Ali Gordon | 14 April, 2021

Bringing on a new teammate is an exciting time for any business, and while every onboarding process is different, it’s always important to have confidence in your new hires and screen for success. These tips can help you know when you should run a background check during hiring. 

Conditional Offers: A Great Time to Pre-Screen!

A conditional offer is usually one that is made verbally or informally, such as by email. There’s no signed contract yet, but a company has signaled interest in hiring a candidate or has slated a few top candidates for final consideration. This is a great opportunity to run background checks.

It’s the point in the hiring process when you want to confirm that a candidate is who they have claimed to be. It’s also a time to hear from outside perspectives in your hiring process. At this marker in your hiring, an employer is no longer just hearing from an applicant, staffing agency, or perhaps an internal HR team, but now you get to look at external validation of life history, references, and other background information that will help paint a clearer picture.

Exceptions to the Rule: When An Employer Should Not Pre-Screen

Most often, a verbal or conditional offer is an excellent time to pre-screen a candidate. But there are still a few exceptions when an employer should not run a background check at this point--or should at least ensure legal precautions if uncertain: 

  • if a recruiter has already conducted a pre-screen for a candidate profile
  • cases where an applicant has to receive a job offer prior to being checked
  • or when a background check is conducted without a candidate’s consent
Some staffing agencies or recruiters include background checks as part of their profile submissions, so this would be an exception to the general rule. It wastes your time and money to run more checks if you’re already paying for it as part of the recruiting process, so unless you’re not confident in the kinds of checks that were run for a given role, there’s no need to pre-screen. Usually, it’s best to confirm the background check and what kind of check it is with a staffing agency so you know whether or not you’re looking at pre-screened candidates. If you’re not looking at pre-screened candidates, after a conditional offer would still be the best time to run a background check.

In other cases, it’s actually against the law to run a background check if the employee hasn’t received a job offer. This is governed by state laws, and in most cases--like California’s Fair Chance Act--a conditional offer of employment is sufficient...so the general rule of timing still applies. But since state employment law has tended to change faster than federal law and can differ from region to region, it’s always best to consult legal counsel if you’re unclear about the timing of a background check for a given role or in a specific state. In the case of California’s “ban-the-box” law, even after a conditional offer has been made, employers still have restrictions and requirements for how they can use the information that may come back on a criminal history check. 

Legislation like the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires the consent of a candidate to run a credit check, and in cases like this, it would be illegal to run the check at any point in the hiring process without consent. This is another exception to the rule: if you haven’t received consent in the manner prescribed by law, do not run a credit check on a candidate, even if a conditional offer has been made. This can be true for other kinds of background checks as well, and it is always best for the ethical and reputational management of your brand to gain consent before running any kind of check--including where laws may not govern such as personal reference checks.

What Does An Employer See on A Pre-Employment Screening?

Depending on the type of background check for a given position, all kinds of information could appear in the results of a background check after the conditional offer. Ensure whatever you are screening for meets federal and state laws, such as EEO mandates and other employment legislation, but otherwise, insights on a pre-employment screening may include things like: 

  • Identity Verification
  • Address History
  • Credit Check
  • Employment History 
  • Criminal History 
  • Driving Record
  • Social Security Number Trace
Are you at the right point in your hiring process to conduct a background screening? Our case managers and licensed investigators at eKnowID work efficiently to give you the ability to perform instant searches. Message us today to determine the right screening for your needs.

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