Fri May 12 2023

Best Practices for Conducting Background Checks

Tazeen Fatima
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In recent years, the rise of remote work has led to an increasing number of Silicon Valley companies hiring talent from all over the world. With more than 35% of its workforce primarily working from home, the Bay Area has the highest percentage of remote workers among the metro areas. While this provides an excellent opportunity for companies to tap into a wider talent pool, it also presents unique challenges when conducting background checks on remote workers. To ensure that the talent hired is trustworthy, reliable, and safe to work with, companies must adopt best practices for conducting background checks on remote talent.

This article will explore the key considerations and best practices that Silicon Valley companies should follow when conducting background checks on remote talent. By the end of this article, you will better understand how to effectively verify the background and credentials of remote workers and ensure that your company is hiring the best possible talent.

The importance of conducting a background check

Conducting a background check before hiring is an essential step in the hiring process for Silicon Valley companies. Here are some reasons why:

- Verification of information:

Background checks can help verify the accuracy of the information provided by the candidate during the hiring process. This includes verifying the candidate's employment history, education credentials, and other qualifications.

- Ensuring safety and security:

Background checks can help identify any criminal history, including violent or financial crimes, which can pose a safety or security risk to the company and its employees.

- Protection against liability:

Conducting a background check can help protect the company against potential legal liability if the candidate's past behavior or actions pose a risk to the company or its clients.

- Maintaining company culture:

Hiring employees who share the company's values and culture is important for maintaining a positive work environment. Background checks can help identify any red flags in a candidate's past behavior that may not align with the company's values.

- Compliance with industry regulations:

Certain industries, such as healthcare and finance, are subject to regulatory requirements that mandate background checks for certain positions. Conducting background checks can help ensure compliance with these regulations.

![Conducting background checks for remote talent in Silicon Valley companies.jpg] Screenshot 2023-12-01 at 4.24.43 AM.png Source: StandOutCV

Here are some real examples that highlight the importance of conducting thorough background checks on employees:

  1. Apple - In 2021, Apple faced a lawsuit alleging that the company had hired a manager for one of its stores who had a history of domestic abuse, which was not discovered during the background check process. The manager went on to assault a female employee, and the lawsuit alleges that Apple's failure to screen the manager properly contributed to the assault.

  2. Wells Fargo - In 2016, Wells Fargo faced a scandal in which its employees opened millions of fake accounts without customers' knowledge or consent. It was later revealed that many of the employees responsible for these fraudulent activities had criminal records that were not discovered during the hiring process.

  3. Uber - In 2014, Uber hired a driver who had previously been convicted of a felony and served time in prison. This driver went on to assault a passenger, and Uber faced criticism for not conducting thorough background checks on its drivers.

  4. Target - In 2013, Target suffered a massive data breach that exposed the personal and financial information of millions of customers. It was later revealed that the hackers gained access to Target's system through a third-party HVAC vendor that had been granted access to Target's network without undergoing a background check.

When should you conduct background checks?

![When should you conduct background checks] Screenshot 2023-12-01 at 4.24.50 AM.png Source: Society for Human Resource Management

Background checks can be conducted at different stages and are not limited to the hiring process. Here are some common situations where background checks may be conducted:

Pre-employment stage: Conducting a background check as part of the pre-employment screening process can help employers make informed hiring decisions and reduce the risk of hiring individuals with a history of criminal activity or other red flags.

Yearly checks on current employees: Some companies may choose to conduct background checks on all employees once a year as part of their ongoing risk management and compliance efforts.

Triggered by an event: Background checks may also be conducted when a specific event or circumstance triggers the need for additional screening. For example, if an employee is suspected of misconduct or is involved in a workplace accident, the employer may conduct a background check to assess their history and qualifications.

When someone is promoted: Employers may also conduct a background check when promoting an employee to a position of greater responsibility, particularly if the new position involves access to sensitive information or financial resources.

Ultimately, the timing and frequency of background checks will depend on various factors, including the employer's policies, the nature of the work, and any legal or regulatory requirements.

Understanding the legal considerations of background checks

When conducting background checks on remote talent for Silicon Valley companies, it is important to know the legal considerations involved. While background checks can provide valuable information about a candidate's qualifications and character, they are subject to laws and regulations that protect the privacy and rights of individuals. Here are some of the legal considerations that companies should keep in mind:

  • Compliance with federal and state laws: Companies must comply with federal and state laws that regulate background checks, such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and state-level "ban the box" laws that restrict the use of criminal history in hiring decisions. Failure to comply with these laws can result in legal consequences, including fines and lawsuits.

  • Obtaining consent from the candidate: Companies must obtain written consent from the candidate before conducting a background check. This consent must be separate from any other documents, such as an employment application, and must inform the candidate of their rights under the law.

