In today’s competitive job market, background checks are an essential tool for organisations of all sizes and across all industries. In order for employers to make informed hiring decisions, conducting a background investigation is essential as it allows employers to identify any red flags or potential risks associated with a candidate. It can also help employers ensure that they are hiring individuals who are honest, trustworthy, and capable of performing the duties required of the job. A 2018 revealed that about 95% of employers complete some type of background screening on employees.

However, conducting a background investigation can be a complex and time-consuming process. It requires a systematic approach and attention to detail to ensure that all relevant information is gathered and analyzed. In this article, we will outline eight steps that employers can follow to conduct a successful background investigation.

Why are Background Investigations necessary?

As employers have come to appreciate the importance of maintaining a safe and secure workplace, the use of background investigations has gradually become an integral part of the hiring process. A thorough background investigation can provide critical information that may not be apparent from a candidate’s resume or job application, including past criminal history, employment verification, and educational background.

In addition to mitigating potential risks, background investigations can also help organisations identify candidates with the necessary skills and qualifications for a particular role. By conducting a comprehensive background investigation, employers can gain a more complete understanding of a candidate’s work history, experience, and credentials, which can help them make more informed hiring decisions.

Consequently, organisations cannot afford to overlook the importance of conducting background investigations. They are essential in maintaining a safe and secure workplace, fostering an employee culture of trust and transparency, and ensuring compliance with applicable laws and regulations. By investing in a robust background investigation program, organisations can protect their employees, customers, and stakeholders, and set themselves up for long-term success.

Advantages of Background Investigations

  1. Reduced risk: Background investigations can help organisations reduce the risk of hiring individuals with a history of criminal behaviour or other red flags that may indicate they are not suitable candidates for the position.
  1. Improved safety: By identifying potential issues before they become a problem, background investigations can help improve workplace safety and security.
  1. Better hiring decisions: Background investigations provide organisations with a more complete picture of a candidate’s background and qualifications, which can help them make better hiring decisions.
  1. Protection against legal liability: If an organisation hires an employee with a history of criminal behaviour or other issues that could have been identified through a background investigation, they may be held liable for any harm caused by that employee.
  1. Enhanced reputation: By demonstrating a commitment to thorough and responsible hiring practices, organisations can enhance their reputation and attract top talent who value a safe and ethical workplace.
  1. Increased productivity: Hiring the right person for the job can help increase productivity and efficiency, which can ultimately lead to better business outcomes.

While the value of background checks is clear, it’s important to note that not all background checks are created equal. Employers must ensure that they are conducting a thorough and legally compliant investigation that is tailored to the specific needs of their organisation. In doing so, they can help protect their employees, their business, and their reputation.

8 Key Steps for Successful Background Investigations

Step 1: Determine the Scope of the Investigation

The first step in conducting a background investigation is to determine the scope of the investigation. This involves identifying the specific areas that need to be investigated based on the requirements of the job and the potential risks associated with the position. For example, if the job involves working with children or vulnerable adults, a more comprehensive investigation may be necessary.

Step 2: Obtain Consent from the Candidate

Before conducting a background investigation, employers must obtain written consent from the candidate. This ensures that the candidate is aware of the investigation and has provided their consent to have their background checked. It is important for employers to communicate the rights of the candidates, which encompass receiving a copy of the background report and contesting any incorrect or inadequate details.

Step 3: Verify the Candidate’s Identity

The next step is to verify the candidate’s identity. This involves confirming that the information provided by the candidate, such as their name or date of birth is accurate. Employers can use various methods to verify a candidate’s identity, such as requesting a government-issued ID or using an online verification service.

Step 4: Conduct Criminal History Checks

One of the most important components of a background investigation is a criminal history check. This involves utilising public records for any criminal convictions or pending criminal cases. Employers can use various sources to conduct a criminal history check, such as state criminal records, and national databases or even third-party background check services.

Step 5: Verify Employment History and Education

Employers should also verify a candidate’s employment history and education. This involves contacting previous employers and educational institutions to confirm the information provided by the candidate. Employers should ask for references from previous supervisors or colleagues and verify any professional licenses or certifications.

Step 6: Check Credit History and Financial Records

In certain industries, such as finance or accounting, it may be necessary to conduct a credit history and financial records check. This involves reviewing a candidate’s credit report and financial records to determine their financial responsibility and history of paying debts. One concern is that this type of check may unintentionally discriminate against candidates who have faced financial hardship or have had to declare bankruptcy due to circumstances beyond their control, such as medical bills or job loss. As employers, you should keep these potential issues in mind and use this type of check judiciously and in accordance with applicable regulations and confidentiality guidelines.

Step 7: Conduct Social Media and Online Reputation Checks

In today’s digital age, social media and online reputation checks have become an increasingly important component of background investigations. Employers may have to conduct a thorough search of a candidate’s public social media profiles and online presence to identify any red flags, potential risks or value misalignment. Whilst doing so, however, it’s important to ensure you are not violating any privacy laws or discriminating against candidates based on protected characteristics such as race, gender, or religion.

Step 8: Evaluate the Results and Make an Informed Hiring Decision

The final step in conducting a background investigation is to evaluate the results and make an informed hiring decision. Employers should carefully review all of the information gathered during the investigation and assess the potential risks associated with hiring the candidate. Based on this evaluation, employers can make an informed decision on whether to hire the candidate, request additional information, or consider other candidates.

To conclude, conducting background investigations is an essential part of any organisation’s risk management and mitigation strategies. They help to ensure the safety and security of the workplace, protect the organisation’s reputation, and safeguard against potential legal liabilities.

By following the eight steps outlined in this article, organisations can conduct a thorough and effective background investigation that provides them with the information needed to make informed hiring decisions or conduct internal investigations.