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How can I do a background check on an individual, to see if they have a criminal record?

By: Bill Wortman



How can I do a background check on an individual, to see if they have a criminal record?

General criminal record search tools: We assume that you are an employer seeking to do a background check on an employment applicant and we have provided information, considerations, and resources below. However, if you want to do a general criminal background check on an individual, you can use state and other online resources like the following examples (we cannot attest to the accuracy of this information):

Job applicant criminal background searches: Background checks are usually done after an interview or interviews and in conjunction with a job offer that is contingent on the background check not revealing any problems or issues that would disqualify the candidate. Also, by law conducting a comprehensive background check on a candidate requires the candidate to consent to the check. However, if your company engages an employment agency to locate prospective candidates, then the employment agency will typically have conducted some form of preliminary background check of candidates before they are presented to you for the interview process.

From a general business perspective and as discussed in the government and HR industry information below, criminal records can be used to help avoid potential negligent hiring problems and certain other employment situations. However, a criminal record does not disqualify an individual from every type of job and discriminating against job applicants with criminal records is, of course, illegal. You can review government and HR industry information on the permitted use of criminal record in employment situations at the following websites:
Negligent hiring considerations:

Job applicant background check considerations: The approach to employee background checks varies based on a company’s in-house resources, the information required in connection with the job responsibilities and several other factors: work experience, driving record, criminal record, financial data, drug and alcohol tests, etc. Also, laws vary regarding confidential information access, usage, and required employee written approval. Employee background checks can be done in-house or through outside agencies; however, it is important for you to be aware of the laws regarding treatment and handling of confidential employee information. To develop a better understanding of the background check process and develop your employee background check procedures, you can review information and tools for the handling of personal background checks at the following websites:

You can perform employee background checks (including reference checks) yourself and some free background information may be available from former employers, personal and professional references, the DMV or other government agencies, and other sources; however, paying for a professional and comprehensive background check is often a good investment. In terms of background check procedures, employers must ask for the recruit’s permission to conduct a background check on a form separate from the job application or other paperwork. If a potential employer wants to talk to a recruit’s friends, associates or neighbors, they must obtain a separate consent for what is known as an investigative consumer report. In addition, if an employer wants to see a recruit’s medical records, the recruit must give specific consent. While you can locate sample employment application and consent forms at websites like the following, we recommend that you have your drafts reviewed by local legal counsel to assure that they comply with federal and any state specific laws governing background check procedures:

In terms of reference checks, the same discrimination laws that apply to interviewing apply, generally, to reference checking, so you should not ask or answer questions about marital status, age, disabilities, religion, ethnicity or other personal issues. As to interview and reference check questions, the following information includes samples and suggestions for developing your questions and provides examples for checking previous employer references:
Links and references to samples and template documents have been provided pursuant to your request. Templates and sample documents can be very useful but businesses should exercise caution in the use of such documents. Sample employee handbooks for example may not include every topic needed to address your particular fringe benefit programs, compensation plans, and other circumstances. A well-conceived document will, however, be relatively easy to modify, allowing you to add and delete sections as appropriate. Due to the complexity of labor laws and the potential for liability in such areas as discrimination and confidentiality, we recommend that all employee handbooks and personnel policy statements be reviewed by a qualified labor lawyer.
Background check services: We have no direct experience with these companies, but the following are example employee background screening services that can be located through the Yellow Pages or with an Internet search:

Published: August 30, 2013

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