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Search Topic 33:

Employment Screening

Web Search Guides

by Joseph Ryan, Editor

I. Overview of Topic

Employment screening is a booming business nowadays, growing at more than a 50% annual rate nationwide, despite the slowdown in the U.S. economy. Companies large and small have come to recognize that employment screening is essential to check out new employees' backgrounds and educational/experience claims made on resumes and job applications.

This applies not just to executive hires but to entry-level management trainees, blue-collar workers, temps, and even volunteers. Studies have shown that almost half of all job applications contain willful misrepresentations. People claim to have college degrees they don't have, or to have held past positions they didn't hold. Or they may claim they've never been convicted of a crime and in fact have a lengthy rap sheet, oftentimes in another state. In any of these cases, a gullible employer who hires the individual may later be sued for negligent hiring by an irate customer. Sometimes, these negligent hiring cases involve large amounts of punitive damages.

In California not long ago a car salesman got into an argument with a co-worker and pushed him, causing a permanent back injury (or so the aggrieved employee claimed). The latter sued the dealership for negligent hiring when it was found that the car salesman had a criminal record, and the jury awarded the plaintiff $750,000.

But there are many other potential costs to companies that fail to implement effective employment screening. Employee theft is an obvious one. Less obvious is the cost involved in having to fire an employee once you find he or she has lied about their education or job qualifications, and then having to incur hiring expenses all over again.

In-House or Outsourced Employment Screening?

So no matter what size your business is, if you're hiring someone, you need employment screening. But the question is, should you do the employment screening task yourself or outsource it? If you do it yourself you'll possibly save some out-of-pocket money but you'll need to gain online access to a variety of public records databases, such as criminal records databases, sexual registries, civil lawsuits, and others, plus you'll need a working familiarity with the Fair Credit Reporting Act and state laws governing this area (and, by the way, this is a closely-regulated area).

On top of all that you'll need to find the time to check your job candidate's previous employers and verify his/her college degree (if applicable). All the above is of course plausible, but do you really have the time or inclination? Probably not, so for most companies today - including even most large ones - outsourcing employment screening is the way to go. You simply submit your applicant's application/resume information plus a signed release from him/her to your employment screening outsourcer, who then completes the background-check work and provides a finished Web-based report (secured by a password) within two or three days.

Types of Employment Screening Searches

There are various factors you can ask your outsourcer to check out, such as

  • Identity Verification - Making certain your candidate is who he/she claims to be
  • Address History - Determining where your candidate has lived for past seven years
  • Social Security Verification - Is your candidate submitting a valid SSN? If not, this is a red flag requiring further investigation.
  • Verification of past employment - Has he/she actually held the positions claimed during the time periods claimed? Did candidate leave in the good graces of the former employer or was he/she terminated?
  • Verification of Education - This one is frequently fudged or exaggerated. Most employment screening companies now utilize the services of specialized firms who specialize in the verification of college and tech school degrees. This is much easier and more reliable than trying to contact college registrar offices.
  • Civil Suits - Civil suits are public records and can be accessed. They can provide a revealing look into the lifestyle of the job candidate.
  • Bankruptcies and Liens - Another good lifestyle-indicator
  • Sexual Registry Search and Terrorist Watch List Search - Your candidate is unlikely to show up on these lists but it's prudent to run the searches.
  • Criminal Records - This one can be extremely tricky since criminal records in the U.S. are widely scattered by jurisdiction. So your candidate may have no criminal convictions in California yet be a convicted felon in Utah. If you only check California, you'll never know. Thus you need an employment screening company that runs nationwide, not just local or statewide, criminal records searches. But that's not all. To be FCRA-compliant, you also need to conduct an in-person search of local criminal records (i.e., a researcher visits the local courthouse and does an in-person search of records). The nationwide criminal database search, by itself, does not meet FCRA requirements and leaves you open legally, thus largely defeating your whole purpose of running the employment screening report in the first place.

Our E- Employment report includes all the above elements. However, if you're screening for certain types of blue-collar jobs, you may only need a criminal records search conducted. This is usually adequate for lower-level positions where you don't need to have previous employers and educational degrees verified.. We have a separate website for this type of report, namely It explains the various types of criminal searches available in detail.

