Employment Background Checks: 5 Outstanding Free Resources
Posted by Amanda DiSilvestro on March 1, 2012 in Employee Background Checks, Hiring [ 6 Comments ]
The web — and especially social networking sites — has made it easier than ever for employers to do thorough background checks on potential hires. The benefits of background checks are enormous: better qualified candidates, improved job retention, and higher-performing teams.
While there are a plethora of paid background check sites, here are a few online resources you can use for doing free job background checks.
Where to Look
Do a search of “free background check” and you’ll get a plethora of page hits, but with many of these sites the only free information you get is confirmation that the person you want to research is in their database. If you’re willing to pay, the sites promise to find phone numbers, addresses, criminal and court records, bankruptcies and liens, property ownership, and marriage and divorce records for the person you’re researching.
Since all of this information is a matter of public record, what you’re really paying for is the convenience of finding it in one place.
Thankfully, there is a plenty of useful information you can track down about a person for free. A good place to start is the website for your candidate’s local newspaper. Many newspapers maintain public records databases or will at least have stories and briefs about criminal and court activity.
What to Look For
Just keep in mind that you might need to think outside the box when it comes to evaluating what that information says about a person.
For instance, on their Facebook profile, you might learn that a job candidate is an avid marathoner. You could interpret that to mean they’re not someone who seeks immediate gratification (i.e. they’re willing to commit to projects for the long haul). You could also interpret it to mean they’ll be spending a lot of time training for races.
If you do background searches before the interview, you could find good fodder for conversation. For instance, you might learn when candidates have been the victim of layoffs, which could lead to questions about how they dealt with that adversity and what they did while unemployed to maintain job skills.
Five Sites With Free Information
To start your free employment background check, check out these five sites.
1. CriminalSearches.com. This site allows you to search criminal records — including crimes related to behavior, business, drugs and alcohol, sex, theft and robbery, violence, and traffic violations — using a person’s first and last name and the state they live in. If the subject is in the database, you’ll be able to see their name and any aliases, date of birth, address, and a physical description. You’ll also be able to see a list of their offenses that includes the date of the offense, date and place of conviction, the verdict and sentence.
2. BlackBookOnline.info. The site — an offshoot of the 1996 book “The Investigator’s Little Black Book” by private investigator Robert Scott — is basically a directory of information sources that PIs use to conduct background searches. Unlike other sites that offer background checks, searching is not as easy as typing in a person’s first and last name. Instead, the site provides links to departmental and governmental directories across the country that would have the information you seek on file.
So, for instance, if you want to find out if a job candidate has a criminal record, you’d click the link to conduct a criminal records search, specify which type of criminal records you’d like to search and in which state, and you’d be taken to a page that includes all of the different sites within the state you’re searching that might have the information you seek. It might be more time consuming than using a background check service, but know that you’re looking at original records for a subject, rather than those that have been filtered through a third party.
3. Facebook and LinkedIn. Facebook is closing in on 1 billion users, according to an article on Mashable.com, which means there’s a good chance your potential hire has an account. And LinkedIn is a popular site among business professionals looking to network.
The drawback to using social-networking sites like these is that, depending on a person’s privacy settings, you might need to follow or friend them before you are able to access more detailed information — a step that most job recruiters should be reluctant to take.
However, it’s still worth a simple search to see what information you can glean without officially following a person. You might find anything from racy photos to catty status updates about the person’s current employer that would make you reconsider hiring them.
If you already have the resume for your potential hire, checking out their LinkedIn profile might be redundant. By browsing through their connections, on the other hand, you can use the site to find alternative references to those listed on a resume. In addition, other LinkedIn users have the opportunity to post recommendations on a person’s profile, which is an easy way to find out more about their experience and past job performance.
4. Twitter. Considered one of the first “microblogs,” Twitter is another popular social-networking site with hundreds of millions of accounts. Users post 140-character “Tweets” about anything they want.
Like Facebook, browsing through a potential hire’s updates can give you an uncensored peek into their personality and interests outside of the interview room. Unlike Facebook, you don’t have to follow a user in order to see what they’re posting, which is helpful when you’re doing a little reconnaissance.
5. Google. You use the search engine to look up information on everything from slow-cooker recipes to directions to Toledo. Why not search a potential hire’s name? Admittedly, unless the person has a unique name, you might have to wade through a lot of profiles for people with the same name. To refine your search, use the “advanced search” function where you can narrow down your search by region and exact phrasing and omit unwanted words.
When searching, try including locations, past employers, job titles, middle names, etc. to help get more targeted results. You could also turn up some really useful information — like the fact that they won an award in their community for volunteering at the local senior center, or that they were arrested for drug possession a few years back, or that they blog about fly fishing. It’s also an alternate way to track down which social-networking sites a person is on.
Finally, if your surfing hasn’t given you the type of background information you need, be sure to check out ResourceNation.com’s Background Checks service, where you can get free quotes from several vendors on conducting a more thorough search.
Photo credit: hrmreport.com