How Are Background Checks Done?
Conducting a background check can be as complex as ordering a series of reports and as simple as doing an Internet search. The best method to use varies, depending on the intent behind the background check. If you just want a sense of how the person in question spends his or her time, looking at social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter may be enough of a background check. These websites often contain information about what a person does and how he or she interacts with other people.
However, if you are looking to hire an employee or service provider, you will want to go deeper than just examining that person’s online identity. Researching public records and getting information on a person’s criminal history will help you determine whether a person is trustworthy and responsible. There are different sources for background checks, all of which provide insight into different aspects of people’s lives.
To perform a background check on someone, you need at least a name, though having a birthday, driver’s license number, and/or Social Security Number can make the search easier. Maiden names, addresses, and phone numbers are also valuable pieces of information. Laws regarding background checks vary based on state, so be sure to review the laws in your state before you run a person’s information. Luckily, many public records can give you the information that you need without requiring legal permission.
The following are different sources that you may utilize for conducting background checks:
- Internet. The Internet contains a lot of information about people, the company they keep, and the way they interact. You can utilize websites like Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and Plurk to get a sense of the identity of a person.
- Public records. The information kept in public records vary based on the state, but commonly includes birth certificates, death certificates, marriage certificates, divorce documents, and property records.
- Criminal records. Many state websites allow users to research information about inmates and offenders, though the information included in a public criminal record varies based on the offense and how many years have elapsed since the crime was committed.
- Driving records. Employers of individuals that drive as part of their job duties may look into a candidate’s driving record to make sure it is free of major accidents and traffic violations. Parents who employ babysitters who drive children to school or practice may also request driving records prior to accepting a babysitter’s service.
- References. Candidates for job positions may supply the names and phone numbers of the people for whom they have worked in the past, as a way of providing insight into their character and work ethic.
This is by no means a complete list. There are other ways to check a person’s background as well — some of which are more intrusive than others. Examples include conducting drug tests, running a social security scan, and requesting credit reports, all of which may be performed by employers as part of a comprehensive background check.
If searching on your own is not giving you the information that you need, you may want to consider going through a third party to conduct a background check. Private investigators and other fact checkers can help facilitate the research process as well. Third-party companies can get information that you cannot find on the internet. This information includes:
- Past drug tests.
- Employment dates.
- Reasons for termination.
- Worker’s compensation reports.
- Education verification.
Keep in mind that these services come with a fee, and that you must follow the law when requesting a formal background check from a company. “We can’t run a background check without permission in written form,” said Nick Fishman, the chief marketing director with EmployeeScreenIQ.
There are a lot of companies offering background checks, so doing the research to pick the right one is an instrumental part in conducting a background check. Fishman had some advice for individuals and employers alike. “There’s a tremendous difference between one background check and another,” he said. “Do some research to find out what sources are being used.” It is also important to conduct research on the steps companies take to verify that the person undergoing the background check is the person on whom they get a report.
Fishman also explained that the National Association of Professional Background Screeners has started an accreditation program for background check companies. As part of getting accredited, those companies must undergo an auditing process, to show that they are committed to data security and reliability. “Less than 2% of background check companies have achieved that accreditation,” he explained. “Knowing whether or not the company has been accredited should be influential in making decisions.”
Ultimately, the key to background checks — whether you are looking at public records or requesting the assistance of a company — is to do your research. The more informed you are, the more likely it is that your background check will be thorough and reliable.