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Performing a Thorough Background Check

Employment background checks are not just for executive-level management. A thorough background check should be performed to avoid making any assumptions about an employee’s history.

To help you get started, here are some essentials of a complete background check:

Current address

Confirm a current address through a telephone directory, confirmation with landlord, rental or mortgage company, or county tax office.

Former addresses

Confirm prior addresses through former employers, credit agencies, or by contacting landlords of former residences.

Other detailed information you might choose to verify is the amount of rent or mortgage paid, whether it was paid on time, details of complaints made against the applicant, whether their former residence was left in good order when vacated, whether they left on their own accord, and any eviction details, if applicable.

Current and former employers

Employers are reticent about providing too much information on current or former employees, since negative references occasionally result in lawsuits.

Most employers will verify an employee’s job title, length of employment, starting and final salary, and reason for leaving. You might obtain resume’ data on old application forms to compare with the resume’ of the person you are considering for the position.

A more detailed background check might include trying to establish contact with the applicant’s immediate supervisor or manager. Again, there are legal limits on taking this route and there is a fine line between gathering information and invasion of privacy.

Obtain the applicant’s permission in writing if necessary. Protect your liability exposure by discussing the legality of the background check with your company’s lawyer beforehand.


Transcripts from most secondary institutions can usually only be obtained either by the applicant themselves or through a signed release that includes enrollment dates, department and subject of study or major, student identification number or Social Security number, and date of birth.

A photocopy of the degree or certificate should be obtained for verification, if possible. Contact the applicable registrar’s office and they will be able to specify what is required to release information.

Additionally, verify that the college is legitimate. Fake diploma mills offer degrees from fictitious institutions possessing names very similar to known established educational institutes, so do not automatically assume you recognize the name.

Credit check

This is not legal in all states, so check your local laws or with an attorney before acting. Usually there are exceptions to the rule for certain fiduciary positions, even in those states.

A credit check is usually required in those situations where the position involves security, fiduciary responsibility, or bonding. Verify that all information provided in the credit check conforms to the information provided on the application.

Poor credit references should be cross-referenced and authenticated.


All personal references listed by the applicant should be contacted. If it is a basic employment check, the integrity of the applicant’s personal character can be established by phone.

Detailed checks may necessitate personal contact to meet with the references face to face, as the references given might provide information prejudicial in favor of the applicant.


Additional items which may be of relevance include drug tests, criminal records check in all states listed on the application form, driver’s abstracts and records check on civil suits.

The takeaway

Be methodical and take the time to perform a thorough background check that satisfies the need of your business.