Can you do your own free background checks without using a screening service provider?
Yes, you can do your own background screening. Anyone can check public records, including criminal records. Let’s have a look at how you can do free background checks depending on your location. Then we’ll look at whether it is worth spending money on a professional background screening agency.
Start a free background check with search engines and social media
Even the military begin their background searches on new recruits using the same search engines and social media as the rest of us. They are of course absolutely free and serve up a wealth of information to wade through.
Wise job seekers aiming to climb the corporate ladder maintain pristine social media profiles, or at least make clear distinction between personal and professional social media profiles, often maintaining a different network of friends or contacts with each profile with little or no crossover between the two.
Facebook and LinkedIn are two distinctly different social media platforms in this regard. Facebook is fun and casual, focusing on relationships with friends and personal interests rather than work or vocation.
LinkedIn on the other hand is predominantly a networking platform where professionals can showcase their work and reference previous employers in their online portfolios; a good place to start your free background checks to verify a candidate’s identity and work history.
Free criminal background checks by online service providers
Criminal records in the US are held at local court houses and in other district or county databases, which are available online and free to search through, if you can find them. However, there isn’t a single ‘nationwide’ database, so to conduct a free background check you have to search records at all the relevant local courthouses. That means searching databases in your location as well as anywhere the individual you are screening has previously lived and worked – quite a daunting task to say the least.
Employers in the UK can request a job applicant to provide a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, which the job applicant can do themselves on the government website. However, the service isn’t free. It costs £23 and takes two weeks or more to get the results.
If you do an online search for ‘free background checks’, you’ll find a lot of links to websites offering a ‘free’ service. Some websites allow you to do a limited number of free background checks for a brief period to try out the service before paying for less restricted access.
Pitfalls of free background checks
When embarking on background checks, you need to know how to navigate the legal minefield you are stepping into.
Keeping it legal
Although accessing public records is perfectly legal, you could easily end up doing something illegal without even realizing, especially if you make a hiring decision solely on the information you find online.
Safeguarding privacy and personal data is paramount when processing job applications. If you are based in the US, you must comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act In the UK you have to stay within the guidelines of the Data Protection Act. Most European countries have similar legislation to the UK’s.
Is it worth paying for professional background checks?
Frankly, yes. Paying professionals to perform background checks on your behalf saves huge amounts of time and ensures reliable results. ‘Free’ means you don’t spend money but time is money and you will have to spend a great deal of time and resources going through hundreds or even thousands of databases – and you could easily miss important data.
The best and most reliable background screening agencies are accredited by the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA). They have the tools and know-how to quickly access thousands of databases for comprehensive results.
At Intelimasters we provide Pre-employment screening services for modest fees which can be tailored to the size and requirements of your specific operation. Our team of legal experts can quickly compile results from thousands of databases worldwide while ensuring you stay on the right side of the law.