  • Disclosure of results: Companies must disclose the results of the background check to the candidate if they plan to take adverse action based on the results. Adverse action can include rejecting the candidate's application or rescinding a job offer. The candidate must be given an opportunity to dispute the results and correct any errors.

  • Protecting privacy and confidentiality: Companies must take steps to protect the privacy and confidentiality of the information obtained during a background check. This includes storing the information securely and limiting access to only those who need to know.

By understanding and following these legal considerations, Silicon Valley companies can conduct thorough background checks on remote talent while also protecting the rights and privacy of candidates.

Types of background checks

There are five common types of background checks that can be conducted on a candidate. Here's some information on each type:

1. Education and employment verification:

This type of background check verifies the accuracy of the candidate's education and employment history, including degrees earned, schools attended, and dates of employment. This helps ensure that the candidate has the qualifications and experience they claim to have.

2. Criminal history check:

A criminal history check looks for any criminal records the candidate may have, including misdemeanors, felonies, and pending charges. This helps companies assess whether the candidate poses a safety or security risk. According to Urban Institute, almost 6% of background checks for criminal history found a criminal record in the previous seven years.

3. Credit check:

A credit check examines the candidate's credit history, including credit score, payment history and outstanding debts. This type of background check is often used for positions that involve financial responsibilities.

4. Social media check:

Social media checks can be a useful tool for evaluating candidates' qualifications and character, but they can also raise potential legal and ethical issues. But not utilizing publicly available information that could prevent a poor hiring decision. Employers must also be aware of the limitations and potential drawbacks of relying solely on online information and exercise caution and discretion when using it for background checks.

5. Professional licenses and certifications:

This type of background check verifies any professional licenses or certifications the candidate may hold, such as a nursing license or a CPA certification. This helps ensure that the candidate has the necessary credentials to perform the job.

Additional considerations for remote talent

There are some unique considerations to keep in mind when conducting background checks on remote talent. Some of these considerations include:

1. Verify the candidate's location:

When hiring remote talent, it's important to verify their location to ensure that they are located in a jurisdiction where your company is authorized to do business. This is important for compliance with local labor laws, tax requirements, and other regulations.

2. Confirm the candidate's identity:

Since you won't be meeting remote candidates in person, it's important to take steps to confirm their identity. This can include using video conferencing software to conduct interviews, requiring multiple forms of identification, or using third-party verification services.

3. Ensure compliance with data privacy laws:

Remote hiring may involve the transfer of personal data across different jurisdictions, so it's important to ensure that you are complying with applicable data privacy laws, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in California.

4. Assess the candidate's remote work skills:

Since remote work requires a different set of skills than traditional in-office work, it's important to assess the candidate's ability to work remotely. This can include evaluating their communication skills, time management abilities, and experience with remote work tools such as video conferencing software and project management platforms.

5. Cultural fit check:

When hiring remote talent, it's important to consider whether the candidate will be a good cultural fit for your company. This can be especially challenging when you aren't able to meet the candidate in person, so it may be helpful to use tools such as personality assessments or cultural fit interviews to evaluate whether the candidate's values align with those of your company.

6. Consider the candidate's internet and technology access:

Remote work requires reliable internet access and up-to-date technology, so it's important to verify that the candidate has access to these resources. This can include checking their internet speed, ensuring they have the necessary software and hardware, and evaluating their ability to troubleshoot technical issues.

Recommended reading: What to Check While Hiring Software Engineers in 2023?

How to conduct background checks while hiring remote talent

Conducting a background check on a potential candidate can involve several steps, depending on the level of the check and the information required. Here are some general steps that can be followed when conducting a background check while hiring:

- Establish a consistent process for background checks:

Develop a standardized process for conducting background checks on remote talent, including what types of checks will be performed, when they will be conducted, and how the results will be used in the hiring process.

- Obtain written consent from the candidate:

Before conducting a background check, obtain written consent from the candidate. This can be done through a standalone consent form or included as part of the job application process.

- Use a reputable background check provider:

Work with a reputable background check provider that is compliant with all applicable laws and regulations. The provider should have a clear understanding of your needs and the requirements of your industry.

- Ensure accuracy and fairness in the background check process:

Background checks should be accurate, relevant, and based on reliable information. Ensure that the information used in the background check is up-to-date and free from errors. In addition, ensure that the background check process is fair and consistent for all candidates.

- Provide candidates with the opportunity to dispute incorrect information:

If the background check uncovers information that could potentially disqualify a candidate from consideration, give the candidate the opportunity to dispute the information and provide additional context.

- Keep background check information confidential:

Background check information should be kept confidential and only shared with individuals who have a need to know. Ensure that the information is stored securely and disposed of properly when no longer needed.

