Client FAQs:
Screening Solutions, Background Checks, and More

We’ve got answers to your questions about screening and background checks.

Your Questions, Answered.

Please review the resources below for answers to our most commonly-asked screening questions.

Not a client? See candidate FAQs

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Pre-employment background checks must be conducted carefully and in compliance with privacy laws and regulations. Information such as bankruptcies, workers’ compensation claims, and criminal record data, while a matter of public record, require an applicant’s written consent in the US when used in a consumer report, per the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

The typical background check should give you confidence to take the next step and bring those top candidates onto your team while improving the safety of your organization. Criminal record searches are the most common type of background check, but background screenings vary depending on industry and specific job requirements.

It depends on your industry, local laws, and the regulations that you operate under. It is important to know that while the FCRA does not restrict performing a background check before a job offer is made in the US, some state and local laws may restrict how and when a background check can be conducted. If it is not restricted by your local or state laws or industry regulations, we recognize it as a best practice to make a job offer prior to initiating a background check.

The length of time it takes to complete the background check depends on exactly what is included in the searches that we’re performing for a particular candidate. Although 90% of Sterling’s criminal and public record searches are completed within one business day, there are several extenuating circumstances that may cause delays in the process, such as the availability of records. In general, education, employment, credentials, and reference verifications can take three to five business days to be completed.

As a Sterling client, you are able to view the estimated time a background check will take upon logging into your account. We also offer candidates an easy way to request a status update on their background check using our Check the Status service.

Results depend on the breadth and depth of the background check as well as the goals of your organization. For most employers we work with, we search criminal court records in the counties where an applicant has resided in the past seven to 10 years, which is a standard best practice. Many employers choose to supplement this standard background check with searches of various sources, including the sex offender registry, government sanctions lists, motor vehicle records, and others depending on the role of the individual. The more sources that are checked, the more information you will have to make an informed decision.

Because laws and job requirements vary between different locations and industries, we suggest you speak with your legal advisor for input on which types of background checks are appropriate for your organization. For example, a motor vehicle records check and/or drug test is likely appropriate for an employee who operates machinery or drives a company vehicle. A credit history check may be appropriate for an employee handling or managing cash assets. Similarly, a sex offender registry search might be considered for a volunteer working with a vulnerable population.

The foundation for all of our criminal record searches is a county court search. A Social Security Number (SSN) Trace helps identify locations where a candidate has lived in order to run additional county court searches. For more information about the criminal record search options that Sterling offers, explore our Criminal Background Check page.

In the US, four pieces of information are required from the candidate to complete an accurate, thorough criminal background check:

  • Correctly-spelled first, middle, and last name
  • Address information
  • Date of birth (DOB)
  • Social Security Number (SSN)

We proudly claim the fastest turnaround time in the industry for county courthouse records searches – the most common type of background check. Our CourtDirect courthouse integrations and development of SmartData proprietary fulfillment automations have allowed Sterling to decrease the turnaround times for criminal record searches to less than 24 hours (or one business day) in most cases.

Our Complete Criminal Locator tool combines three proprietary technologies into one comprehensive tool designed to locate up to 40% more records. An SSN Trace identifies a candidate’s potential address history as well as the possible alternate names used (when requested) to identify records in locales of residence. Then, Enhanced Nationwide searches state, county, and corrections criminal record databases to locate additional jurisdictions where a candidate may have possible criminal record history. Finally, Locator Select further increases the view into criminal activity by looking for related incarceration, jail booking, and arrest records across the US. Any discovered possible felony and misdemeanor conviction and pending case records are validated before reporting.

An Social Security Number (SSN) Trace helps uncover more meaningful places to search for a candidate’s potential criminal history. A robust SSN Trace identifies candidate address history and reveals any additional names used, including aliases, maiden names, and nicknames. When used with Sterling’s Criminal Locator services, it helps uncover tens of thousands more criminal records than database searches alone. For more information, visit our SSN Trace page.

Sterling can help you verify a candidate’s employment history, including previous job titles and job descriptions, as well as start and end dates. Our highly-trained team of verification experts contacts former employers to verify information provided on a candidate’s application. We also provide in-depth education history verification, professional licensure, and certification checks. Depending on your organization’s requirements, we can also create a timeline using the candidate’s claimed education and employment experiences, highlighting any significant time gaps for your consideration. We can even ask a candidate to explain the gaps and by providing supporting documentation or verifications for their claimed activities. For more information, explore our Verifications page.

A drug test is a forensic examination that looks for the presence of specific drugs in a specimen. It is used to detect use of illegal substances and/or the misuse of prescription medications. A drug test may be used for different purposes, including but not limited to:

  • Pre-employment screening
  • Reasonable suspicion
  • Post-accident
  • Federal and Non-Federal random programs
  • Follow-up testing

Drug-Free Workplace (DFWP) refers to an employer’s zero-tolerance policy against alcohol or drug abuse or misuse to ensure safety, both in the workplace and on public or private property.

