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Can you Make a Job Offer That's Contingent Upon a Background Check?

May 12, 2018

Written by Complete Payroll

employee payroll building


The short answer: Yes!

The slightly less short answer: Not only can you do so, but you absolutely should. Background checks are a common part of hiring these days.

They keep applicants honest by catching discrepancies on their resumes, let you know if someone has a repeated history of theft or other behavior that would make them unsuitable for the job, and generally provide a more well-rounded picture of the people who you’re thinking about hiring.

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But seriously, why wait until making an offer to conduct background checks? Why not screen all your top applicants from the get-go?

There are a few reasons for this.

  • Background checks cost money. If you are interviewing just three top candidates, that’s (ideally) going to cost you three times as much as just running a background check on your chosen candidate when you offer them a position.

  • Background checks are a hassle for job candidates to complete. While background checks are typically seen as a task handled by a third party on behalf of your business, it's important to consider the effort required from the candidate's perspective. Delving into past addresses, employment history, and potentially even undergoing fingerprinting at an office can take up a significant portion of their time. Requesting such extensive information before extending a job offer may come across as a burdensome request.

  • Background checks take up space. Once you’ve collected that information, you’re responsible for storing it for at least a year. How much space do you have available for extensive files on people that you never even hired?

  • Background checks contain sensitive information. In today’s era, people are justifiably hesitant to provide their social security number to just anybody. Unless you are coming with a job offer in hand, asking for this kind of information can be a turn-off to your best candidates, who have the option of choosing an employer that places a higher value on their privacy and information security.

Making a job offer contingent on passing a background check: Here's how you can do it.

  • Let all candidates know early on that any offer will be contingent. This gives them time in advance to assemble any documents they might need, and allows them to withdraw from the process early on if they know they won’t want to go through with the check. This saves you time and effort as well.

  • Have all the necessary paperwork and information on hand. Our background check toolkit contains most of what you need. You should be able to provide it at the same time as the contingent offer itself.

  • Be upfront about the kinds of red flags you’re looking for. It’s better to be open about this information if you also want applicants to be forthcoming about their history.

  • Understand that applicants may not be able to give notice for a contingent offer. You will likely have to wait two weeks until after you’ve gotten the check back, confirmed that they are clear to work for you, and have a start date in mind.

  • In the meantime, clear up any questions. If they want to know more about benefits or negotiate salary, this is the perfect time to do it.

  • If something does pop up in the background check, give the applicant time to address or correct it. Sometimes concerns are easily explained, and clerical errors are a part of life. Job applicants have a legal right to address any mistakes they find in their report.

  • Welcome your new employee! Congratulations, you’ve successfully mastered the art of the contingent job offer.

Need assistance with Employee Background Checks?

Complete Payroll offers employee background checks as a service to its clients. Click here to set up a background check or simply learn more about the service.

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Also, check out our comprehensive resource page on employee background checks that consolidates all the information, blog posts and other resources about running background checks on employees and potential hires in one place.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided herein does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal, tax, accounting, or other professional advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation and for your particular state(s) of operation.

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