How an HR Department Conducts a Background Check

How an HR Department Conducts a Background Check

If you’ve ever worked in HR for a company, you probably know all about background checks. They’re usually one of the HR department’s many duties. If you’ve never conducted one before, you may not know very much about what they are or how they work.

We’ll talk about background checks that businesses conduct in the following article. We’ll also talk about an HR department’s role and how the two concepts relate to each other.

What is an HR Department?

Employment background checks for companies are standard practice these days. Before we talk about them, though, let’s make sure you know what we mean when we mention HR departments.

HR stands for human resources. Almost every company, regardless of size, has an HR department. If you have a tiny mom-and-pop with three employees, you might not need one. If you get much bigger than that, though, HR has a role to play, and it’s a pretty crucial one.

An HR department might handle various things for different companies. For instance, the people who comprise an HR department might coordinate, direct, or plan an organization’s direct administrative functions. Part of that might involve hiring, recruiting, or interviewing new staff members.

They might talk with top executives about strategic planning for an initiative the company has going forward. They might speak with execs about the kind of office culture they’re trying to implement.

They can sometimes serve as an intermediary between top-ranking execs and those lower down on the company’s totem pole. If there’s ever a dispute between management and underlings, they may involve themselves with that. They can also look into sexual harassment allegations, discrimination, or anything else out of line that happens within the company.

The HR Department and Hiring

We mentioned how sometimes, an HR department will have a direct hand in hiring someone. They might conduct the interviews themselves. 

An organization could also have a hiring manager who does the initial interview. If a candidate seems suitable, the hiring manager might then ask the HR department to do a background check on that person as part of standard due diligence before hiring them.

If the HR department does a background check and doesn’t find any red flags related to this person, they can handle the onboarding. That means they’ll fill the new hire in on how the company functions and what the new employee can expect to do as part of their daily routine.

How the Background Check Works

Let’s get back to that background check for a moment. Usually, the HR department will not bother going through this step unless the hiring manager, or whoever else first interviewed the potential candidate, likes what they see from them. If the first interview reveals that this individual is not a good fit, the company will probably tell them that they’re going in a different direction to fill the position.

Assuming that there’s still interest in a candidate after the first interview, the hiring manager might send their info on to HR so they can do the background check. Many companies have a business entity on retainer who does their background checks. If they’re not a big enough company, they might not have one of these entities on retainer, but they still probably have a preferred one.

They give the candidate’s name to this company. The company then uses the proprietary software package that they’ve developed to find out as much about that candidate as they possibly can.

There are many different sources the software will use to find out about the individual applying for a job. They will look at their criminal record if they have one. They will look at all of their social media accounts, especially those this candidate did not set to private.

The software will look for any news articles featuring the candidate. It will also look for any companies where this individual worked in the past.

What Happens When the Background Check Concludes?

Once the HR department gets a candidate’s background check results, they can scour those for anything inappropriate or noteworthy. If there is anything they feel the hiring manager or whoever else makes the final decision needs to know about, they will mention it to them.

If the background check reveals something that the company feels is truly egregious, that’s probably where that person’s candidacy ends. For instance, if a background check shows that person just got out of jail after serving a long murder sentence, it’s probably not too likely the company executives will want that person working there.

However, a situation might also arise where the background check will turn up something noteworthy but not so bad that it automatically disqualifies that person from holding a position within the company. If that happens, the hiring manager or someone from HR might invite the candidate back in and talk to them about it.

If the candidate can give them a satisfactory explanation, they might still get the job. Maybe they have some youthful indiscretion that the background check revealed, but the candidate swears that they learned their lesson and they never did anything like that ever again.

Know that You Must Submit to a Background Check

Now you know a little more about both background checks and HR departments. HR departments serve several vital functions within companies, while background checks in the professional arena can reveal whether someone should hold a particular position.

If you’re going to apply for a job with a decent-sized company, you should know two things. The first is that a background check is highly probable if you want to work there. You should be ready to explain anything questionable in your past.

The second thing you should know is that the company is liable to have an HR department. There’s no reason to think you will not get along well with the people that comprise that department as long as you do your work and uphold the company’s expectations.

About the author


Tom Bernes

Tom Bernes is the Editorial Director at The Next Hint Inc.

Prior to joining The Next Hint Inc, Tom had a hand in a number of online and print publications, including as chief copy editor and Government Technology Magazine as managing editor. He also did a stint in Sydney as group editor of RBI Australia's manufacturing group, which is when he also developed an affinity (a love, really) for cricket.

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