Performing a background check is a critical part of pre-employment screening. After all, they can reveal information that you never would have known otherwise, and can help guide you toward making a smart hiring decision. However, many companies assume that just because they’ve done a background check on their candidates that they’re in the clear. To avoid hefty fines or lawsuits (or a simple bad hire), make sure you avoid these 8 mistakes:

1. Don’t forget to check aliases.

Many companies will check out their job candidates by name, but many forget that some people have aliases. These are often simply variations on a single name, but they can make a huge difference. For example, the growth in hyphenated names may cause a mistake. If you only check the name the person uses in day-to-day life, you may miss out on any information that uses their full last name. The same applies to nicknames and full names. Make sure you cover your bases by screening for any names the candidate might use.

2. Are you FCRA compliant?

It can be incredibly easy to fall on the wrong side of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This could be as simple as including a release of liability in your consent form – which isn’t allowed under FCRA. Make sure you’ve read it (and understand the implications) during your screening process. Here’s a PDF version of the full text of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

3. Use a qualified screening service.

A Google search will only get you so far. If you’re relying on your own investigational skills to uncover information about job applicants, you may miss critical pieces of information. A background screening service has access to databases with more information than you’ll be able to find online. Plus, when you use a professional service, you can rest assured that the information will be accurate.

4. Don’t include blanket statements.

A blanket statement, like the ones that exclude felons and convicts from your hiring process, may seem like a good idea, but it’s risky. Blanket statements may adversely affect minority groups, and many companies have come under fire for policies like these recently. Make sure you avoid blanket statements and look at the situation from many angles during your hiring process.

5. Remember to check contractors.

Contractors, vendors and others that you work with on a regular basis should also be subject to background checks. Even though they’re not full-time employees, you may find that your association with them could tarnish your good reputation. Make sure you’re aware of who you’re dealing with by using a screening service to have background checks done on non-employees that you work with regularly.

6. Establish a procedure.

Do you have a procedure in place for hiring, and more specifically, background checks? You should. By ensuring that everybody goes through the same process, you may limit your liability in lawsuits. This can help keep you from making premature judgments or from eliminating candidates unfairly. Make sure you’ve got a hiring procedure and more importantly, that you have it written down. All hiring personnel should be familiar with your policies.

7. Make sure you’re up to date.

Did you know that there was an update to the FCRA on January 1st, 2013? As the bloggers at law firm DeWitt, Ross & Stevens point out,

“[M]any employers inadvertently continue to use the old format. Here’s how you can tell the difference. The new version references the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau throughout the notice. The old version references the Federal Trade Commission. Using an outdated federal summary of rights can carry big consequences. One retail employer just agreed to a $3 million settlement in part based upon allegations that it was supplying candidates with an outdated version of this federal notice.”

8. Rescreen and repeat.

Just because you’ve finished the hiring process doesn’t mean you’re done screening employees. Regular background checks can be a smart part of continued employee evaluation. After all, many employees work for companies for years, and regular background checks can help uncover anything that may have happened in the interim.

While many companies perform proper, entirely legal background checks every day, some companies may make costly mistakes. If you perform background checks at your company, make sure you avoid making these 8 mistakes. Contact us to discuss employment background screening!