Pre-Employment Background Checks

First published on Friday, Dec 09, 2022

Last updated on Friday, Dec 09, 2022

Every employer should conduct pre-employment backgrounds checks to ensure that all prospective employees are who they claim to be. It provides you with the opportunity to check an employee’s criminal record, employment history, education, and any other relevant characteristics.

Failure to do so can lead to you employing staff who aren’t right for your company.

In this guide, we’ll explain what pre-employment background checks are, what the purpose of them is, and the various types.

What are Pre-Employment Checks?

Pre-employment background checks – often referred to as background checks – are investigative checks into an individual’s history to confirm their identity and qualifications for the purpose of employment.

They are generally used to validate statements made on an individual’s resume. For example, an employer may contact someone’s previous employers to confirm that an individual worked there. Other reasons why you should conduct a pre-employment check may include:

  • Validating educational experience.
  • Discovering if the individual has the skills you are looking for.
  • Gathering information about the character of the individual.
  • Determining if there are any risks to the business if the individual is hired.

Why are Pre-Employment Background Checks Important?Pre-employment background checks are important to protect your business and it’s reputation. People often lie on their resume or provide inaccurate information about their work experience, education, and certifications.

It is important that you follow up and confirm the accuracy of one’s resume or you risk employment an individual who claims to be someone who they are not.

For example, if you want to ensure a prospective employee attended a specific post-secondary institute, you can ask for a transcript.

Hiring an individual that turns out to be a poor fit can be detrimental to your company as it can impact your business various ways such as workplace culture, teamwork, and quality of work.

You can avoid costly mistakes to your business by making a small effort in conducting pre-employment background checks every time you hire a new employee.

When are Pre-Employment Checks Done?

Pre-employment checks are generally conducted prior to hiring an individual. Not all businesses perform pre-employment checks. However, it should be incorporated in all businesses for their own protection.

Pre-employment checks are especially important for higher level positions. Especially those industries that heavily rely on trust. Some examples of businesses may include:

  • Financial institutions.
  • Insurance companies.
  • Daycares.
  • Hospital or personal health care services.
  • Courthouses.

Additionally, pre-employment screenings are often conducted for volunteer positions and jobs that involve working with vulnerable people. Such as children, the elderly, and the disabled.

Are Pre-Employment Checks Legal?

Pre-employment background checks in Canada are legal. However, employers must receive the prospective employee’s written consent to conduct such checks.

For example, a daycare facility may conduct a criminal background check on a prospective employee to ensure they have not been convicted for any crimes relating to minors.

Before conducting a background check on any of their applicants, an employer should:

  • Obtain the prospective employee’s written consent.
  • Advise the prospective employee of the purpose of the pre-employment check.
  • Explain to the prospective employee why the information is being collected.
  • Keep the information obtained from a background check confidential.

There are laws in Canada that protect an individual’s privacy. For example, employers who are federally regulated (e.g. radio broadcast or fisheries) are subjected to The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

If you are provincially regulated, you must comply with provincially regulated privacy legislation. For example, employers must comply with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act when conducting pre-employment background checks in Ontario.

Background checks such as a pre-employment medical check may be an invasion of privacy under legislation and common law. Employers must use caution when conducting the various forms of background checks.

Types of Pre-Employment Background Checks

Pre-employment background checks can include various checks. Employers may avail themselves to conduct all the forms of pre-employment background checks or choose specific ones that they care about the most. Some forms of pre-employment backgrounds checks may include:

Criminal Record Checks

An employer may conduct criminal record checks to determine if a prospective employee has been involved in or convicted of criminal activity in the past. Employers can make requests from the municipal or provincial police in their province.

Some information in a criminal records check may be protected by privacy laws such as whether the prospective employee was a victim of or witness to a crime.

When looking at a prospective employee’s record of offences, you must ensure that the offence has a real effect on their ability to do the job.

For example, a criminal record check may unveil that a prospective employee has been convicted of multiple impaired driving charges. That same prospective employee applied for a courier position that requires them to drive. Therefore, the risk of hiring them may be too great considering their convictions.

However, if you refuse employment simply because they have a criminal record, you may be in violation of human rights legislation.

Resume and Reference Checks

An employer may contact the candidate’s past employers or managers to validate any work experience listed in their resume. Moreover, employers may contact references to confirm statements made in an interview by a potential candidate.

Resume and reference checks are perfectly lawful and there are generally no legal restrictions on them other than being mindful of privacy and human rights legislation.

Credit History

An employer may ask for consent to conduct a credit history check. This is done to confirm the identity of a prospective employee or even to determine if the employee filed for bankruptcy in the past. Employers who do credit history checks are generally hiring for employees who have access to cash and bank accounts.

Employers must be cautious as credit history checks are protected under federal and provincial privacy legislation as “personal information.”

Driving Records

An employer may request a driver’s abstract for the last three years. This is done because the prospective employee will be driving a company vehicle, or the job duties revolve around driving.

A driving record will show if the prospective employee has been convicted of any driving offences or even criminal offences that involved a motor vehicle.

Social Media Presence

Some employers choose to review an employee’s social media accounts such as Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram. These social media accounts are easily accessible to anyone and help employers get a better idea of the prospective employee to ensure they’re a good fit.

How Long do Background Checks Take for Pre-Employment?

Prospective employees are understandably anxious to know exactly how long it will take to do a pre-employment check. However, this can vary.

If you are checking the prospective employee’s criminal history, obtaining such records may take longer than calling references. Criminal history checks require authorization or release forms. Generally, pre-employment checks should take anywhere between three to four days.

How Far Back do Pre-Employment Background Checks Go?

Pre-employment background checks can go as far back as you want them to. Generally, employers will go back at least seven years into a prospective employee’s background. It is important you remember that when conducting background checks, they must be relevant to the position.

For example, it may not be valid to do a background check into a prospective employee’s driving records if the job has nothing to do with driving. It may also not be relevant to investigate the employee’s criminal record.

Get Advice on Pre-Employment Checks with BrightHR

Pre-employment background checks are critical in the hiring process of an employee. Employers must conduct their own investigations to ensure all prospective employees are who they say they are.

Employers need to make sure that they comply with all privacy and human rights legislation when conducting pre-employment background checks. This includes only obtaining information that is required.

If you need assistance with background checks into your business, our BrightAdvice service allows you to receive quality advice on any employment issues you may have.

Contact us on 1 888 220 4924 or book a demo today.

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