What Are Employment Background Check Best Practices?

What Are Employment Background Check Best Practices?

Navigating the complexities of employment background checks can be daunting, so we’ve compiled insights from seasoned professionals, including HR Directors and Founders. From the importance of outsourcing to reliable providers to ensuring consistent background checks, discover the top nine best practices shared by these experts.

  • Outsource to Reliable Providers
  • Maintain Consistent Screening
  • Verify Previous Employment
  • Examine Relevant Experiences
  • Ask Open-Ended Questions
  • Obtain Written Consent
  • Confirm Educational Qualifications
  • Foster Transparency With Consent
  • Ensure Consistent Background Checks

Outsource to Reliable Providers

One of the best approaches you can take is to outsource to a provider that you can rely on. Many businesses often don’t understand the nuances behind a background check and either try to get a check completed cheaply or from someone who doesn’t follow the correct procedures.

Naturally, this can cause an issue later down the line in the hiring process, so it’s best to do your research and opt for a provider that you know you can rely on.

Tracey BeveridgeTracey Beveridge
HR Director, Personnel Checks

Maintain Consistent Screening

An employment background check best practice involves maintaining a consistent background screening process for all candidates applying for a specific job position. This practice ensures fairness, legal compliance, and transparency in the hiring process.

It treats all candidates equally, reducing the risk of bias and discrimination. Consistency also streamlines the process, making it more efficient and enhancing the quality of hire. Furthermore, it helps organizations identify potential risks associated with candidates and builds trust among applicants by demonstrating the fairness of the process.

To implement this practice, organizations should establish standardized background screening policies and procedures for each job position, provide training to HR personnel and hiring managers, and regularly update procedures to align with legal requirements.

Jonathan HedgerJonathan Hedger
Co-Founder and Director, OnlyDataJobs

Verify Previous Employment

One employment background check best practice is to verify the applicant’s previous employment. This can be done by contacting the applicant’s previous employers to confirm the dates of employment, job title, and salary.

This is important because it helps to ensure that the applicant has been honest about their work history. Besides that, by obtaining this information, you can cross-check the applicant’s resume and assess whether their stated experience aligns with their actual employment history.

By contacting the applicant’s previous employers, you can gain insights into their job performance, work ethic, and overall fit for the role. This information can be invaluable in making informed hiring decisions and ensuring that you’re bringing on the right person for the job.

It’s also helpful to gather information about the applicant’s responsibilities, accomplishments, and any notable contributions they made to their previous roles. This can provide valuable insights into their skills, experience, and overall ability to perform the job you’re hiring for.

Luciano ColosLuciano Colos
Founder and CEO, PitchGrade

Examine Relevant Experiences

Scouring applicants’ pasts risk introducing bias, yet due diligence protects. Thus, judiciously examine only immediately relevant experiences, not personal dimensions irrelevant to the role. Standardized questions for all candidates on clearly job-related specifics allow objectively evaluating readiness while still upholding ethical ideals of inclusiveness and equity.

For instance, asking software developers about specialized coding certifications makes sense, while generically probing credit history probably does not. Remember, background checks safeguard your existing team too by upholding standards.

But apply the same policy universally rather than singling out individuals arbitrarily. And communicate transparently so candidates understand the carefully limited scope.

Lou ReverchukLou Reverchuk
Co-Founder and CEO, EchoGlobal

Ask Open-Ended Questions

When conducting background checks through colleagues or references provided by the candidate, it’s essential to ask open-ended questions that encourage detailed responses.

Instead of just confirming job titles or dates of employment, ask about the candidate’s specific contributions, work ethic, collaboration skills, and how they handled challenges.

This approach can provide deeper insights into the candidate’s abilities and work style from a colleague’s perspective.

Eva ToledoEva Toledo
Senior Researcher, Kepler Search Pte Ltd

Obtain Written Consent

One best practice for employment background checks is obtaining written consent from candidates before conducting the check. This practice is not only a legal requirement under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) in the United States, but it also promotes transparency and trust in the hiring process.

For instance, at Spectup, before initiating any background checks, we always inform candidates about the process and secure their written authorization. This approach ensures compliance with legal standards and demonstrates respect for candidates’ privacy and rights.

By being upfront about the background check process, we also set a tone of openness and integrity, which positively reflects our company’s values and culture.

Niclas SchlopsnaNiclas Schlopsna
Managing Consultant and CEO, Spectup

Confirm Educational Qualifications

One employment background-check best practice is to thoroughly verify the candidate’s educational qualifications. While it may seem like a minor detail, fake degrees and inflated credentials are more common than you might think.

By diligently checking the authenticity of a candidate’s educational background, you can ensure that you are hiring someone who possesses the necessary knowledge and skills for the job.

This practice helps you maintain the integrity of your workforce and protects your company from potential legal and reputational risks. Remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to verifying educational qualifications!

Alex StasiakAlex Stasiak
CEO and Founder, Startup House

Foster Transparency With Consent

One best practice in employment background checks that stands out for its importance and effectiveness is obtaining explicit, written consent from the candidate before conducting any background checks. This practice is not only a legal requirement under laws like the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) in the United States, but it also fosters transparency and trust in the hiring process. Here’s why this practice is crucial:

1. Legal Compliance:

The FCRA mandates that employers obtain written permission from the candidate before conducting a background check, especially if using a third-party service. Similar requirements exist in many other jurisdictions. Failing to obtain consent can lead to legal consequences, including fines and lawsuits, making compliance a top priority.

2. Respect for Candidate Privacy:

Asking for consent shows respect for the candidate’s privacy. It demonstrates that the employer values and adheres to ethical practices in hiring. This approach also allows candidates to disclose any information they believe might come up in the background check, thereby fostering open communication.

3. Ensuring Accuracy and Relevance:

By informing candidates about the background check, employers can also encourage them to ensure that all information in their records is accurate and up-to-date. This can be particularly important for checks that involve credit history or criminal records, where inaccuracies can sometimes occur.

4. Building Trust and Transparency:

Transparent practices in background checks build trust between the employer and potential employees. It sets a positive tone for the employer-employee relationship. Candidates are more likely to view the employer as fair and ethical, which can enhance the company’s reputation.

5. Providing a Chance for Clarification:

In cases where a background check uncovers potentially concerning information, having prior consent enables a smoother process for discussing these findings with the candidate. It allows candidates to provide context or clarification about any issues that arise, ensuring a fair and comprehensive evaluation process.


To implement this best practice, employers should include a clear, concise consent form as part of their job application or pre-employment process. This form should specify what types of checks will be conducted and how the obtained information will be used.

Bruno GavinoBruno Gavino
Founder and CEO, CodeDesign

Ensure Consistent Background Checks

One of the most valuable best practices for employment background checks is to ensure consistency. Every candidate applying for the same position should undergo the same level of background check. This consistency helps in maintaining fairness and transparency in the hiring process. It also minimizes the risk of discrimination claims, as each candidate is subject to the same scrutiny.

A Few Quick Tips on How to Achieve This:

Standardize Procedures: Develop a standardized background check process for each job category. Ensure that every candidate for the same position undergoes the same checks.

Clear Guidelines: Establish clear guidelines on what the background check will cover, such as criminal history, education verification, and past employment.

Training for HR Staff: Regularly train HR personnel to understand and apply these procedures uniformly to avoid any biases or deviations.

Document Processes: Keep detailed records of the background check process for each candidate to ensure and demonstrate consistency.

Regular Audits: Periodically review and audit the background check process to ensure adherence to the established standards and to identify areas for improvement.

Jeremy PasternakJeremy Pasternak
Founding Attorney, The Law Offices of Jeremy Pasternak

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