The process of securing someone for employment can run the gamut from informal, casual labor hires to full salary positions, but each of them has a number of steps in the process. Some of these are required by law, and some are at the discretion of the employer.

Legal Requirements

Typically, any employment above the level of casual labor (i.e., a babysitter or landscaper) will need to verify a candidate’s legal eligibility to work. Some positions may require the employer to carry insurance, such as worker’s compensation. Tax information will be another requirement, usually requiring a taxpayer identification number. Some areas may require the employer to report the new hire to a central database, such as the Office of Child Support Enforcement.

A few other legal responsibilities are attached to the employer:

  • If under the jurisdiction of the Department of Labor, an employer might be required to display posters in the workplace informing employees of their rights.
  • Laws regulate details such as how many hours an employee is required to work, or setting a minimum wage.
  • Employers are typically forbidden from discriminating against candidates based on a number of factors, such as gender, marital status, race, personal beliefs, and other aspects protected by civil liberties.
  • As a matter of civil law, employers who negligently hire an employee who was not properly screened might be subject to litigation should an unfortunate act on the employee’s part occur. For example, if a company hires a delivery driver with an unsafe vehicular history and that driver gets into an accident that injures another party, the employer could be held liable.

Employers have the responsibility to be aware of local laws and regulations pertaining to their case.

Vetting an Employee Candidate

The process of checking a potential employee’s background is largely voluntary. However, it is almost always advisable to run a background check on an applicant, since a thorough candidate screening can head off any number of disastrous outcomes later on. Most employers will perform at least a cursory background screening, and more advanced companies might have a very complete background investigation.

Here are some of the areas typically involved in an employment background check:

Education and employment history:

If applicable, the position may require proof of various degrees and certificates. These are easy enough to verify through the educational institution where they were issued. Employment history is typically self-reported by the candidate and then verified over the phone by the employer. All of this is typically provided in a resume.

Criminal background check:

An automated online service comes in handy for this, as without it, individual government law enforcement agencies have to be contacted one by one, for each jurisdiction at the state, county, and municipal level.

There are a number of complex laws and regulations in some jurisdictions restricting what kind of information can be pulled for criminal background history, and how this information can be used once it is obtained. This is another reason to go through a third-party service for criminal background, as they have a standardized process for complying with applicable laws. In any case, some aspects of criminal history are matters of public record. An employer can not be faulted for discovering publicly available information.

Certain exceptions also apply to criminal history reporting. Notably, any juvenile offenses are sealed as long as they were incurred before the subject attained the legal age of accountability. Minor infractions are usually stricken from the record for any offender.

Credit check:

A credit check is a record of a subject’s credit history regarding matters of financial habit. Credit checks can only be conducted through third-party services, usually one of a few credit agencies which keep the score from various reporting institutions. This credit check may return a simple score (known as a soft inquiry), or a detailed history covering loans, debts, liability, evictions, bankruptcies, and creditor action taken against the candidate (known as a hard inquiry).

Social media scan:

A growing number of employers are taking a candidate’s online footprint into account. There are a number of issues with this method, however:

  • The Internet can be used anonymously, so employers can never be sure they have the whole picture.
  • False positives can occur when another person claims the candidate’s identity in attempts to smear their reputation.
  • Confusion can occur between people with the same or similar name.
  • Researching an applicant’s social media activity can expose the employer to information which they are prohibited from considering, such as personal beliefs, living arrangements, marital status, and so on.

For some kinds of work, however, social media activity is part of the equation, particularly for extremely scrutinized positions where safety and stability come into play.

Other screens:

Character references are a common part of most interviews. They may not be all that reliable, however, as just about any applicant can scare up three people who will vouch for them.

Some employers may require a drug screen, a health exam, or other process to ensure physical or mental capabilities to ensure the candidate can carry out their duties safely.