Your Guide to Background Checks for Employment

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What are Background Checks for Employment?

Organizations that are filling roles typically run background checks for employment on their candidates before making a formal offer. This is to ensure that the credentials submitted by the candidate are truthful and publicly certifiable, thus establishing trust between the company and their new hire. It also verifies that the candidate does in fact have the skill set to carry out their new job.

The terms "background screening" and "background verification" are commonly used interchangeably with “background check”. To create a distinction,  we can say that “background screening” or “background verification” is the process by which several types of “background checks” are conducted on an individual. Some of the most common types of background checks across different countries include:

Depending on where you are in the world, some types of checks are given more importance than others (Read more on this in the section "What is important to check for in Different Local Markets?" below).

Why should Employers run Background Checks?

It may seem obvious that companies should always run background checks, but this process can easily be taken for granted. Why should an organization take the time to establish their background checking process?

To Know the Full Truth:

Background checks paint a larger picture of who an applicant is beyond what they will tell you. It is natural that they will highlight their strengths and downplay their weaknesses. Running background checks will reveal whether there are more details about strengths, weaknesses, and other areas you need to know to make a sound hiring decision. 

To Avoid Criminal Issues:

 It is not beyond some people to lie or embellish their credentials and history to get a job. Background checks help you identify and act on such issues before they get bigger and affect your company reputation. For example, you want to avoid Data Security breaches. If  you hire for a role that handles sensitive information for clients, and fail to do your due diligence, your employee may mishandle the information entrusted to them. This could result in criminal liabilities for your organization for breaching Data Security laws.

To keep your Workforce Safe: 

It is your responsibility as an employer to keep your workforce secure in the workplace. Employment background checks will help you weed out candidates who might be unable to work well with a team. You want to stop bullying, discrimination, or even acts of violence from ever occurring. By protecting your employees’ well-being,  you will build a workforce that trusts you and will be more likely to stay with you longer.

To keep your Organization Compliant: 

Hiring and maintaining employees goes hand-in-hand with complying with your county’s business and labor laws. It is your responsibility to know whether there are legally required background checks that you must undertake, as well as whether your potential hires are legally able to work for you.  Not doing so can result in hefty fines, damages to your reputation,  and even criminal charges.

Are Background Checks Legally Required before Hiring?

Background checks for work are not just legally allowed, they are in fact encouraged in most markets for the reasons stated above.  

However, different markets have different laws, and ways to apply these laws. It is important to remember that background checking involves securing and processing an individual’s personal, and potentially sensitive, information. This includes data such as their full name, date of birth, address, credit score, criminal history, etc. Most markets have Data Privacy Laws in place. A good example of this is the recent updating of the Data Privacy Act in the Philippines. 

It is necessary to be compliant with data privacy laws when running background checks. Otherwise, you as the employer may mishandle information and shoulder the consequences. Regardless of your country of operations, you must make sure that you first have a strong understanding of the regulations in place regarding the handling, processing, storage, and disposal of personal and sensitive data. 

Things to watch out for when running Employment Background Checks

Questions about health or disability

Employers can usually only ask about someone’s medical status if it’s legally required for the role (for example, for long-distance drivers), or if it’s required to perform the job (for example, roles that involve travel & high levels of human interaction). Otherwise, employers are NOT allowed to ask about someone’s activity limitations as a basis for denying a hire. This is considered workplace discrimination. 

Someone’s date of birth

In the UK, you are legally prohibited from asking someone’s date of birth, unless the job requires them to be a certain age to do their work. For instance, a 17-year-old can only serve alcohol if the store manager approves it. 

Someone’s criminal history

 In the UK, US, Canada, and other markets, employers can no longer refuse to hire an individual just because they have a criminal history. This is considered discriminatory. The exception is when an individual’s criminal record has specific disqualifications. In the UK, it is possible to run a DBS check for certain types of jobs. The DBS check may reveal that the candidate is part of a “barred list”, legally disqualifying them from certain roles. 

