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What is a Pre-Employment Background Check?

Cymone Carlson, SHRM-SCP
by Cymone Carlson, SHRM-SCP on April 15, 2024

Originally posted July 7, 2022. Updated April 15, 2024.

Hiring a new employee is a significant investment for any company. Employers can only hope the candidate will contribute positively to the organization over the long term. However, despite best efforts, hiring the wrong person can occur. To mitigate risks associated with making a poor hiring decision, many companies choose to conduct a pre-employment background check after extending an employment offer but before hire.

These checks act as a proactive measure to uncover any discrepancies in a candidate’s application or interview responses. Employers can ensure they are investing in individuals with integrity and credibility by vetting prospective hires in this way. This helps minimize the chances of future complications that may arise from hiring the wrong person. 

In essence, background checks provide a layer of security, offering valuable insights into a candidate's background and character. By uncovering any potential red flags early in the hiring process, companies can make informed decisions. Let’s take a look below at how conducting pre-employment background checks can be an advantage for an employer and their business. 

What does a Pre-Employment Background Check mean?

A pre-employment background check is a thorough investigation into a candidate’s personal and professional history. They are conducted after offering a conditional job offer but before beginning work. Background checks usually examine a candidate's employment history, education, criminal record, and credit history.

One thing to keep top of mind, are the rules and regulations that come with safely conducting a pre-employment background check. It's critical employers conduct pre-employment background screenings in compliance with relevant laws and regulations. Such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and anti-discrimination laws, to protect the rights of job applicants. We will explore some of these laws and regulations to help navigate them as an employer. 

While background screenings can be time-consuming and require resources, they provide valuable insights into a candidate’s background. This vital information will prove valuable to employers in their ability to make informed character judgements and hiring decisions.

What Do They Cover?

Conducting a background check for employment can cover a variety of information. Depending on the requirements of the position and the preferences of the employer, you could see the following:

  • Criminal History: Learn if the potential candidate has a criminal record or has been involved in any illegal activities.
  • Employment Verification: Verify past employment history, including job titles, dates of employment, and reason for termination or separation.
  • Education Verification: Confirm educational credentials such as schools attended, dates that a candidate attended different schools, and any certificates or degrees earned.
  • Credit Check: Examine a candidate's credit report to assess financial responsibility.
  • Drug Testing: Test for the presence of illegal substances or alcohol in the candidate's system. This is especially important for safety-sensitive roles.
  • Reference Checks: Contact provided references to gain insight into the candidate's character, work ethic and performance. Reference checks also act as a form of identity verification to ensure the candidate is who they say they are.

You see, a pre-employment background check makes sure the person applying for the job is honest and does not have a checkered past. By thoroughly researching each candidate, employers can ensure they are making an informed choice. This process can lead to better outcomes for both the employer and the employee.

Why Are They Important?

Many reasons exist why pre-employment background checks are important for employers to consider. Below we take a deeper look into several reasons why a business should start considering background checks:

  • Risk Mitigation: Background checks contribute to providing a secure work environment by identifying candidates with violent tendencies or a history of harmful behavior.
  • Protecting Reputation: By ensuring a safe and trustworthy workforce, background checks safeguard the reputation and integrity of the organization.
  • Protecting Customer Relations: Background checks can act like a safety check for a business. They make sure that the people who work there and have access to sensitive information have not done anything wrong in the past. This keeps customers safe and trusting of the company.
  • Safeguarding Financial Interests: Screening candidates for financial responsibility mitigates the risk of fraud, embezzlement, or other financial misconduct.

What can Disqualify You on a Pre-Employment Background Check?

Certain factors found during a background check may disqualify a candidate from employment. These can include:

  • Serious Criminal Offenses: Such as convictions for violent crimes, theft, fraud, or other offenses that could harm the workplace.
  • False Information: Providing false or misleading information on the job application or resume, including falsifying educational credentials and/or employment history.
  • Drug Abuse: A positive drug test or evidence of substance abuse may raise concerns.
  • Poor Credit History: A history of bankruptcy or excessive debt may be considered disqualifying if this is relevant to the job. Credit history reporting is only recommended in very limited situations and should not be ran on every employee. In fact, some states greatly restrict credit history reporting.

Staying On The Right Side of The Law

It is imperative for employers to adhere to relevant laws and regulations when conducting pre-employment background checks. Laws can also vary state-to-state. Stay compliant and avoid adverse action by taking into consideration some common laws protecting employees:

  • Ban-the-Box Laws: These laws prohibit employers from asking about criminal history on job applications and/or during the interviewing process.
  • FCRA Regulations: The FCRA outlines requirements for obtaining and using consumer reports, including background checks.
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission tells employers how they can use background check information when deciding who to hire.

Choosing The Right Partner

Picking the right pre-employment screening service is crucial. You need someone reliable, accurate, and compliant with the law, at both a state and federal level. This is where FrankCrum and their trusted provider come in. With their help, you can navigate the hiring process with confidence.

While pre-employment background checks may seem like a small, optional step, it is a critical piece of ensuring success for your business. Understanding a potential hire's background report can help you build a team that you can trust, keeping your workplace safe and secure. Partnering with FrankCrum and using our background check services can make the hiring process easier, and keep you compliant with state and local laws. This allows you to focus on what matters most, growing your business.

Cymone Carlson, SHRM-SCP
Cymone Carlson, SHRM-SCP

Cymone Carlson is a FrankAdvice Sr. Human Resources Consultant. She is a Senior Certified Professional in Human Resources (SHRM-SCP) and holds a Master’s degree from the University of Florida. Cymone has firsthand HR experience working within nonprofits, manufacturing, distribution, healthcare, hospitality, and government contracts.