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Finding Mr. or Ms. Right

The how-to's of pre-employment screening

by Kelly Sanders

The truth is there are a lot of employers today that don’t screen potential employees during the hiring process. If your organization fits within this class, what’s the reason you haven’t put a screening system in place? Is it because you don’t know where or how to start? Is it due to the cost? Or do you just figure, “As long as the individual has the skills necessary to perform the job and the interview goes well, I’ll just trust my gut?” Whatever your circumstance, think back to all your years of interviewing and hiring. You can probably recall a time or two when you wish you would have dug a little deeper to make sure the candidate was more qualified or reputable, right?

Unfortunately, the good ‘ol days of a firm handshake to seal a deal no longer exist – and neither do the days of not doing a background check. But don’t panic if your company doesn’t have a screening system in place. There are numerous service providers that offer some type of background investigative service. In fact, if you go online right now, you’ll find more than 1,800 providers in the United States alone. This article is designed to help you not only identify which provider to choose, but also which services they should be providing to you.

Screening Your Screeners

Step one when selecting a pre-employment screener is to make sure the company is following FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) regulations and guidelines that both employers and background screening service providers must follow. Be sure to ask yourself (and them), “Does this background screening firm provide FCRA compliant searches for permissible employment purposes?” In addition, ask, “Does the firm provide education and guidance to keep my company in compliance?” If the answer to either question is “No,” it’s time to move on.

In addition to being FCRA compliant, the service provider you select should:

  • Follow all federal, state and local laws regarding pre-employment screening
  • Be familiar with your industry and the regulations you should be aware of during your screening process
  • Partner with your practice and care about your success
  • Provide your account with a direct point of contact – someone you feel comfortable with who is there to educate, guide and consult

Selecting Your Services

Once you’ve identified which service provider you’re going to engage, the next step is to decide which services to order. When determining the screening services that are most important to you, start with the basics. For example, order a search that will identify and confirm the name and any aliases your subject may use, or have used (maiden, hyphenated, etc.), as well as a search that will identify where they may have lived or worked previously.

Following the confirmation of the candidate’s identity, the next logical step is to check criminal records. Your service provider should conduct their searches in the courthouse (another FCRA requirement), which is the surest way of collecting accurate and timely information. If the subject has a criminal history, courthouse records will disclose the nature of the offense, when it took place and whether or not the individual was charged and/or convicted. Your provider may also use online database records to supplement their searches and fill in the gaps; however, this method should not be solely relied upon as these databases don’t provide the full story.

Pre-employment screeners offer many other services that can aid in making the right hiring decisions. Many of those services include healthcare sanctions, professional licensing, education, past employment, credit reports and drug testing. Your service provider can and should advise you on the ideal add-on services for your specific practice.

At the end of the day…

Employers today are morally, and sometimes legally, obligated to provide their workers, vendors and, most importantly, their customers with a safe environment. Moreover, it’s in their best financial interests to proactively mitigate costs that could result from fraud, litigation or re-hiring. Ultimately, organizations that conduct thorough screenings of their potential employees will realize more confidence and less regret throughout their hiring processes.

Don’t trust who your applicants say they are, what they have done or where they have been. Look into their true identities and histories through pre-employment screenings.

Keli Sanders is a senior investigative consultant at NCO Financial Investigative Services, a sister company of Transworld Systems Commercial Division. Keli can be contacted at

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