How to do a Background Check for Employment

Running a background check depends on various factors, such as:

  • The size of your business
  • Where your business is located
  • Relevant laws and regulations surrounding background screening, and 
  • Whether or not you choose to outsource the checks.

Read our detailed guide on how to run background verification.

What is Important to check for in Different Local Markets?

As earlier mentioned, different markets emphasize different types of checks. In the UK, the Right-to-Work check is very important, since many foreign workers apply for jobs in the UK. In Singapore, academic qualifications are crucial. The Singapore government is critical that hired talent must achieve a certain qualification level before being able to work in the country. 

Read more on market-specific conditions and considerations below:

How long do Background Checks take?

They can take anywhere from a few minutes (some checks can be requested online and received immediately), to a few weeks (some checks involve lots of data gathering and contacting 3rd parties). 

The actual timing depends on a number factors, especially:

  • How many types of background checks you include in your process
  • How complex each check is - Different types of checks involve various factors that can affect timing
  • The country you are carrying out the check in - Local markets have different processes, too

You might be tempted to do only a few checks for a faster process. But keep in mind that to make the best hiring decisions, the more details you can verify, the better. More comprehensive checks will involve more layers of information gathering and review, and may therefore take more time to complete. 

Review our dedicated guide to turnaround times here

How the Right Partner will Boost your Background Check Process

Many employers find that partnering with accredited and experienced 3rd party background check companies greatly increases the speed and efficiency of their background screening process.  With a partner that already knows the relevant processes, institutions and common issues in your market, you are free to focus on more important work - the continuous development of the business and company culture.

When considering a partner, think about what is important to your organization - it’s ways of working, team, and reputation. Your chosen partner must be able to meet your specific needs, including:

  • Credentials in your market and industry
  • 100% compliance with all market requirements
  • The capacity to troubleshoot & deal with adverse action
  • Technology that is easy for you to use, and that integrates seamlessly with your ongoing processes 
  • A great candidate experience
  • Flexible packages
  • Excellent service


There are so many things to think about when putting together your organization’s background checking process. And that’s even before actually carrying it out. Think it through BEFORE you begin!

Partnering with a reputable organization like Veremark that has global experience and a comprehensive suite of products and  services will empower your company to make smart, swift hiring decisions. It will allow your company, regardless of size, to build a trustworthy and reliable team that is geared for growth. 

Lastly, remember that the process doesn't end at just one background check! Consider annual checks to keep employee records up to date, and foresee potential issues before they happen.

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What background check do I need?

This depends on the industry and type of role you are recruiting for. To determine whether you need reference checks, identity checks, bankruptcy checks, civil background checks, credit checks for employment or any of the other background checks we offer, chat to our team of dedicated account managers.

Why should employers check the background of potential employees?

Many industries have compliance-related employment check requirements. And even if your industry doesn’t, remember that your staff have access to assets and data that must be protected. When you employ a new staff member you need to be certain that they have the best interests of your business at heart. Carrying out comprehensive background checking helps mitigate risk and ensures a safer hiring decision.

How long do background checks take?

Again, this depends on the type of checks you need. Simple identity checks can be carried out in as little as a few hours but a worldwide criminal background check for instance might take several weeks. A simple pre-employment check package takes around a week. Our account managers are specialists and can provide detailed information into which checks you need and how long they will take.

Can you do a background check online?

All Veremark checks are carried out online and digitally. This eliminates the need to collect, store and manage paper documents and information making the process faster, more efficient and ensures complete safety of candidate data and documents.

What are the benefits of a background check?

In a competitive marketplace, making the right hiring decisions is key to the success of your company. Employment background checks enables you to understand more about your candidates before making crucial decisions which can have either beneficial or catastrophic effects on your business.

What does a background check show?

Background checks not only provide useful insights into a candidate’s work history, skills and education, but they can also offer richer detail into someone’s personality and character traits. This gives you a huge advantage when considering who to hire. Background checking also ensures that candidates are legally allowed to carry out certain roles, failed criminal and credit checks could prevent them from working with vulnerable people or in a financial function.

Transform your hiring process

Request a discovery session with one of our background screening experts today.

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