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Most employers know that conducting reference checks is a wise step when you hire. But most candidates can find 3 former coworkers or managers who will say positive things about them. And if they can’t, that’s a pretty big red flag in itself.

So while a glowing employment reference should carry some weight, when it comes to positions with a high level of autonomy or responsibility, or jobs that require specific qualifications, positive references may not be enough on their own. This is where conducting pre-employment background checks is the next logical step. When background checks are justified, balancing your due diligence as an employer with providing a positive candidate experience and respecting their right to privacy can be tricky.

When it comes to positions with a high level of autonomy or responsibility, or jobs that require specific qualifications, positive references may not be enough on their own.

There’s a lot of conflicting information about conducting background checks out there. To set the record straight, we’ve come up with a background check best-practice FAQ list:

Q: What does a background check cover?

A: The type of background checks you choose should be tailored to the nature of the role. Possible checks can include:

  • Criminal record checks – Determines if a candidate has been charged or convicted of a crime.
  • Vulnerable sector checks – More in depth than a criminal record check. Under the BC Ministry of Justice’s Criminal Records Review Act, individuals working with, or who have unsupervised access to, children or vulnerable adults should undergo this check.
  • Credit checks – Offers insights into an applicant’s sense of responsibility and financial track record, particularly for positions with fiscal responsibility.
  • Resume verification – Verifies details of a candidates resume, including employment, education and credentials.
  • Driver’s record – Lists when the driver’s licence was first issued, plus any driving tickets or other offences received in the last 5 years. Commercial drivers may also require a National Safety Code (NSC) abstract, which provides basic driving history and any commercial vehicle-related convictions in the last 5 years.

Q: When should I conduct background checks?

A: Background checks should only be initiated once all other steps in the recruitment process (phone screens, in-person interviews, assessments or presentations) are complete. Once you’re ready to make your ideal candidate an offer, you can proceed with background checks.

Q: Do I need to conduct background checks for all positions?

A: No. Only conduct background checks when there is a legitimate job-related reason for doing so, and any checks conducted should be directly related to requirements of the position.

For example, a position working with children would justify a vulnerable sector criminal record check, while both credit checks and criminal record checks might be carried out for a position where theft and fraud are a concern. If a specific degree or certification is required, you might conduct resume/education verification to confirm a candidate’s credentials. If a position involves driving, it would be reasonable to request a driver’s abstract.

Q: If a background check comes back “Not Clear”, does that mean I shouldn’t make the hire?

A: Each case must be evaluated on its own merit. In general, for a background check to influence a hiring decision, any past transgressions must be directly related to the nature of the position and level of responsibility. It is also worth considering how long ago an incident occurred, as a conviction for a minor and unrelated offense decades past would often not be an accurate predictor of a candidate’s future job performance.

Q: Do I need to keep background checks on file?

A: Any personal information should only be kept when there is a legitimate job-related reason for doing so. If it is necessary for job-related reasons (Ex: to fulfill contractual or licensing requirements, or for comparison purposes in future) to keep a record check on file, the information should be kept securely, and in accordance with legislated privacy requirements.

Your Engaged HR Assignment:

Before you conduct background checks, it’s worth hitting “pause” to make sure you’re getting the information you need to make an informed decision (and only the information you need). Familiarize yourself with our Background Check FAQ list above and keep it handy for the next time you add a team member!

As always, if you’re not sure whether background checks are warranted, or would rather have a third party handle the process, we’re happy to support!

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