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Most pre-employment screening and background checks focus on citizenship or eligibility to work tests, employment and experience verification, and employee criminal background checks. Optional checks include credit history checks, medical records check, motor vehicle history, and more. Advanced background checks may even involve interviewing neighbors and previous coworkers.
Pre-employment screening safeguards the company from liability for employees who indulge in thefts. Such checks may also be a mandatory requirement for jobs that involve contact with children, elderly, and the disabled.
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Pre-employment screening and verification starts during the interview process. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), applicable for jobs that pay less than $75,000 per annum and when a third party consumer-reporting agency conducts the background check, place restrictions on conducting certain background checks.
Employers try to circumvent FCRA restrictions by collecting information directly from the candidates at the interview stage. For instance, the FCRA prevents including arrest records in background checks, but there is no restriction on the interviewer asking a question “have you ever been arrested?" The Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) nevertheless requires interviewers to ask questions that directly relates to the job, and prohibits questions such as the candidate’s marital status, details of children, and so on.
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Conducting pre-employment screening requires the candidate’s consent. Such consent, known as an investigative customer report is mandatory to gain access to a a person's personal records. Most information required for such background checks remains out of bounds for third parties unless the person in question makes a specific authorization to release the information.
Each category of a background check, such as medical details, criminal records and others requires separate and specific authorizations.
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Conducting an address history search to determine the places where the candidate has resided in the past is a primary step in pre-employment verification and screening. Without this step, it becomes impossible to narrow down the employee background check to a specific state. Searching records all across the United States is an overwhelming task and a poor way of going about the task, leading to loss of time and money.
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Citizenship or Legal Working Status
In the age of increased concerns about security, hiring of illegal immigrants is a serious lapse. As such, checking the candidate’s eligibility to work by verifying the working status of the social security number is now an indispensable part of pre-employment screening. The federal E-verify program is a convenient tool to perform this task.
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Education and Employment Records
Searching for education and employment records are two standard inclusions in most pre-employment verification processes. This involves contacting the university, college, and/or previous employers for reference. Employment verification may also include discussions about job related performance and behavior, work attitudes, and salary verification.
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Major sources of criminal data are:
- Department of Corrections (DOC), for records of those incarcerated within a state, in present or past. A foolproof search requires checking the DOC records for each state. Most employers confine the search to states where the candidate has resided.
- Federal Incarceration Records, for records on anyone incarcerated in a federal facility, present or past.
- Sex Offender database of states
A criminal background check is an arduous task as the American court system is a labyrinth of disparate jurisdictions, with each jurisdiction and courts having different rules that govern the use, collection and dissemination of criminal data. The fact that not all states have online databases, or even offline records in searchable database form compounds the problem.
Most employers use third party background checking agencies to tide over such complexities, but even they cannot guarantee the accuracy of their information.
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Other searches employers may choose to incorporate in screening and verification for possible candidates include:
- Driving and vehicle records available with the State Department of Motor Vehicles and Transportation for history of accidents or traffic tickets. Such checks become mandatory when hiring a driver.
- Litigation records to identify candidates who routinely file discrimination or other lawsuits regularly. The Fair Credit Reporting Act prevents inclusion of civil lawsuit and judgment details after seven years.
- Financial information such as credit scores, tax information, liens, bankruptcy, civil judgments, and tax information. The Fair Credit Reporting Act prevents inclusion of paid tax liens after seven years in the screening report.
- Medical records
The range of checks conducted depends on the nature of the job.
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Employers who conduct background checks have to provide the candidate with a "pre-adverse action disclosure" that includes contact details of the agency conducting the background check, a copy of the background check report, and an explanation of employee rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act.
Although there is no hard and fast rule, most employers wait five to ten days to allow a candidate who has attracted an adverse background check report a chance to set the record straight. For instance, the negative report could be the result of a mix-up of two people with similar names in a database search.
As a rule, employers cannot refuse employment to a candidate based solely on the screening and verification results that stem from a database search. Employers can desist from making job offers to candidates having undergone background checks only on grounds of unsuitability.
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- "The Ultimate Guide to Conducting Background Checks." http://www.integrascan.com/UltimateGuidetoBackgroundChecks.pdf. Retrieved April 22,. 2011.
- Crane, Amy, B. “The ABCs of pre-employment background check." http://www.bankrate.com/brm/news/advice/20050216a1.asp. Retrieved April 22, 2011.
- CrimeCheck.com. “How to Make Pre-Employment Screening a Part of Your Hiring Routine." http://www.crimcheck.com/employment/screening.htm. Retrieved April 22, 2011.