What kind of background investigation do I need?

Tasha Dyson, CFEBackground Investigation


investigationWe conduct a wide variety of background investigations for a lot of different reasons. Sometimes we’re conducting due diligence on companies who want to do business together. Other times it’s a threat assessment as part of an employment termination. Sometimes we’re conducting a background investigation in support of a larger investigation, like fraud or employee misconduct.

Our most common background investigation though, is a pre-employment background investigation. If you’re hiring someone, you want to make sure that you know as much about them as possible before you bring them on board. The most common question we always get is what do I need for a good pre-employment background investigation?

The Basics

First, let’s talk about the basics of what’s included in a good background investigation.

The first thing we always think about is an address history. For us, this is critical. It helps tell us where we need to look in all of the other searches that we conduct. We can get this information from the applicant, but it’s a good idea to independently verify it as well.

Criminal history is next. It’s probably the thing we’re asked for most frequently. We’re going to look everywhere the applicant has lived, worked, or gone to school in the past 10 years. Depending on the jurisdiction, we’re either going to be searching state records or county records.

Next Steps

After those two items, the searches that we run are really going to depend on the requirements of the position. For some jobs, this might be where you stop. It might be enough to know that their criminal record is acceptable for the job.

But some positions might require a little more scrutiny. Are they going to have access to financial information or be in a position of increased responsibility? You’ll probably want a federal record search. It includes information on cases found in federal court, not state or local court. The most useful information for pre-employment backgrounds is probably bankruptcy records, which are only found in federal court.

Does the position require a college degree or other specialized education? If so, you’ll want to verify education or licensure. Even if the position doesn’t require higher education, you might consider verifying it just to check that your applicant is being honest on their resume.

Is this person’s work experience accurate and appropriate for the position? You’re going to want to verify employment history. At a minimum, you should be able to obtain dates of employment and position held. Salary information and rehire status are also good questions to ask. As with education verification, verifying employment is also a way to check the honesty of the applicant.

Additional Options

Does the position require driving as part of the job? If so, you should consider a driving record. For some companies, this may be a requirement of their insurance provider.

Does the position require access to and control of financial information? If so, a credit report might be a good idea. A pre-employment credit report should not contain a score, but it should tell you about slow payment on accounts, accounts in collection, or a lot of debt.

Did this person come with recommendations? Have you talked to personal or professional references? Would that be an important thing to do for this position?

For some positions with increased responsibility or visibility, we’re asked about an internet and social media search. Is there anything concerning in the applicant’s social media posts or internet presence? In plain terms, we’re checking to make sure there’s no drunk naked pictures floating around. The basic question is whether or not this applicant’s social media presence will reflect well or poorly on the company.

There are other things you can search, but these are the basics.

So what should you include and what can you leave out? Well, it depends on the position. In general, you should do as through an investigation as your budget will allow. In some cases, this means that you could do some of the work yourself and rely on an investigator to do the rest. For example, you could contact professional references and verify employment while an investigator conducts criminal history searches and obtains driving records. The key is to make sure you’re finding out as much about this individual as possible before they’re put on the payroll and given access to your company.