Help reduce your internal risks - look before you hire: Hiring an employee is an important decision. Background checks can help increase the chances that an applicant’s past and current problems don’t become yours. There are many government and private websites that can help you do it yourself. 

Here are a few of the areas you might want to review:

  • Criminal records -- Look for violent crimes, theft, embezzlement and other convictions that might relate specifically to your business.
  • Credit reports -- Poor credit and wage garnishments may be a danger sign, especially if the job entails handling money.  However, an applicant's written consent is required to obtain a credit report.
  • Previous employment -- Up to 40 percent of applicants inflate, or even fabricate, jobs on their resumes. A few quick phone calls or emails can confirm that the applicant did at least work for previous employers during the time claimed.
  • References -- Check with the references an applicant offers. Ideally, they should be more than family friends and be able to address how a potential employee has performed in a work situation.

State licensing boards may have information important to your business. Driving, school and military service records, along with sex offender databases also may contain valuable information. Again, some sites may require the applicant’s approval to check.

While it’s possible to handle this research in-house, it might be easier to turn to a company that specializes in employment background checks. Be sure to pick a well-known, leading provider as some web-based information brokers accept inaccurate or outdated data. Also, consider periodically repeating the process, especially with employees who handle money or operate vehicles or machinery.

And be aware that numerous federal and state laws limit what information gained from background checks can be used to deny employment. Before denying an applicant a job primarily based on background check results, it might be a good idea to consult your attorney.

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