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Background Check Providers and Risks

Published September 2020

Background investigations and reference checks are employers' principal means of securing information about potential hires from sources other than the applicants themselves. A background investigation generally involves determining whether an applicant may be unqualified for a position due to a record of criminal conviction, motor vehicle violations, poor credit history, or misrepresentation regarding education or work history. A reference check generally involves contacting applicants' former employers, supervisors, co-workers and educators to verify previous employment and to obtain information about the individual's knowledge, skills, abilities and character.

A major reason to conduct background and reference checks is to avoid harm or legal liability of various types to the employer or to others. This includes harm to: 

  • Other employees by sexual harassment or workplace violence. 

  • The organization's customers by, for example, sexual assault on business premises. 

  • The public by negligent driving.

  • The employer's business through financial loss or image and reputational issues. 

Defense of legal claims, such as negligent hiring, is a compelling reason to conduct in-depth criminal records searches of job applicants. A multilevel jurisdictional criminal records search can be strong evidence that the employer exercised due care in hiring.

ESC highly recommends you review "6 Tips for Using Criminal Background Checks" ( and "The Increasing Risks of Criminal Background Checks" ( by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) before conducting a criminal background check.

Highly Rated Background Check Providers:

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