, and for good reason. They're a fast and convenient way for people to learn real facts about others without having to do any “dirty work.”

Also, these days there is more information that can be accessed via background checks than ever before. 

This includes reports on:

- Workers’ compensation

- Bankruptcies

- Medical records

- School records

- Military service

The problem is that background checks are broad. They cast a net across a wide spectrum of information which can give an interesting overview of a person’s life, but this overview can also be misleading or unfair. In regards to criminal records, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission takes measures against companies that exclude applicants with a criminal act in their past, regardless of how much time has passed since the incident or what the charge. In fact they are actively working with many communities to remove the, "Have you ever been convicted of a crime/felony?” box from applications.

Before using a background check service, it is important to keep in mind the following legal restrictions on background checks:

 The legal restrictions on background checks 

The Fair Credit Reporting Act bans the use of background checks for screening potential employees or new tenants. This includes if you are trying to screen a childcare professional  such as a nanny for your children. If you plan on using a background check for this purpose you must first obtain the subject’s written permission to do so, or you could potentially face a legal penalty. Employees who are rejected because of something found in a background check have the legal right to see and dispute any information used against them.

  • Verifying credit or insurance eligibility. It is illegal to use background checks in order to determine whether or not to approve someone for insurance, a loan, or a credit extension.
  • Academic applications. It is illegal to run a background check in order to decide if someone should be approved for a scholarship, grant, or other academic program.
  • Career advancement. The decision whether or not to promote, reassign, or terminate an employee cannot be based on the use of a background check.  

Here are some non-legal Do's and Don’ts to keep in mind when doing background checks 

Don't Focus on One Single Act. Look for Consistency.

Try to adopt a holistic view of the person you’re checking. Life is long and for the most part a single act - good or bad - does not define who we are and what our potential is. Look for consistent patterns that indicate repeat behaviors in order to make decisions about people and their potential.

Do use a professional background check service.

A professional service is likely the best way to process a background check. These providers can do a far better, more comprehensive job than if you just sit in front of the computer and Google the person in question. They can perform the service without bias in an accurate and efficient manner. They can also ensure that no one sees information that could be a violation of state or federal laws. On top of that, a broad – and legal – check can only be performed by a licensed firm. The internet doesn’t have everything and everything isn’t necessarily public accessible.

Knowing what you’re getting into is understandable. In a lot of ways, background checks have become a necessity for assuring safety and protocol. As long as they are obtained and utilized fairly, background check services are an ideal resource.