- Comply with legal requirements:

Ensure that the background check is conducted in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations, including the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), "ban the box" laws, and state and federal anti-discrimination laws.

Conducting a thorough background check can help companies make informed hiring decisions and protect against potential risks and liabilities. However, it's important to balance the need for information with the candidate's right to privacy and confidentiality.

By following these best practices, companies can conduct background checks on remote talent in a thorough and compliant manner while respecting candidates' privacy and ensuring fairness in the hiring process.

How far back do background screenings look?

The scope of a background check typically depends on the type of screening being conducted and the laws and regulations that govern it. Here are some general guidelines for how far back background screenings may look:

Criminal Background Checks: These checks typically cover seven years of criminal history. However, some states have laws that allow for longer or shorter reporting periods.

Employment History Verification: Employment verifications typically cover the last seven to ten years of employment history.

Education Verification: Education verifications typically cover the highest degree earned and any relevant certifications.

Credit History Checks: Credit checks typically cover the last seven years of credit history.

How long does a background check take?

The duration of a background check depends on various factors, including the type of check, the extent of the investigation, and the responsiveness of the individuals and organizations involved.

Some checks, such as criminal background checks, can be completed quickly, often within a day or two. However, more extensive checks, such as employment and education verification or reference checks, may take several days or even weeks to complete.

The use of technology and automation can also speed up the background check process. For example, some background check companies use artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to analyze data and identify potential red flags.

It's essential to remember that the duration of a background check should not be compromised for the sake of expediency. Rushing through the process could lead to errors, incomplete information, or even legal liabilities. Employers should allow sufficient time for a thorough and accurate investigation while balancing the need for timely hiring decisions.

Get thoroughly screened remote talent within 24 hours

While conducting a thorough background check is crucial, it takes a lot of time and effort, especially when you are in a rush to fill a position. Fortunately, Remotebase provides pre-vetted remote talent in a day, carefully screened and checked for their overall background, technical and soft skills, remote working capabilities and, most importantly, cultural fit.

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Conducting background checks on remote talent is crucial for Silicon Valley companies to ensure a safe and trustworthy work environment. By following the best practices outlined in this blog, companies can minimize risks and make informed hiring decisions. As mentioned above, it's important to remember that background checks should be conducted fairly and legally, respecting the privacy of job candidates. With the rise of remote work, companies must adapt their background check policies to suit this new landscape. By doing so, they can not only safeguard their own interests but also build trust with their employees and customers.

Now that you are aware of where you can find thoroughly checked remote talent, you can accelerate your hiring, project process and company growth.

Best of luck!

Conducting background checks: FAQs

What is a background check?

A background check involves investigating an individual's personal, educational, and professional history, as well as criminal records, credit reports, and other publicly available information. A background check aims to verify the accuracy and completeness of the information provided by the individual and to assess their qualifications, character, and potential risks.

How do I check in on remote workers?'

You can use various tools such as video conferencing, messaging apps, and project management software to check in on remote workers. Regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings can also be helpful to discuss goals and progress. It's important to establish clear communication channels and expectations from the outset to ensure that remote workers feel supported and connected to the team.

How do you authenticate remote workers?

There are several ways to authenticate remote workers, including:

  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Using MFA, you can require remote workers to provide additional authentication factors beyond just a password, such as a fingerprint, security token or one-time passcode.

  • Virtual Private Network (VPN): A VPN creates a secure connection between a remote worker's device and the company's network, allowing them to access resources and applications securely.

  • Biometric Authentication: Some companies may use biometric authentication methods, such as facial recognition or voice recognition, to verify the identity of remote workers.

  • IP Address Verification: Companies can verify the IP address of the device being used by a remote worker to ensure that it matches the authorized location.

It's important to use a combination of these methods to ensure strong authentication and protect against unauthorized access to company resources.

What do different types of background checks show?

Different background checks reveal different information about a job candidate or employee. Here's a brief overview:

  1. Criminal history check: This type of check reveals information about a person's criminal record, including any convictions or arrests.

  2. Employment verification: This check confirms the candidate's previous employment, including the dates of employment, job title and duties performed.

  3. Education verification: This check confirms the candidate's educational background, including the degree earned, major and dates of attendance.

  4. Credit check: A credit check examines the candidate's credit history, including their payment history, outstanding debts and any bankruptcies or liens.

  5. Reference check: This check involves contacting the candidate's references to verify the information provided on their resume and to get feedback on their work ethic and character.

  6. Professional licenses and certifications: This check confirms whether the candidate has any professional licenses or certificates and if they are in good standing.

What is a minimal background investigation?

Minimal background investigation generally refers to a type of background check that focuses on verifying basic information about an individual, such as their identity, employment history, education and criminal record. This type of investigation may be appropriate for low-risk positions or entry-level roles with less concern about potential risks or liabilities.

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