Background Checks

For companies with only one location and not very many employees—from a handful to a few hundred—establishing a background checking program should be a relatively straightforward exercise. It’s simply a matter of stating, by policy, that a background check will be part of the pre-employment process for every new hire and that no job offer can be made—by anyone—until the background check has been completed and reviewed by whomever is responsible for hiring. Stated another way, even if functional managers have hiring authority, there should still be one person responsible for making sure that all the pre-employment steps have been completed and reviewed before a job offer can be made.

The background check should also be done before the face-to-face interview, not only to help ensure objectivity, but also to be able to use the information collected about a candidate to help guide the interview. Furthermore, candidates for employment should be told, prior to any offer of employment, that it’s company policy to check references and do background checks deemed appropriate under the circumstances.

Every applicant should be asked to sign a comprehensive waiver granting the prospective employer or its agents express permission to contact references or anyone else familiar with the candidate’s work history or job performance. Make sure that candidates for employment provide the names of references with whom they’ve worked on a day-to-day basis within the last five to seven years, and also their current contact information. Finally, make it a policy that no job offer can be made contingent upon a background or reference check.

If the employer is a one-person operation, the fundamentals remain the same. But unlike the small corporation, the sole proprietor is his own HR department. Regardless of who’s being hired—a contractor, healthcare provider, tutor, new dentist—or even if you are renting property, the steps are the same.