How To Run A Background Check On Employees

Background checks are a great way to create a safe environment for your employees. Check here for more information about background checks. 

It’s important that the people that make up your business are who they say they are. Because of this, background checks are a useful way to ensure a safe environment. Background checks verify employee identities, criminal records, education, and more.

How Do You Conduct a Background Check?

  1. Create a Company Background Check Policy
  2. Ensure You’re in Compliance With Federal, State, and Local Laws
  3. Choose a Background Check Company
  4. Understand the Different Types of Background Checks
  5. Notify the Candidate of Your Background Check Policy
  6. Conduct the Background Check

Background checks are a useful tool, but it is imperative that you conduct them ethically. If you are interested in implementing background checks for your business, keep reading for the best way to conduct the proper procedure. 

Create a Company Background Check Policy

You should create a company-wide background check policy to ensure consistency and avoid misunderstandings or mistakes. This policy should be something that you implement at the end of the hiring process as a requirement for employment.

When you are creating your policy, you need to be clear about expectations on when background checks will be run so your future and current employees are aware of the process and you are legally protected.

*Note: You can opt to include a policy that allows you to run background checks at any time of employment.

Ensure You’re in Compliance With Federal, State, and Local Laws

There are specific guidelines you will need to follow to comply with background check laws. There are federal laws that have their own requirements across the country, but you also need to be aware of your state and local laws.

Let’s start with federal laws. Here’s what you need to know:

Running a Background Check Is Completely Legal

However, you need to make sure that the way you use the information is also legal. When making your hiring decisions, you cannot use the information to discriminate against a potential employee based on:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Sex
  • National origin
  • Disability
  • Genetic information
  • Age

This information is protected by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 

You Must Comply With the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

Another organization you must comply with is the Federal Trade Commission, which enforces the Fair Credit Reporting Act. 

The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires you to report the use of information gathered from the background check in regards to future or current employment. The report must be a stand-alone document, independent from any other employment applications, with a signature of consent from the employee.

You Must Supply a Copy to the Job Applicant

If something pops up in a background check that influences your decision to deny employment, you are required to supply the employee with that report, as well as a copy of a document called “A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.”

You Must Understand Your State and Local Background Check Laws

It’s important to your business that you understand your state laws and background checks. Just like any other state-by-state requirement, background check laws in some states are nonexistent, some states have relaxed laws, and some states have strict laws. Luckily, there are guides you can use to find out the background check laws in your state. 

Generally, state background checks cover an average of seven years’ history, but that varies by state. Keep in mind that state background checks only supply you with the employee’s information from your state, specifically. If you want a more comprehensive background check, you will need to go the federal route. 

Familiarize Yourself With Ban-the-Box Laws

Finally, you will need to familiarize yourself with Ban-the-Box laws if your state has them. Some Ban-the-Box need-to-know facts are:

  • One of the goals is to eradicate the stigma around people with convictions or arrests
  • Another goal is to reduce recidivism and boost employment rates
  • Thirty-seven states have Ban-the-Box laws

Choose a Background Check Company

Background checks are not free, so you must run the numbers and figure out how much of a budget you are able to set aside for this part of your business. 

Next, think about how comprehensive you want the report to be — based on that, you can decide whether you want federal, state, or county. 

Other aspects to consider are compliance, accuracy, technology, and timelines. With so much to consider, we’ve got your back with some research on a few background check providers:


GoodHire offers pricing specifically for small businesses and values the importance of making the user experience easy and streamlined. 

Their Basic plan is $29.99 per background check, and the turnaround is one business day. This includes:

  • A social security number trace
  • A nationwide criminal database search
  • A sex offender registry search

Their most popular plan is the Standard, which costs $54.99 per background check, and the turnaround is one to two business days. This plan includes everything from the Basic option plus domestic watch list search and a county criminal court search for seven years in up to three counties. 

GoodHire’s Premium plan costs $79.99 for each background check, and the turnaround time is two to four business days. Premium includes everything that Basic does, plus one education verification and one employment verification.


Accurate was built with compliance at the forefront, so you are sure to get results with full legality. 

Their Basic plan is $29.95 per report and includes:

  • Social security number trace
  • Address history
  • Current county criminal search
  • National criminal check with county verification
  • National sex offender registry

Their Standard plan is $59.95 per report. It includes the same benefits as the Basic plan, along with a seven-year criminal history and global watch. 

Accurate’s most expensive and comprehensive plan is the Premium, which costs $74.95 per report, and includes the services of the other two plans, plus one education verification and one employment verification. 


Checkr believes in offering employees a fair chance to work and wants to empower employers throughout the hiring process. 

Checkr’s Basic+ plan starts at $29.99 per report and checks: 

  • Social security numbers
  • Sex offender registry
  • Global watchlist records
  • National criminal records

The Essential plan starts at $54.99 per check and includes the previously mentioned benefits plus a county criminal search. 

Lastly, Checkr’s Professional plan begins at $79.99 per background check and offers everything from the lower-priced plans plus a highest level verification check and a current employment verification.

Understand the Different Types of Background Checks

Now that we’ve covered what types of background checks different companies supply, it’s time to talk about what those reports entail.

  • Social Security Trace: provides verification that the prospective employer is who they say they are
  • National Criminal Database: includes misdemeanors, convictions, and pending cases across the United States
  • Sex Offender Registry: screens multiple states for sex offender convictions, as well as the offense
  • Global Watchlist Records: searches domestic and international databases for criminal records
  • County Criminal Search: screens local jurisdictions for a felony, misdemeanor, and other offenses

With so many different options, remember that you should always do what is best for your small business and its needs. Some business owners prefer an extensive check, while others want to stick to the local level. Either way, always keep your business in mind and build the best environment you can for yourself and your employees.

Notify the Candidate of Your Background Check Policy

It is necessary to have a consistent process for your background checks. Construct a document or find a template to distribute to all prospective employees. The document should notify them of:

  • Your background check policy
  • Why you’ve implemented it
  • When it happens
  • How long the background check takes
  • How to access their results

Conduct the Background Check

Now that you’ve got the facts and the system in place, it’s time to utilize your resources! Remember to:

  • Remain compliant with federal, state, and local laws
  • Always keep your background checks consistent
  • Notify your employees of their results

Why Background Checks Are Important

With so many aspects to juggle as a small business owner, background checks will provide you the peace of mind that all of your employees check out. Even though it is an expense, it is one that ensures you are creating and maintaining a safe work environment for yourself and your employees.


A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act ⎸ ConsumerFinance.gov

Background Check State Law ⎸ Workplace Fairness

Ban the Box: US Cities, Counties, and States Adopt Fair Hiring Policies ⎸ National Employment Law Project

Get ahead of the competition.

Join the 14,000+ entrepreneur growing their business with Hoist's guidance.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.


We're Hoist. We help entrepreneurs successfully run and grow painting businesses. Learn about how to build your company by following along on Instagram and Linkedin.

More for You