Hiring a new employee is the beginning of a relationship. How well that relationship goes, only time can tell. However, a background check can do a lot to help you predict the course of that potential relationship. Whether you're hiring your 1,000th employee for a major company or just looking for a new babysitter, you can follow the same steps to look into an employee's past.
Before conducting a background check, get written permission from the prospective employee. Though you can call references without a signature, many organizations will refuse to give you personal information without it. This also makes sure your candidate knows you'll be checking, which saves time and trouble all around.
Many people skip this step, but a background check begins with confirming the basic claims your prospective employee is making. This could start with name and address, but can also go to include job history and education. If you're running a credit or criminal records check, this information will come as part of the package. Otherwise, make a few phone calls to spot-check the information on the job application.
Check for Deal Breakers
You should have an idea of the sort of background elements would prevent somebody from working for you. Somebody with bad credit probably shouldn't be doing your books. You don't want to hire somebody with 3 DUIs to deliver packages for you. Once you have that list, look into the proper background elements to confirm that those risks aren't there.
This may require you to run a credit or criminal records check. You can run a credit or criminal records check via any background check or "people finder" website. Simply find one online, pay the fee (less than $25 in 2009) and type in the name of your prospective employee. If you do a lot of background checks, consider hiring a private investigator to run your checks for you. They have access to better tools and discount prices.
Always ask your prospective employees for references, and always call them, but also always go further. Near the end of each call, ask that reference for the name and number of somebody else who can talk to you about your new hire candidate. Ask that secondary reference for a third person. Depending on how sensitive a position you're hiring for, you may want to go as far as four or five people deep.
Compile List of Questions
Once you have all the information you need from verification, records checks and calling references, schedule a final interview with your new hire candidate. Ask pointed questions about anything unusual you found in the background. The prospective employee's answers will tell you a lot about how she acts when uncomfortable.