Employee background checks for employers: What you should know

  • Background checks are a way for employers to verify a new hire is who they say they are.
  • While there are free ways to look into an employee’s history, it’s best to use an online platform.
  • Speaking of online platforms, Homebase can make every step of the hiring process quick, easy, and efficient.

What is an employee background check?

Employers use background checks for employment verification and applicant screening to ensure the person they are hiring is who they claim to be. Once the hiring decision is made, an employer can run a background check to look into the new employee’s arrest records, criminal history, history of employment, education history, and other background information that can be found in public records.

There are many types of background checks, but typically employers will look at three different aspects: Identity, credit history, and criminal history.

To verify an employee’s identity and Social Security, an employment background check searches databases like the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the Social Security Administration records. 

The background check is also for identity verification, and will show whether or not an employee’s Social Security number is accurate, as well as if it belongs to the correct person and if it has been used in the past.

Employers may also look into an employee’s credit report. If they choose to do so, the employer will receive a credit check on payment history, civil judgments, tax liens, bankruptcies, unpaid bills, and recent credit histories. However, a credit report does not include an employee’s actual credit score.

When looking into criminal history, employers may see various offenses in county, state, and federal court records. These offenses can include:

  • Pending charges
  • Misdemeanor convictions
  • Acquitted charges
  • Dismissed charges
  • Felony convictions

Depending on the industry in which the employee is hired, an employer may require a drug test and/or an advanced background check that investigates additional information. This additional information can include driving records (especially if driving is necessary to the job), education verification, drug screening, reference checks, and cyber background checks.

Note: There are other background check services for non-employees that track down phone numbers, reverse phone lookups, property record, tenant screening, and more. These are not typically items employers are allowed to inquire about. 

Looking into a job candidate’s history is just one step of the hiring process, which can be tedious if you do not have the right tools. Homebase speeds up the process for both hiring and onboarding by allowing you to keep track of all job applications, interviews, and candidates, in one place.

We’ll post your job opening on all the top hiring sites, send your new hires an employee onboarding packet with all the necessary new hire paperwork. This way you can have more time for employee training when they start on their first day.

What are the federal and state laws around background checks?

Employers must comply with the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Under the law, employers are required to inform applicants or employees that their consumer report might be used to inform employment decisions. It must be in writing, and employees must give permission.

It’s also illegal on the federal level to discriminate against employees. This means that you cannot run a background check on employees based on their race, national origin, color, sex, religion, disability, genetic information, or age.

Additionally, 13 states have enacted the “Ban the Box” law, which forbids employers from asking about an applicant’s criminal record before they get the job offer. Take a look at your state labor law guide to learn more about background check laws in your area.


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How long does a employee background check take?

If everything goes according to plan, a background check process should take around one to three business days. But if there are delays, they can take up to two weeks or more depending on how advanced the search is.

How long your background check takes depends on the tool you use to conduct it. If you use a traditional human resource service that relies on snail mail to get the job done, receiving your report can take weeks. It’s for this reason that using a modern, online service will make the background screening process run a lot smoother.

Homebase hiring can also make other areas of your process run smoother and quicker. You can identify the best candidates with screening questions, message them and schedule interviews, send them onboarding documents and have them securely stored, and check everything off your onboarding checklist, all in one place.

How do I get free background checks for my employees?

There are certainly methods to obtain a free criminal background check, or any other type of inquiry for free, but it’s going to be more difficult and time-consuming. Employers can simply conduct their own online background checks by looking the employee up to see what they can find, search through social media pages, or get a basic report from a free site like Instant Checkmate.

However, the best background check is one that is conducted through a third-party organization that is thorough, accurate, and has a great customer support team that can answer any questions you may have.

If you’re looking to save time and money during the small business hiring process, Homebase can help. We will make things quick and easy by posting your job to the top sites. Then, you can communicate with all your applicants in one easy-to-use dashboard to schedule interviews.


Employment background checks FAQs

What are the benefits of a background check?

There are pros as well as cons when it comes to background checks for employees. If pre-hire background checks are legal in your state some benefits reported are higher workplace safety, higher quality of hire, and higher qualifications for the job. 


What is the most common background check for employment?

Generally, background checks look for previous criminal activity, identification verification, and prior employment. This all depends on the state, employer and industry.  


What is the difference between a criminal and a civil background check?

 A criminal background check reports crimes specifically against the state. An example would be felonies and misdemeanors, jail or prison time, and pending criminal cases. A civil background check shows civil cases brought to court by an alleged victim or victims. 


What causes a red flag on a background check?

The biggest red flags on background checks is usually criminal activity. Sometimes people lie on resumes, and a background check can flag that as well.