How to Ethically and Properly Do Background Checks

Stay Aware Stay Updated November 16, 2023


How to Ethically and Properly Do Background Checks

Imagine you’re about to hire a new employee who seems like the perfect fit for your job. They’ve aced the interview, their resume is impressive, and they appear friendly and trustworthy. But how can you be certain that this seemingly ideal candidate is who they claim to be? With a background check.

Background checks help you avoid costly hiring mistakes and ensure you’re making the right choices. However, not all businesses have a reliable background screening system, leaving them grappling with the challenge of finding a trustworthy service. The result? Missed opportunities to bring ethical and valuable individuals into your team.

In this complete guide, we’re giving you the lowdown on how to do background checks ethically. We’ll tackle the most common questions swirling around this topic and recommend effective solutions to streamline the background screening process. 

Let’s get started. 

What Are Background Checks?

magnifying glass looking at a keyboard
Free to use image sourced from Unsplash

Background checks are essentially a deep dive into a person’s past. They help you figure out if the person you’re thinking of hiring is the real deal. These checks cover things like checking who they are, looking for any criminal history, and ensuring their resume is accurate.

Imagine you’re running a call center, and you need people to work on a new product like the Vonage VoIP cloud phone system. You want someone who’s not just skilled but also trustworthy. A background check can help you make sure the person you’re considering is the right fit by confirming their skills, making sure they don’t have any past issues or reprimands, and checking if their job history matches the job you’re offering. 

Types of Background Checks

Now, let’s look at the different types of background checks you can run. 

  • Reference check: This is a friendly chat with the people your candidate has worked with in the past. Think managers, peers, mentors, and professors. It’s where you find out about their work style, strengths, and even their moral character. For example, if you’re hiring a remote technician, you might want to ask about both their capabilities using remote access tools and whether they are reliable and productive when working from home. 
  • Education check: You know those degrees and diplomas your candidate boasts about in their resume? This check makes sure they’re not just bragging. It dives into their academic records, checking if everything adds up, like enrollment dates, grades, and the subjects they studied. 
  • Employment history check: Similar to the reference check, this one covers the whole work history. You need to discuss with previous employers or HR personnel to get the lowdown on the candidate’s work profile, salary, conduct, and more. 
  • Professional certification and licensing check: For professionals like doctors, lawyers, and accountants, make sure they’ve got the right licenses and certifications to do their job.
  • Criminal background check: This is the big one. We’re talking about diving deep into someone’s past to check for criminal activity. It’s extremely important if the job gives them access to sensitive information or vulnerable people. You can even check local and international databases for the scoop on any legal issues they’ve been involved in.
  • Credit check: If they’re handling money for your organization, you may want to know if they’re good with their own finances. This check looks at their credit score and checks for any financial troubles like bankruptcy or ongoing money disputes.
  • Drug testing check: In some industries, like aviation, you want to make sure candidates aren’t using banned substances. This check helps you confirm if they’re clean and not a risk to the workplace.
  • Driving check: When driving is part of the job, you want to make sure they’re safe on the road. This checks their driving history, accident records, and any traffic violations.

These background checks help you make sure you’re bringing on board the right people for the job, whether it’s a technical screening or ensuring they’re safe behind the wheel. It’s like doing a little detective work before the big hire!

Benefits of Background Checks:

Background checks are your business’ safety net, and they offer some great benefits—let’s find out the main ones. 

Checking the Truth

chart of most common resume lies told
Image sourced from

The primary aim of background checks is to verify if the claims made by job candidates during the recruitment process hold water. This is the information on their resumes and in interviews, like skills, salary history, job responsibilities, and qualifications. 

It’s not uncommon for people to embellish a little here and there. In fact, Standout CV found that over half of the people surveyed lied about previous work experience, and 43.1% lied about their skills. So, background checks keep everyone honest.

Avoiding the Wrong Hires

By probing into a candidate’s background, you can dodge a bullet—hiring a candidate who’s not quite who they claim to be. It’s essentially a safeguard against bringing in dishonest people who fudge their credentials. Ultimately, this means you avoid the risk of costly hiring mistakes.

Protecting Reputation 

Conducting a background check can massively protect your organization’s reputation. You’re making sure that sensitive information and company assets stay out of the wrong hands, keeping your name squeaky clean.

How to Conduct a Background Check Ethically

When it comes to background checks, it’s not just about what you’re looking for. It’s also about how you do it. Ensuring that you do background checks ethically is a fundamental part of respecting the rights and privacy of all candidates. Here are the practical steps to do just that.

Get Consent

Before you start snooping around in someone’s past, you’ve got to give them the heads-up and ask for their permission. This way, they know you’re about to dig into their history and can give a green light with full awareness. It’s all about being upfront and transparent.

For instance, if you’re planning a reference check to verify your potential employee’s claims about their skills using tools like RealVNC’s remote desktop application for Mac, make sure you clearly communicate, in writing, that you’ll be reaching out to their past managers. This way, they’re not caught off guard, and you’ve got the green light to proceed.

Limit the Scope

tack and yarn wall connecting different information you can get from background checks
Free to use image sourced from Unsplash

Suppose you’re hiring someone for a job that doesn’t demand a specific qualification, say, a driver’s license. In that case, there’s no need to start searching around in their driving records. To make sure you’re staying focused, be sure to:

  • Tailor your background check: Customize the check to match the job requirements. If driving isn’t part of the job, leave out those driving records.
  • Communicate clearly: Tell the candidate upfront what specific aspects of their background you’ll be investigating so they know what to expect.
  • Stick to job-related details: Concentrate on aspects like relevant qualifications, work experience, and any job-specific requirements to ensure you’re not looking into unnecessary personal information.

Comply with Laws

Let’s talk about the legal side of things. To keep your background checks on the ethical and upright path, you’ve got to play by the rules. These rules come from federal, state, and local laws, and they’re a big deal. 

One of the key ones you need to know is the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The FCRA says that after you’ve conducted a background check, you shouldn’t keep it to yourself. Share the results with the candidate and give them a chance to set things straight if there are any inaccuracies. It’s all about making sure the candidate knows what you found and can fix any mistakes.

Avoid Discrimination

Free to use image sourced from Unsplash

Discrimination is a big no-no, and it’s not just about being fair. It’s the law. In the US, The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal agency that enforces these laws. 

They say you can’t discriminate against job applicants or employees based on their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.

So, here’s what you need to do to keep it all above board:

  • Keep everything you find during a background check under lock and key. It’s confidential and separate from the job application.
  • Only use negative information from a background check if it directly relates to the job.
  • When you’re looking at criminal history, think about what the job is, how long the person will work, and how serious the offense was.
  • Train your managers and supervisors to use background check information fairly and without discrimination.

Use the Right Tools

When it comes to conducting effective background checks, having the right tools in your arsenal is key. 

Whitepages offer a deep dive into the world of background screening, providing you with comprehensive insights to navigate the complexities of the process. They keep you informed about industry standards, legal requirements, and the latest ethical practices. By incorporating Whitepages into your toolkit, you’re better equipped to make informed decisions and ensure that your background checks are both thorough and ethically sound.

In addition to this, you can leverage online resources like It offers services such as Person Search, Reverse Phone, and Reverse Address Search, making it a valuable asset for locating individuals and their contact information. 

Final Thoughts

Free to use image sourced from Pexels

Conducting background checks isn’t just about ticking boxes. It’s about respecting people’s rights, being fair, and staying within the law. It’s not a daunting process if you approach it with transparency and a human touch.

By following these ethical guidelines, you not only protect your organization but also create a positive and fair hiring experience for candidates. It’s a win-win all around. Happy hiring!