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Pre-Employment Background Checks

Making an employment decision is a big deal.

Not only can a hiring decision have a tremendous impact (positive or negative) on the company's profits due to their performance, it can also effectively place a stranger in your business, where the wrong person can potentially cause irreversible damage.

For example - some of the most notorious fraudsters are people that have a lot of experience with finances and "balancing" the books. Just imagine how damaging it could be for a business to hire someone to manage finances or records who's skilled at covering up illegal activities with complicated record-keeping (or any other fraudulent activity).

Just think about the far-reaching, chain reaction of consequences that would wreak havoc if, say, the company got audited - and that new accountant you hired was fudging the numbers. The IRS wouldn't care - as far as they're concerned, whoever signs the return is responsible.

That's one example of thousands. The bottom line is that a company is only as good as its employees. Or as bad as them.

Before proceeding further - it's important to point out there are laws that dictate how and when you're able to conduct a background or credit check prior to making an employment decision, as well as what information can be taken into consideration, and what legally cannot. Laws vary from state to state, so make sure that you do your research.

For starters, be sure to acquaint yourself with the applicable rules set forth by the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act), which you can view in "summary" at http://www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/2user.htm, or the complete text in PDF format: http://www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/031224fcra.pdf

For example - before screening an employee, your company is required to have that individual sign a disclosure agreement authorizing the background check. It's important to know what you can and can't do before you proceed with any kind of screening process.

How to Screen Employees Effectively Based On Your Needs

After you've determined what you can legally search/use as part of your employment decision-making process according to your local laws, then it's time to consider the options. (For the purposes of this article, it's assumed that you'll already be asking your prospective employees for trade or personal references and following up accordingly).

In general, a background check consists of searching for previous criminal acts within public records, with an emphasis on court records, convictions (or prison sentences) and where applicable, financial/civil background information.

There's two options, generally speaking:

1) Find out what you can on your own

2) Outsource the task to an investigation firm and/or purchase data from an accredited reporting agency

(If the nature of the job requires your company to review the applicant's credit history, then you'll have to obtain this directly from a reporting agency such as EquiFax or Experian, with the employee's consent and within legal requirements.)

For a smaller business not requiring a credit check, it might make more sense to conduct more of a "self-service" background check.

Or to save time while searching more records, it would be worthwile to use our recommended online "all in one" public records search engine.

For a larger business with a high turnover rate (or employment volume), then it would make more sense to outsource the task to a firm who specializes in performing legal screening and employment background checks. This also caters more to doing "batch" searches in the case of screening multiple persons.

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