The cornerstone of an effective DFWP program is a comprehensive employer policy that ensures the employer is:

  • Not hiring individuals with untreated substance abuse issues
  • Deterring employees from abusing drugs and alcohol
  • Acting when impairment is suspected
  • Consistent with documentation and record keeping
  • Enforcing company policy

Effective DFWP program outcomes include:

  • Reduced safety risks in work settings
  • Early identification and referral of individuals for rehabilitative assistance
  • Reduced costs in the form of disability and workers’ compensation premiums
  • Increased public confidence that employees are working safely

Sterling is a single-source provider for both Federal and Non-Federal programs. Explore our Pre employment drug test here.

  • Call ahead to confirm testing hours. Hours may change or may be unavailable during lunch hour(s). Most clinics do accept appointments. Call or schedule online to avoid extended wait times, as appointments take priority over a walk-in.
  • Take a government issued photo ID You will be asked to present it at the clinic. If you are under 18 years of age, and do not have a valid photo ID, an employee identification card may be accepted.
  • Arrive well in advance of the site’s closing time. The collection site will not stay open later to accommodate your inability to provide an adequate specimen on your first attempt. Arrive at the designated collection site ready to provide an adequate specimen.

Sterling’s Drug & Health Screening service options includes a large network of more than 20,000 clinics across the US.

MRO stands for Medical Review Officer; the acronym is also sometimes used to refer to the Medical Review Process itself. A Medical Review Officer is a licensed physician who is responsible for receiving and reviewing laboratory results generated by an employer’s drug testing program. He or she determines if there is a legitimate medical explanation for laboratory-confirmed positive, adulterated, substituted, and invalid drug test results by way of a donor interview.

Under current Department of Transportation regulations – Title 49 CFR Part 40 – a medical review is mandatory and must be performed by a certified MRO.

The MRO review is typically completed in two to three business days following receipt of the initial test results but can take longer depending on donor availability and other factors.

An Occupational Health program is an essential focus for American employers, particularly those in industries with skilled laborers.

To maintain a safe work environment and to facilitate optimal employee health, an employer’s program seeks to:

  • Identify risks to employee health arising from:
    • Job responsibilities
    • Workplace conditions
  • Provide:
    • Occupational health guidance and education
    • Ensure protective equipment and workplace safety controls are in place
  • Establish periodic surveillance of employee health and medical qualifications.

We are a single-source provider of a robust offering of Clinical Services. Explore Sterling’s Clinical Services here

Background checks in the US are dependent on candidates providing accurate and complete identity information. However, candidates may either intentionally or accidentally provide inaccurate identity information. Identity verification is designed to bridge this gap by improving the accuracy of candidate-provided data. Sterling offers an Identity Verification solution powered by to help detect identity fraud while allowing you to improve the candidate experience and maximize background check quality. For more information, explore our Identity Verification page.

There’s a common misconception that an SSN Trace or Locator verifies a candidate’s identity, but this search should not be equated with an identity verification tool. An SSN trace primarily identifies a candidate’s address history, as well as potential alternate names used by a candidate, to identify records in their locales of residence.

In the US, the Form I-9 completion process occurs once the candidate has already been hired, as part of onboarding with a new employer. Since the true purpose of the Form I-9 process is work authorization, it is not a reliable method of identity verification for a job candidate.

It all depends on how much breadth and depth is desired in a background check. Depending on the complexity of the screening(s) that you would like to perform on your candidates, the cost for a background check can range from under $50 to several hundred dollars. If you perform a large number of background checks regularly, integrating a Sterling screening solution into your applicant tracking system (ATS) or talent management system is likely the best, most efficient option.

Our background services are designed to help you comply with federal and state background screening laws, and our in-house compliance team stays up-to-date with each state’s current legislative and regulatory changes. Our automated screening technology applies relevant content filters based on state and federal laws. In addition, we provide our clients with regular updates on state legislation. We also help keep you informed by hosting employment screening webinars with re-certification credits. For more information, explore our Compliance Resources page.

Sterling can help your organization promote inclusive hiring and diversify your workforce as part of strengthening your company culture. We provide clients with flexible, technology-enabled processes and administrative tools to help you achieve D&I initiatives in your workplace while meeting anti-discrimination laws and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance on consideration of criminal records. For example, our Fair Chance and Individualized Assessment tools help businesses to document these compliance areas throughout the hiring process. For more information, explore our Compliance Diversity page.

Yes. Certain state laws and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (a US federal law that regulates who is permitted to access consumer report information and how it can be used) generally require either written or electronic consent from the job candidate before to a third-party screening company like Sterling can conduct any criminal record search, credit history check, or reference check.

If Sterling has prepared a consumer report or investigative consumer report for one or more of your candidates or employees, they may request a free copy of the report(s) that Sterling has on file.

Sterling is here for you every step of the way. We provide a robust Help & Resources portal to quickly connect you with user guides, demo videos, and additional training resources for our solutions. To access these assets, please login into your Sterling account.

Sterling requires accurate candidate information to run a background check. Unfortunately, once you have submitted your screening order to Sterling, we are unable to make changes to the data that you included in that order. Please submit a separate order with the correct details.

If you are a current Sterling client, you may call 1-888-889-5248 to speak with a member of our client success team.

We would love to connect with you and learn more about your hiring needs to see how our screening & identity solutions can help. If you are interested in becoming a new Sterling client, please call 1-800-899-2272 and select Option 2.

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