Employee background checks are essential to every hiring process. They give employers access to information beyond what is offered by the candidates themselves.

Of course, the purpose of a background check isn’t to dig for dirt, draw subjective conclusions, or make superficial judgments. There are certain standards and ethical practices you have to keep in mind.

One of the most common mistakes people make when conducting background checks is neglecting to obtain consent beforehand. Here are four additional and less obvious mistakes you might be making as well:

1. Your Scope Is Too Broad

Whether you conduct your own background checks or contract third parties, you should always defer to primary sources of information.

For instance, you don’t want limit your search to national criminal history databases. Beyond this nationwide search, there should be a thorough investigation of county court records by jurisdiction, as well as local bookings and incarcerations.

More extensive searches investigate not only where a person has lived and worked, but the surrounding areas as well.

And what about international employees or those who’ve worked overseas? Global criminal reports should be obtained and assessed.

2. You Didn’t Verify the Candidate’s Educational Background

As with criminal history verifications, degree attainment or school credit should be verified directly as well. According to a CareerBuilder survey, 33 percent of applicants falsify academic degree information.

The amount of information one can obtain from an academic institution varies, and each institution has its own process in place for releasing student information. Some use third-party services. If the school provides verification, it’s typically through the registrar’s office, student records, or a similar office.

Expect a delayed response during school breaks, such as holiday seasons, the period after exams, or during the summer semester. Processing time is longer when requesting verification from institutions located overseas.

The process can be long and laborious, but if education credentials are essential to completing the duties necessary for a job within your company, formal verification is worth the wait.

3. You Only Conduct In-House Screenings

treeWithin the realm of state and federal laws, employers are permitted to conduct background checks on independent contractors (ICs), subcontractors, temporary workers, and consultants.

Screening anyone who has or will have access to sensitive company information offers a layer of protection for your business and employees. This is especially true if your company serves minors, the elderly, or others for whom privacy and protection are vital.

But there is one caveat: Although it is imperative to uniformly screen employees and prospective hires, uniformity is unessential and largely unnecessary for certain ICs, subcontractors, and consultants. If independent workers are screened, they should all be screened fairly, using the same methods and to equal extents.

Determining which category of ICs to screen, though, is tough. For instance, if you hire an IT or HR consultant, you will likely want to conduct a background check because this person will have access to private information, but the same might not be true for a contracted graphic designer.

4. You Don’t Source Help When You Need It

When faced with the decision to conduct your own search or hire help, it might seem to make more sense to simply do it yourself. You’ll have more control over what information is searched. It’ll cost less. You’ll obtain the results faster. Right?

Not always. Firstly, many online background-screening services don’t comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and are not intended to be used for pre-employment screening.

Secondly, this option is less expensive, but only in the short run. Information provided by these websites is largely inaccurate. You’ll likely have to hire out for more thorough assessments from a full-service screening firm anyway.

Background checks should be done legally and in accordance with your business needs, and you should consider all information before making your final decision. If you don’t know where to start, contact a professional agency.

Employee background checks may never be 100 percent accurate, but with help from screening companies, you can hire and promote employees who help solve problems within your company, not create them.

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