January 12th, 2021 | Sterling

What Exactly is a Background Check?
8 Background Check Questions Answered

Background checks and ongoing employee monitoring are crucial for organizations of all sizes and across all industries. Being accountable for workplace and employee safety is a considerable responsibility, and while it may seem like a simple question – “what is a background check?” – the answer may be more complex than you thought.

In this blog, we’ll dig into this question to inform you on how to be successful as you recruit, hire, onboard, and monitor to create a safe and trusted workplace. At Sterling, we believe everyone has the right to feel safe. Your greatest resources are your people, and we help organizations protect those people by providing a foundation of trust and safety to create great work environments through our background check process. We help raise the bar for trust and safety for employees, volunteers, independent contractors, business executives, and more – all to help provide information for faster, more accurate hiring decisions.

1. What is a background check?

The reality is that there is not one simple answer to this question. Background screening practices are not all the same, and so your organization should not treat them as such. “Background check” has multiple meanings at its surface level. Looking at what lies beneath the surface will help your organization promote safety for your employees, partners, clients, and the communities in which they operate.

2. How does a background check work?

Background checks should be tailored to fit your organization’s needs and business requirements. For example, if it is important for your organization to know about a candidate’s potential criminal history, a background check can be tailored to include a criminal record search. This information can then be factored into a hiring decision, helping to keep your workplace safe and protecting your brand. To understand the basic steps for a Sterling criminal background check, visit our Criminal Background Checks page. This information outlines our ability to expose more criminal activity, provide more direct access to court records, and deliver more accurate results.

3. What is included in a background check?

Two common background checks are reference checks and criminal record searches, but as previously mentioned, a background check program is not one-size-fits-all. While more basic checks verify whether the applicants are being truthful about criminal records, education, and employment history, other checks can include motor vehicle record checks, credit history checks, drug and health screening, social media screening, and more.

In order for your background check to be as accurate and thorough as possible, it is important to start by obtaining accurate identifying information.

4. Is there a specific type of background check that delivers better results?

There is no one specific version of a background check for employment that delivers the best results. Accuracy and reliability of results come from the depth of the background check along with validating data and using proper identifiers. If it is more comprehensive, your organization will receive better results. Employers may have more success with a specific type of check, however, depending on the specific goals of the organization (see answer to next question).

A best practice that Sterling follows is using our services to search courthouse criminal records in counties where applicants have resided. Many employers add in other searches to complement the standard background check. For example, searching databases like sex offender registries and government sanctions lists can deliver the results your organization needs to meet your unique goals.

5. Which background check should my organization use?

This answer will come from your organization, with consultation from your legal counsel. The right background check for your organization should be selected based on state and local laws, your specific industry, and the job requirements per role.

To provide a specific example, you may need to run a motor vehicle records check and/or drug test for an applicant who will be operating machinery or driving a company vehicle. If you’re bringing on volunteers, a sex offender registry search may be something to consider. And if the nature of the position for a new employee makes it relevant, they may go through a credit history check.

As stated above, it is most important to speak with your legal counsel to understand and make a final decision on which type or types of background check are best suited for your organization.

6. How long does a background check take?

Timing for a background check will vary. This is based on the amounts and types of searches conducted and the third-party provider with whom your organization is working.

Sterling’s overall screening speed is fast, with roughly 70% of background checks closing in one hour, and 90% closing in one day. We do this with the help of CourtDirectTM, our proprietary automation technology that allows us to digitally access 85% of US criminal search records. This accessibility also enabled us to fulfill background checks in most US jurisdictions during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, even when most courts were closed. Today, we continue to fulfill background checks in over 99% of US jurisdictions.

7. How can organizations meet compliance requirements?

Human resources professionals can find themselves questioning the legal side of background checks when putting a process in place. This is understandable, as the legal landscape of background checks is constantly changing and evolving. With such constant change at the state and local level, states have even passed their own legislations to regulate the use of a background check for employment. Organizations are encouraged to consult with their legal counsel about the impacts of any legislations or requirements.

Regulatory compliance is built into the framework of Sterling’s service offerings. Holding ourselves to the highest legal and ethical standards for compliance is paramount to us in serving you and your candidates. We have a team of compliance experts that keep organizations informed of current legislative and regulatory changes and offer tools and best practice insights you can leverage to help you meet your compliance obligations. We can also apply relevant content filters based on legislations and regulations with our automated screening technology.

8. How important is selecting the right screening partner?

Taking shortcuts can put your employees, brand, and business at risk. These risks include violating regulatory requirements, financial implications of a bad hire, and liability (fraud, theft, drug use, etc.) in the workplace.

By partnering with a trusted third-party provider like Sterling, you can rely on decades of expertise to mitigate risk and give your organization peace of mind. We are trusted by over 40,000 clients who conduct 75+ million global criminal record searches each year.

When working with our clients, we leverage our cloud-based technology and services to:

  • Fit directly into the employment lifecycle and Human Capital Management landscape
  • Pick up where recruiting solutions leave off by covering screening, onboarding, and monitoring new hires and employees
  • Manage all job offers with global background screening products, and onboarding activity with minimal data entry
  • Streamline and bridge the gap between your Application Tracking Systems and your Human Resource Information Systems
  • Accelerate your time to hire, create a great candidate experience, and provide you with tools you can leverage in meeting your compliance obligations

It’s important to understand that a background check for employment program is crucial, but it does not have to be overly complicated. Sterling’s services reduce complexity while helping your organization create an environment of trust and safety, where people can bring their best selves to work each day and thrive.

Have more questions regarding a background check for employment? visit the client or candidate FAQs section on our website or view our Services page for more information.

The information contained herein is for informational purposes only. Sterling is not a law firm, and none of the information contained in this notice is intended as legal advice. Clients are encouraged to consult with their legal counsel about the impacts of any requirements.

Sterling is not a law firm. This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.