When Do You Run a Background Check?

When do you run a background check?

Our friend, Amber Cowham, stopped by this week to help us understand the importance of background screening to the health and stability of your organization. Amber’s the Corporate Trainer at Verified First,  where she and her team offer premier background and drug screening services featuring robust, customizable search solutions.

Don’t trip up on timing!

For the vast majority of businesses, performing a background check is an important part of the hiring process. But have you considered when in that process the background check should occur? The timing of running a background check on a candidate is becoming more relevant as the laws concerning screening continue to change. More and more, the evidence speaks to performing background checks only after a conditional offer of employment, and not before.

Here are a few factors to consider about the timing of background checks.


Are you picking and choosing which applicants run background checks on before writing an offer of employment? You may become liable for disparate treatment of candidates. Performing a background check may also expose protected status information, such race, age, and sex, which cannot be used in hiring decisions. Waiting to perform screens until after a conditional offer of employment could help show that you treated each candidate fairly and without discrimination.


If you’re hiring in a “ban-the-box” state, then you’ve already taken steps to remove the questions about criminal history from job applications. But some ban-the-box jurisdictions have gone farther than just the box itself. Some states specify that employers cannot ask about criminal history before an interview, and other states, like Hawaii, have outlawed performing a background check before a conditional offer of employment. The overarching trend of the laws is to determine the criminal history of a candidate as late as possible in the hiring process, specifically after a conditional offer.


No one is a stranger to budget issues. Using background screening early in the hiring process means screening multiple candidates for each open position which quickly becomes expensive. It can be more cost-effective to wait until there is only one candidate to screen. While there may be times that the final candidate has their offer rescinded due to the results of the background check, screening the runner-up will be more affordable than screening every candidate.

Later Is Better

We’re used to the rush of wanting everything now, now, now. But when it comes to running a background check, timing is critical and later is better. Consider editing your company’s background screening policy to specify that reports will be ordered after the conditional offer of employment.

Watch the full webinar recording! Timing of screening was one of the topics we discussed in our recent webinar, Pitfalls to Avoid in Creating a Background Screening Policy To learn more about creating your own background screening policy, watch the full webinar recording today!
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