In today’s tight labor market, hiring can be a challenge for any business. When a seemingly high-quality resume hits the top of the pile, it can be tempting to move quickly through the recruitment process so as to not lose this top talent to a competing offer. A quick and efficient hiring process is undoubtedly an asset when businesses are trying to appeal to candidates, but one recruitment step that should not be skipped is background screening.

Background checks can be important for a number of reasons – especially in industries like healthcare, homecare, education, financial services, and transportation – but are many times overlooked. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reported that one study conducted by CareerBuilder found 54 percent of small businesses had noted a lie on an applicant’s resume. Background checks can help employers determine the most qualified talent, better ensure they meet job qualifications, and help mitigate future risk. From checking references to verifying a candidate’s resume to running a criminal background check, conducting such necessary screenings can help protect businesses from avoidable turnover and risk.

Some of the red flags background checks can help reveal are resume inflation, fraud, theft, substance abuse, and threats to workplace safety. Depending on varying business needs, applicable legal restrictions and the nature of current open positions, there are many different forms of pre-hire screening, including reference checks for resume verification, criminal background checks, in-depth background checks, credit checks, and social media background checks. The primary sources of investigation for a background check may include:

  • National criminal database
  • Social Security Number verification
  • National sex-offender registry
  • Motor vehicle reports
  • Employment verification
  • Education verification
  • Drug testing
  • Industry-specific checks (i.e. required certification)

In order to capture a full range of information when attempting to successfully complete a background check, many companies choose to partner with an Employment Screening Resource (ESR), for their employment screening services. An ESR firm can help conduct some of the screenings named above, as well as help ensure businesses comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and other applicable federal and state laws in place to protect candidates when conducting a background check. The FCRA includes several requirements, including but not limited to, a signed consent in advance of the background screening. According to the background check guidelines on, it would appear that, regardless of the type of background screening being conducted, it’s critical to ensure that they are permitted under applicable laws job-related, and consistently administered in the hiring process (including timing of screenings) to help avoid claims of discrimination in your hiring practices.

In today’s environment, winning the war for talent is important but winning the right talent for your organization is critical to driving business success. Making a bad hire can have a ripple effect across the organization, posing a risk to your workplace and customer base and having a negative impact on your company’s reputation. Enhancing the talent acquisition process with background screening can help to provide a 360-degree view of candidates’ talent and help prevent against the consequences of a bad hire.

Authored By:

Leah Machado is the senior director of HR services at Paychex, a leading provider of integrated human capital management services for payroll, HR, retirement, and insurance services for over 650,000 businesses. Leah’s organization is comprised of nearly 1,000 HR, payroll, and benefits professionals who are responsible for providing HR outsourcing services, including Professional Employer Organization (PEO) and Administrative Service Organization (ASO), to HR Services clients that total more than 1 million worksite employees across the U.S. Her career in HR and leadership spans 25 years in the retail, restaurant, and HCM outsourcing industries.