10 Reasons to Run a Pre-Employment Background Check
By Michael Klazema
It goes without saying that every time a business needs to fill an open work position, there are a few steps that need to be taken. The job description needs to be published online, for instance, so that interested parties can submit applications for consideration. The employer then needs to sift through these applications, pick out qualified candidates, and set up interviews. Some employment processes consist of phone interviews followed by in-person interviews. And the interviews usually give the employer the information they need to make an educated hiring decision.
But wait a second! The narrative outlined above is missing one of the core elements of any employment screening process: the background check. Think you don't need to run a background check to make the right hiring decision? Think again: here are 10 reasons why your business needs to run a pre-employment background check before finalizing an applicant's employment.
1. It highlights criminal history.
The primary reason most employers run pre-employment background checks is to flag any criminal convictions in an applicant's past. Sometimes, these criminal charges posit someone as dangerous, unreliable, untrustworthy, or otherwise not suitable for hiring. Other times, the charges are minor, out of date, or irrelevant to the job at hand. Either way, an employer deserves to have this information in order to make an educated hiring decision.
2. It flags past infractions that might impact an individual's ability to perform a job.
In addition to criminal history, some background checks will highlight driving records, credit histories, or other information. True, there are times when a spotty driving record with numerous license suspensions, or a credit history fraught with missed payments and debt, will hold no bearing on an applicant's ability to perform the job at hand. For positions that actually involve driving or the handling of money, though, such information is absolutely relevant.
3. It fulfills due diligence and avoids liability.
Say you don't run a background check on a person, and hire them for a truck driver position. One night, they get into an accident while on the job and cause a massive car pileup on the highway. The police at the scene arrest your worker for driving under the influence, and it turns out that person has gotten two DUIs in the past. Because you didn't do your due diligence and run a background check to make sure this person was a fit candidate for the truck driver job, you could be held liable for the accident.
4. It gives you a full picture of your applicant.
Most job applicants might as well be actors for how much they put on a performance during a job interview. The goal of any job searcher is to charm their interviewer and come across as a friendly, professional person. This "performance" can even extend into the resume, where applicants might exclude certain jobs or other information. A background check can help you cut through the façade and find out who this person really is—and more importantly, whether they are a person you want to hire.
5. It keeps employees and customers safe.
Quite simply, some of the applicants you are going to meet during a pre-employment screening are dangerous. From violent criminals to sex offenders, there are individuals that you simply cannot risk hiring. But what if you don't know about the risk of hiring those individuals? What if you hire a sexual predator without running a background check, only to have that person assault or rape one of your customers or one of your other employees? Just like with the drunk driver example above, you could be held liable for such incidents. So run the background check to protect your employees and customers from harm.
6. It helps you keep a workplace drug-free.
Many employees put a lot of stock in maintaining a drug-free workplace. Running background checks can help to flag applicants who have been slapped with drug charges in the recent past, whether for distribution or possession. You can also supplement the pre-employment background check with a drug test, to eliminate current users from your applicant pool. It's the best way to establish a zero-tolerance anti-drug policy at work from the very beginning.
7. It highlights dishonesty.
I mentioned above that many job searchers put on a performance in the interview, trying to act in a way that they think the hiring manager wants to see. Even more applicants are dishonest on their applications or resumes—making up work histories, embellishing job responsibilities or titles, or changing employment dates. Pre-employment background checks should include calls to former employees, to make sure the information on the resume/applications matches up with the truth. If it doesn't, you know you have a dishonest applicant on your hands. And if there's something that no employer wants, it's a worker they know can't be trusted.
8. It verifies education and certifications.
Employment history isn't the only thing you should be verifying about an applicant. Thorough pre-employment background checks will also make sure the applicant in question has the degrees and professional certifications they claim they do. Sometimes, learning this information can be about confirming honesty; other times, when certain degrees or certifications are actually legally required for a person to perform a job, they are about abiding by the law. Either way, they are important.
9. It provides peace of mind.
You never want to wonder about whether or not you can trust an employee. Background checks can help you dodge common worries (Is my employee a violent criminal? Is my employee a fraud? Is my employee a thief? Etc.) and give you the peace of mind you need to run your business efficiently.
10. It helps you ensure that you've chosen the right hire.
Look: employment screening processes are long, stressful, and expensive. From reviewing applications to reviewing candidates, these processes take a lot of time and are generally a blow to company productivity. In short, you want to make sure you hire the right person the first time, and that means being as thorough as possible in your initial screening process.
Quite simply, you can't be as thorough as possible without running a background check to learn as much about an applicant as possible. So unless you want to be doing the interview process again in a few months when your hire doesn't work out, run background checks to make sure you are making smart decisions. You won't be sorry.