What is a background check?

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At its core, a background check is a confirmation that your prospective employee, tenant, or driver is who he says he is, and if you’re hiring, can do what they say they can do.  

According to ADP, one of the country’s largest payroll processing firms, only 49% of applications, resumes, and references contain accurate information. And this may be a low estimate. According to research completed by University of Massachusetts psychologist Robert Feldman, 60% of people lie within the course of a 10-minute conversation. And that’s when nothing is at stake! Factor in the high stakes of needing a job or new place to live, and you have a situation rife with the opportunity for fraud.

Employers and Landlords Beware!

Every employer and landlord has a story about nightmare tenants and employees. According to ADP, employee theft and other forms of employee dishonesty are responsible for up to 30% of small business failures. Workplace violence has become all too common, leaving employers at risk when something goes wrong. Fair or unfair, employers are not just responsible but liable for their employee’s behavior while on the job.  

Landlords fare no better. Type bad tenant into Google, and you’ll get back over 55 million results. Not paying rent is only one of the many problems landlords encounter with bad tenants. Property damage, criminal activity, and violence within and outside the home are commonplace. It’s not difficult to find anecdotal evidence that proves a background check before renting is a critical first step.

What to look for in a background check

Like most everything, it depends on what you’re doing. Most employers will want first to confirm identity, including a social security trace and an address verification. If they’re lying about the easy stuff, well …? I wouldn’t go any further but, that’s for you to decide. In addition to the basics, here are some typical reports you can run. 

Common Reports

  • Schools
    • Sex offender search
    • National criminal records 
    • Education verification
    • Reference Check
    • Workman’s comp
  • Drivers
    • Motor Vehicle Records check
    • National Criminal Records
    • Sex offender search
    • Workman’s comp
    • Employment verification
  • Landlords
    • Credit check
    • Eviction records
    • National criminal records check
    • I-9 verification
    • Sex offender search (especially if you’re renting apartments)

You might also want a county criminal records search. Other available searches include military service verification, civil court records, and of course, drug screens.

Why Bother?

An employer recently told me he doesn’t bother with background screens because references lie, and he’ll find out who he’s dealing with soon enough anyway. Here’s the problem with that approach; in a word, liability.  

According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, an average of 1.5 million assaults occur in the workplace every year! If one of your hires assaults and injures another employee, that employee can sue both the business owner and the HR manager personally for negligent hiring or negligent retention.  

The Bottom Line

Protect yourself, your business, property, and your employees with simple, cost-effective background checks.

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