Background checks are a fairly new idea for some HR professionals and this inevitably raises many questions. Let’s get some answers to those questions.

How comprehensive should a background check be?

When you examine a candidate’s application for a job you cannot take them on their word. Everything they say during the interview and everything they write on their resume should be checked, starting with a candidate’s identity because there is such a thing as identity fraud.
In most cases, when we talk about background checks we refer to a criminal history check, which is a must, but recruiting agents should also do a thorough job of examining a candidate’s education and employment history.

How long does a background check take?

In many cases, HR professionals are under pressure to fill a position as soon as possible. Fortunately, modern technology has made pre-employment checks both easier and faster. 
Take, for instance, criminal history checks which can now be done online. A decade ago you’d have no other option than to send the candidate to the police station to get themselves verified. The whole process could take weeks, which is totally unacceptable when time is of the essence. 
Accredited online agencies specializing in character checks reduce the waiting time to merely 2 or 3 days. An example of this is the Australian National Character Check Australia website which provides criminal record checks to individuals, businesses and HR professionals all over Australia. All you need to do is login and upload all the identity information of the applicant and you’ll have the full national police check sent to your email in a couple of days.

Should you Google a job applicant?

It’s the natural thing to do when you want to find out more about a person and most HR professionals do use Google and social media to dig into a person’s background. If the candidate has been involved in a newsworthy story, Google will tell you about it. 
At the same time, snooping around on Facebook or Instagram might also reveal interesting aspects about the applicant’s lifestyle, political views, hobbies or even the applicant’s work ethics. If you find out that you’re dealing with a person who often criticizes his or her employer on social media that should sound some alarm bells.

Can you turn down an application based on background checks?

If you discover a candidate has been lying about their education or past employment, yes, that’s reason enough to turn their application down. 
As for police checks, that’s a situation where you need to be very tactful. Keep in mind that you can only refuse employment based on the criminal record if the offences you discover are relevant to the position. For example, if a person is applying to work as a taxi driver and their police check certificate shows drink driving offences, there is a reasonable correlation to refuse the applicant due to the nature of the job. Employers need to make sure that there is a clear correlation between the job and the criminal record; otherwise you risk being sued for discrimination.

Can you pass on a job application based on social media findings?

Checking out someone’s social media profile is not against the law, but the information obtained this way might fall under Australian privacy laws. An HR manager cannot turn down an applicant citing some posts found on Facebook.
Social media checks are too new to be properly regulated so for the time being it’s best to err on the side of caution and not mention you found concerning posts on the candidate’s social media. 
Wrapping up, the top five questions HR professionals from Australia have been summed up. To be a true professional in your field, know the law, have an understanding of best practices in the industry and stay consistent with HR processes for all new and old job applicants.

Image source: