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When to Run a Background Check

#background checks #new hire #hiring
by Ali Gordon


Business owners have a lot of choices to make, and building the right team is one of the most important. Ensuring your employees are reliable, trustworthy, and qualified for their roles can make all the difference in the growth of your brand and sustained success within company culture. By screening your prospective team members at the right time within your hiring and employment process, you can save time, legal trouble, and money--setting up the business to better pursue your growth and profit goals. Here’s when you should run a background check.

Pre-Employment Checks: After a Conditional Offer

Screening a prospective employee after interviews and just before a formal offer is signed is one of the most common points in a hiring process to run a background check. This is common partly because some hiring laws do not allow a company to ask applicants about different kinds of history until after an offer has been presented. This protects against hiring discrimination in some cases.

Conducting a screening before hire can benefit your company in many ways. Your hiring lead or HR department can go about this with a few different approaches, and in each case, your business must adhere to federal and state laws:

  • Make an offer that requires the candidate to pass the check as a condition to beginning employment.
  • Make an offer that allows the candidate to begin employment with restrictions until after they pass the screening.
  • Make an offer without restrictions and simply request that a background check clears as they begin employment.
  • Make an offer and include protections in the contract to allow post-hire checks as needed and within legal parameters.


While a pre-employment screening after a conditional offer is a great choice for some businesses, it’s also true that it can have a hidden risk. You could move through the entire interview process and make a conditional offer, only to find information from a screening that precludes the candidate from job qualification. In this case, have you really protected your business and budget?

If this is a concern, a way to mitigate the risk is to be clear about your hiring procedures and consider a background check for a small pool of applicants--not all of them at the beginning, but also not just one at the end. Once you have a handful of candidates you’re serious about, add a background check to your process as you’re narrowing down to a top pick.  eKnowID offers various types of screenings that can meet needs for all kinds of businesses with different budgets and processes. 

Role-Based Employment Checks: Screenings for Job Sucess

A pre-hire check can be an excellent time for a screening, especially for smaller companies who may not want to take on the financial risk of screening every single applicant or who must adhere to certain legal mandates. But when these are not factors, some job types may actually necessitate a pre-screen from the very beginning of an application. 

For example, a nanny or security agency whose employees work with kids or public safety may want to ensure that all applicants are qualified for the role at a baseline level. Pre-screening at the beginning of the hiring process is likely a better long-term choice than waiting until further along in the process. Skipping this step or missing a background check may actually set your company up for damaging legal action. 

Pre-screening all applicants can also be useful when companies are hiring quickly in large volume, such as for drivers or service providers. In other cases, all hires are legally required to undergo a background check to hold the position, such as in government positions. Understanding what will be most efficient and meet legal requirements for your business type, in your state, or for the specific role will protect your company and enable you to screen for job success. 

Post-Employment Checks: During an Internal Investigation

Although 60% of businesses screen during the hiring process and 14% screen for legal requirements at other times, about 10% of companies must screen post-hire during an internal investigation or for another cause. This could be screening for internal investigation of misconduct, but it could also be continuous screening for role fit in a dynamic company. 

The Society for Human Resource Management explains that ‘continuous screening’ is a growing trend: “While there are some industries whose regulations have mandated continuous or some form of periodic screening, such as health care, we are seeing more industries embrace the idea, particularly in industries with access to vulnerable people or where direct, one-to-one consumer access is a part of the employee's or contractor's scope of work...The trend is spreading to sectors such as manufacturing and retail, government and public school systems.”

Whether you utilize pre-employment screenings, job-based screenings, or ongoing post-hire screenings, correctly timing background checks in your company’s hiring journey is an important practical, legal, and budget consideration. Using a background check service like eKnowID that seeks to understand your needs and humanize the process on all ends can empower your business to make smarter decisions at any point in the employment process.

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