Legal Requirements

It's important to become basically familiar with the state and federal legal requirements governing employment screening. You don't have to earn a law degree in employment law, but as an employer you should understand what's required legally when you hire a full-time employee. Failure to comply with these requirements can leave your company wide open to very expensive lawsuits - it's happened many times, believe me -- and even criminal penalties. Fortunately, the law in this area is fairly straightforward, and though I'm not a lawyer (far from it), I think I can explain the basic requirements in simple layman's terms.

Your main concern in doing employment screening is to stay in compliance with the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act. This requires that your intention to conduct employment screening (i.e., to prepare a "consumer report" as the Act terms it) is disclosed to your job candidate in advance. This is the primary purpose of our "Applicant Information Form" at To order employment screening, you have your candidate complete and sign this form and then fax it to us (keeping a copy for your records). It discloses your intention to develop a consumer report and contains a simple release for your candidate to sign. No background-checking company can legally do a consumer report without this type of signed release. But suppose it turns out that the consumer report reveals something - such as a criminal record - that you feel disqualifies the person from being hired by your company? In legal terms, this constitutes an "adverse action," and, when you notify the candidate of your decision, you are required to provide him/her with a copy of the consumer report, the name and address of the agency that prepared the report, and a Summary of Rights under the FCRA.

I've compiled a simple step-by-step description of the prescribed adverse-action process here. If you'd like to refer to the Fair Credit Reporting Act in its entirety, you can access it here. Warning: it's lengthy and, in parts, pretty headache-inducing.

Of course, the states also have their own employment screening laws governing hiring practices. I've also put together a state-by-state list of what I regard as the most important state regulations here. Pay particular attention to the California, Minnesota and Oklahoma entries, if your company happens to be located in any of those states, as they go a little beyond the FCRA in requiring that your disclosure form contain a check box that the applicant may check should he/she wish to obtain a copy of their consumer report. This can simply be typed onto any disclosure (release) form, of course.

It's important, when you have received an employee screening report (consumer report) that you then keep that report in a secure place where it can not be accessed or read by the public or even by company employees. Much of the information contained in a consumer report is not public information and the privacy of the job candidate must be respected.


Nowadays outsourcing is the simpler and probably more cost-effective way to go for employment screening. Our E-EmploymentScreening service is geared entirely toward small-business and places great emphasis on ease-of-use, thoroughness, and legal-compliance. There's no Account Setup -- simply complete the Order Form and have your candidate read and sign the Applicant Authorization Form. Fax this Form to us and you're done. We'll then complete your report in 1-3 days and transmit it to you securely in Web-based format. (You'll receive an email providing the URL where you can access the form, and the password.) You can pay by credit card and receive a 5% discount (in addition to the 30% "first order" discount) or we'll bill you monthly.

Of course, all this is explained on the website as well. Just click on "Click Here for Additional Info or to Order" at bottom of our home page to place your first order. And if you have any questions please email me.

That's it - our ten minutes are up! (OK, maybe twelve or thirteen.) Below is a listing of Web resources to help you continue your research on employment screening.

II. For Additional Research

This Section provides reviews and recommendations of Web sites and other online resources


If you're a small businessperson, E-EmploymentScreening is your easiest and safest employment screening solution. Virtually all our clients are industrial companies, law firms, churches, health-care organizations, and others with under 250 employees. We understand that these types of institutions need only occasional employment screening reports - not thousands a week -- and want a screening company that will provide personalized service on a one-to-one basis. This is our niche and has been for over ten years. Whereas many other employment screening companies react to new small-business accounts with a giant "ho-hum" we are excited to have your business and will work hard to retain it for years to come. That's why we offer a 30% discount on your first order. To get started just go to and click the "Click Here for Additional Info or to Order" button at bottom of page. Whether you need a single report or several dozen, we'll get the work done quickly and professionally.


For certain types of jobs you may not feel that a full employment screening report, which involves checking past employers and educational degrees, is appropriate. For example, when hiring for certain types of blue-collar positions, or when accepting new volunteers, many companies run only criminal background checks. But before you place your first order, you should familiarize yourself with criminal background checking. Our site, E-CriminalBackgroundCheck explains the various options in simple terms. You can then select the specific type of criminal background check you feel is appropriate for your needs and order on an an ongoing basis.

Related Web Search Guides
Other Web Search Guides you may find useful:
Criminal Records
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Recommended Reading


III.Discussion Group


Have questions or thoughts to share regarding employment screening? Visit our Web Search Guides Discussion Group.

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