Monday, February 10, 2014

The Life of a Background Check ~ Start to Finish, What You Should Know

Do you know what happens during an employment background check?

If your answer is “no”, you are not alone!   

Many times you may think you understand what happens during a background check, and other times you may really have no clue!

Here I will share with you a step by step guide to the Life of a Background Check.  You will see what I do and why during each step of the process.

Read on.......

  • The first step ~ Getting the Signed Release.  
As my client, I would require you to obtain a signed release from your applicant.  This ensures that the subject understands a background check is being done and gives me access to information where a signed release is required (many education, employment, and sometimes criminal records among others).

The release contains the subject’s identifying information (name, any previous names used, date of birth, social security number).  It also shows addresses for the past 7 years, institution and date of highest diploma/degree earned, and driver’s license information. 

If you want past employments or references verified, I would also request a copy of the applicant’s resume.  

Upon sending me this information, you would also inform me what I need to verify.  Depending on the job description, it can be as little as verifying local criminal court information or as detailed as a full background check.

You can discover more about Fitting the Background Check to the Job Here!

Giving you this flexibility allows you to choose only what you really need among my services.  In this way I can accommodate businesses of all sizes. 

  • Verifying the information You requested 
Since all background checks involve some type of criminal record investigation, I start there.

I use actual court records during criminal record checks.  This may involve a combination of logging into a courts online database and actual physical inspection of court records.  

This is not an “instant” process.  (You can read my thoughts on using online databases as the sole source of court records here).  Most records can be obtained within 24 to 48 hours, but that is not always the case.

My search focuses on felonies first, then lower graded offenses if necessary.  Convictions are of the utmost importance, especially if the record involves crimes that would create an unsafe work environment for my client.  

The importance of being accurate requires diligence in investigating these records.  My goal is to make sure that any record found matches with the identifying information of the subject.  The ideal situation is to match more than one of these identifiers.  This helps ensure the record in fact belongs to the subject.

The verification of civil court records is very similar.  However, these records rarely contain more than the name and address of each party.  Therefore it is important to have the past addresses of your subject when searching these records.

  • Verifying Education, Employments, & References
If requested, I would then concentrate on verifying education, employments, and references.

Education verifications can involve anything from high school diplomas, college degrees, and even certificates or professional licenses.  Many times this is where having a signed release is crucial.  I am often required to send in a copy of a signed release before I am able to obtain any information.

What I am looking for is corroboration that the information listed by the applicant matches what is supplied by my source.  I always prefer to go directly to the institution where the degree, diploma, or license was issued.  However, many are now using a “clearinghouse” instead of their own registrar office to run verifications.  

When conducting an employment verification, I am looking to match dates and title of employment with those listed on the subject’s resume.  I also check “reason for leaving” and whether the applicant is “eligible for rehire”.

Most times this is the only information that a company will verify (although it is sometimes possible to get salary information), even with a signed release.  At times it will only be dates and title.  By asking about “reason for leaving” and rehire, I am often able to get a better glimpse into the nature of the employment.

It is at this stage that delays can occur.  Many times I have to call a company multiple times before I am able to speak with someone who can answer my verification questions.

Some companies no longer handle verifications in-house and they contract this duty out to another company (much like with education verifications).  While this can speed up the process, there are often additional fees involved in this type of search.

For references, my policy is to contact those listed by the applicant and develop one or two of my own.  This is an important step.  References listed by the applicant are likely to only give a positive report (although you may be surprised!).  Because I am often playing “phone tag” with these individuals, this step can take some time.

If you have requested a driving record, I would have also submitted this request.  Often a signed release is required.  I contact the department of motor vehicles (or a state’s equivalent) to obtain this information.  

Unless the applicant is being given a company car, or they are required to drive a company truck, many clients skip this step.  However, if you do request this, it is important that I check whether the subject’s license is valid, that they have any necessary commercial licenses, and that they don’t have excessive driving violations.  

Life of a #BackgroundCheck 

While every company is different, it is my policy to write and send my reports as completed.  In this way you are getting your requested information in as timely a manner as possible.

After completing all the reports, my work is done.  You now have all the information you need to make an informed hiring decision.  As I have discussed in previous blog articles, “how” you can safely use this information in the employment process is another matter.  (Read more here). 

The key to all the steps in a Background Check is accuracy.  

For me, and my clients, speed should not be the first consideration.  Taking the time to verify information from the best possible sources is best for both you and your applicant.

This is the “life” of a typical Background Check.  Following these steps are key to helping you achieve your ultimate goal ~ 
a great, new hire!

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  1. I have a friend that applied to work at Wal Mart 1 month ago; waiting on pending background check. The only thing they will tell me is that they are waiting on the courts..... 2 weeks ago, he bought a gun. The criminal background check cleared him and he purchased the gun. Friday April 22, 2016 will be 5 weeks. I don't understand.

    1. Employment background checks do not have the luxury of the heightened expediency other types of background checks enjoy. If done right, and actual court records are being checked, delays can happen. While I agree that 5 weeks seems excessive, it may be that some of the courts being checked (or past employers being verified), are not responding in a timely manner. And there are some courts whose records still need to be pulled and checked by hand, making delays likely. Good luck to your friend in their job search!

  2. Have you ever heard of a background check taking that long?

    1. I have if the background check done is an in-depth one ~ criminal (on multiple levels), employment, education, dmv, etc. If the subject (your friend) has also lived in multiple locations, counties, states, or even countries, that can add to the time it takes. It also depends upon the level of job for which your friend applied. The higher the position, usually the more in-depth the check. If I was your friend, I would keep in regular contact with HR to see how the process is moving.

  3. I have applied for wal-mart and it is taken forever to get my back ground check back. I have called and i gave them all the info that was needed and now i called back and they said it is being processing and they will get it finished soon as possible. they have it since the 15th of june really it is taken this long to get it back. the walmart store that i applied for is getting ready to discontinune my appt. for the job. I need to know what i can do to speed it up a bit.

    1. Rebecca, I can certainly understand how frustrating this must be. But there is very little you can do to make it go any faster. The best thing you can do is keep contacting them and ask each time is there anything additional they need that could help speed up the process. Taking 2 weeks, especially during the summer months, is not necessarily unusual. It really depends upon the scope of the screening. If they are checking past employers, there can definitely be delays due to summer vacations, holidays, etc. And if their background check is fingerprint based, or if they need to go and check some court records in person, it can take longer. I really wish you luck. I would love to hear from you about how it goes!

    2. Now i am just waiting on walmart they finished my back ground two days ago. after having for almost a month

    3. I hope you are on the home stretch now Rebecca and are officially hired soon! Good luck!


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