A full background check is often referred to as a comprehensive background check or an extensive background screening. It is the most thorough type of background check an employer can perform on a job candidate.
What does a full background check entail?
A full background check typically includes verification and investigation into the following areas:
- Identity & Address History
- Employment History
- Education History
- Criminal Record
- Sex Offender Registry
- Driving Record
- Credit History
- Civil Court Records
- Bankruptcy Records
- Professional Licenses & Certifications
- Drug Testing
- Social Media & Internet History
- Personal & Professional References
Employers have the option to customize and select specific checks from this list based on the job position. For high-risk or sensitive roles, the full suite may be performed. For other jobs, employers may only require a portion like criminal, education, and references.
Why do employers perform full background checks?
There are several key reasons why organizations conduct extensive background screening:
- Mitigate legal liability and negligence risks – Thorough screening demonstrates due diligence in vetting candidates and helps avoid issues like workplace violence, theft, and harassment.
- Ensure truthful applications – Checks validate that candidates have accurately reported credentials, work history, and other details.
- Assess trustworthiness – Screening provides insights into a candidate’s integrity, ethics, and reliability.
- Uphold quality and safety standards – Rigorous screening ensures candidates meet qualifications needed to perform the job safely and effectively.
- Protect proprietary information and assets – Checks help avoid candidates that may misuse confidential data, steal IP, or engage in fraud.
Performing full background checks is one way for employers to minimize risks, make informed hiring choices, and ensure a safe workplace.
What shows up on a full background check?
Here are some details about what may be uncovered during a comprehensive screening:
Identity and Address Verification
- Full legal name
- Other previous legal names
- Current and previous addresses
- SSN trace
- Date of birth
- Company names
- Titles and roles
- Employment dates
- Reasons for leaving
- Performance issues or terminations
- Eligibility for rehire
- Schools attended
- Degrees/diplomas earned
- Dates attended
- Felony convictions
- Misdemeanor convictions
- Pending cases
- Incarceration details
- Arrest records
- Probation/parole details
Sex Offender Registry
- Registration status
- Offense details
- Licenses held
- Credit score
- Payment history
- Tax liens
- Outstanding debt
Civil Court Records
- Type of license
- Active/inactive status
- Issue and expiration dates
- Licensing organization
- Disciplinary history
- Substances tested
- Pass or fail result
- Date of test
Social Media & Internet
- Concerning or inappropriate content
- False credentials
- Discriminatory comments
- Threatening or violent speech
References & Interviews
- Comments from former managers
- Confirmation of duties, performance, behaviors
- Eligibility for rehire responses
- Peer and colleague feedback
What is included in a basic background check?
A basic background check is much more limited than a full screening. It typically involves:
- Identity verification – Name, SSN, address confirmation
- Criminal history – County courthouse search for convictions
- Sex offender registry check
- Education verification
- Right to work check – Citizenship, visa, I-9 form status
- Employment verification – Current/previous employers and titles
- Motor vehicle record – Driver’s license validity and driving offenses
While a basic check covers critical screening elements, it does not provide the depth or breadth of a full background check. Key components like credit history, civil records, drug testing, and professional licenses would be omitted.
How far back does a full background check go?
There are no federal laws that mandate how far back a background check must go. However, the Fair Credit Reporting Act states checks should only cover information that is reasonably related to the job. As a best practice, here are some typical timeframes:
- Identity history – 5-10 years
- Employment history – 5-10 years
- Education history – Duration of period enrolled
- Criminal history – 5-7 years
- Sex offender registry – No time limit
- Driving record – 3 years
- Credit report – 7 years
- Civil cases – 5-7 years
- Drug testing – Varies, typically 1-3 months
Factors like the sensitivity of the role may warrant extending history limits further. Most checks focus on more recent activities, but key events like felony convictions have no time limit.
How much does a full background check cost?
On average, a comprehensive background screening costs between $100-$250 per candidate. However, costs vary based on:
- Provider used
- Turnaround time
- Level of detail needed
- Geography searched
- Amount of data sources
- Volume of checks
Business and enterprise packages can reduce per-applicant costs for high-volume hiring. Individual checks for executive roles or contractors may be higher.
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How to get the most out of a full background check?
Follow these tips to maximize the value from a comprehensive screening program:
- Select a reputable screening provider known for accuracy and security.
- Define a standardized process for initiating and approving checks.
- Ensure fair, consistent procedures across all candidates.
- Customize searches to fit the role requirements.
- Comply with FCRA procedures like disclosures and adverse action processes.
- Use checks as one input in holistic hiring decisions.
- Update background checks for existing employees periodically.
A full background check provides employers the most thorough review possible of a job candidate. Comprehensive screening delves into a wide array of history, records and activities to paint a complete picture of someone’s past. While costly and time-consuming, full checks help organizations make informed hiring choices, avoid legal issues, and promote a safe work environment when done responsibly.