Run a Check without Permission - Screening Potential Employees

by Joe Killinger

The first thing you need to know about background checks is that they can’t be done without the candidate’s permission. Employers are required to inform job seekers that they intend to perform a background check and receive written permission from the job seeker. If an employer chooses not to hire an applicant because of information gleaned from a background check, they’re required to notify the job seeker and provide the name of the company that prepared the report; the law includes a loophole for companies who run background checks themselves.

Job seekers are also entitled to receive a free copy of such reports from the company that prepared them. The same holds true not only for job seekers but also for background checks run on current employees. By seeing what a potential employer has seen, the applicant is able to begin correcting false information and prepare to defend negative reports.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) sets a national standard for employers to follow when conducting a background check on an applicant or employee. It allows employers to use negative background reports to decide against hiring candidates. Background checks can consist of a mere credit check or can legally extend to criminal histories; driving records; and/or interviews with neighbors, friends and associates.

The following information is off-limits to employers conducting background checks:

  • Bankruptcies after 10 years
  • Civil suits, civil judgments and records of arrest, from date of entry, after seven years
  • Paid tax liens after seven years
  • Accounts placed for collection after seven years
  • Any other negative information (except criminal convictions) after seven years.
  • Criminal convictions and anything in the public domain, i.e. reported in the media is fair game.

We highly recommend going the easy route and get the candidate to approve in writing that you have permission to run the background check!