Have you ever wondered if you really need to hire a background screening company to run your candidate background checks? If so, we don’t blame you for asking. After all, why pay someone to do something you can do yourself?
With background checks, though, you really can’t do them by yourself if you care about finding comprehensive and accurate information. Here’s why attempting to DIY a background check could cause big trouble for your organization.
Why Employers Shouldn’t Conduct Background Checks on Their Own
It’s time consuming to run a background check on your own
Put simply, you’ll need to dedicate a lot of time to conducting a background screening on your own.If you think running a pre-employment background check just involves a quick Google search for “Jane Smith,” we have some bad news for you. Here’s what’s actually involved with running a background check:
- First, you have to collect a lot of information from your candidate, like their address history, Social Security number, previous employers and employment dates. Even though employers who run background checks independently aren’t required to get consent from candidates under the FCRA (background check providers, on other hand, are), we’d strongly recommend that you do.
- Next, check your state laws. Different states have different laws about what information can be used in background checks and when those checks can be conducted. Failing to comply with these laws can put you at risk for lawsuits.
- Next, you need to figure out where to go to find criminal records about the candidate. What national, state or county courthouses will have their criminal records? Well, it depends on where they live now and where they’ve lived in the past. (Oh, and don’t forget that some of these records can only be accessed in person — yes, even in 2019! — so you may have to take a trip to get all the information you want).Before you call it a closed case, you need to be certain that the information you found is for the right person. You’d be shocked at how easy it is to accidentally get records for someone also named Jane Smith who is not the Jane Smith you’re researching.
- Checking references? You may have to call previous employers multiple times before you can get them on the phone, so don’t forget to follow up if you don’t get through the first time.
- Looking at their social media profiles? Hopefully you won’t find any information that could cause you to make an illegal hiring decision, because once you see it in their timeline, you can’t unsee it.
- Now, compile all of your information into a report that doesn’t include any information that could cause a biased hiring decision (and don’t forget, you also can’t be influenced by any of the information you may have seen along that way that you weren’t supposed to).*
*And this is to say nothing of the process for conducting a drug test, education verification or driver’s license check.
Are you breaking out in a cold sweat thinking about how much time and work you’ll need to put into doing all of this yourself? Because we are.
The truth is that a lot of work goes into conducting a legal, comprehensive background check. A trusted, FCRA-compliant consumer reporting agency (CRA) like JDP can do it quickly because they have access to a lot of resources that individuals don’t:
- A team of experienced background checkers who can simultaneously work on a screening
- Knowledge of what data sources to check to find different types of information (more on that in our next section)
- If you work with a CRA like JDP, a network of court runners who can visit any court in the country to look for information
- An understanding of national, state, and local background screening laws
- The ability to make sure the data you see doesn’t contain any candidate information that’s illegal to use in the hiring process
- A streamlined and time-tested process that lets them do all of this quickly and accurately
You won’t find all the information you need
If you’re running a background check, it’s probably because you care about learning a candidate’s complete background. Unfortunately, that’ll be very difficult if you conduct an independent background check.Why?
CRAs have access to tons of data sources and tools that let them easily find up-to-date records about a candidate. As an individual, you may not have access to or know about many of these sources. For example, it’s actually illegal for a civilian to access the National Crime Information Center database, the FBI’s criminal database.
Additionally, some sources — like local court houses — only let you view records if you visit in person. That’s a huge problem if you want to look up records for a candidate who just moved to your city from the other side of the country; the price of a background check from a third party would be far less than the cost of your plane ticket to visit that one court house. (If you want to learn more about the different ways criminal records are collected from courthouses, click here.)
Could you just skip finding records from that location? Sure. But if you aren’t willing to find all records associated with your candidate, you could end up hiring someone with a criminal record without knowing it (and put you at risk for negligent hiring lawsuits).
Ask yourself: what’s the benefit of background checking if you don’t learn a candidate’s entire history?
You’ll open yourself up to lawsuits
If you’re conducting background checks on your own — and especially if you background check candidates’ social media profiles on your own — there’s a good chance you’ll run into information that’s prohibited from being used while making a hiring decision, like information about a disability, pregnancy, sexual orientation or religion.If you decide not to hire a candidate and they suspect bias may be at play, it will be much harder to defend your organization in a lawsuit if you conducted the background check yourself. That’s because the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces laws that employers must follow to protect applicant and employees from discrimination. The EEOC says that “it’s illegal to check the background of applicants and employees when that decision is based on a person’s race, national origin, color, sex, religion, disability, genetic information (including family medical history), or age (40 or older). For example, asking only people of a certain race about their financial histories or criminal records is evidence of discrimination.”
When you work with a reputable CRA for a social media screening or any other background check, they won’t share any illegal information that could cause a hiring bias (the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires it!). Even if there really was no bias in your hiring decision, it’s difficult to prove a lack of bias if you came across this information during your DIY search.
Additionally, you could increase your risk for negligent hiring lawsuits. These happen when an individual is harmed by an employee that an employer knew — or should have known — had a background that made them a risk. For example, a nursing home would be liable if they hired an employee with a history of assault, who then harmed residents at the facility. A thorough background check would have found that information, but it’s possible it could be missed if the nursing home attempted to do their own screenings.
While we appreciate the can-do spirit of an employer who wants to conduct background checks independently, the risk and time involved — not to mention the limited scope and accuracy of information found — aren’t worth it. Instead, choose a trusted, FCRA-compliant CRA, like JDP. They’ll be able to quickly and easily get all of the information you need about a candidate, while reducing your chances of litigation.