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How Long Is a Background Check Good For? Your HR Questions Answered

One of the most common questions we get at CNet Technologies is the query, "How long is a background check good for?" This kind of question makes third-party background checks seem more like a consumable than their actual purpose, but it gives us a chance to shed some light on the nature of third-party background checks.

Unfortunately—or maybe fortunately— third-party background checks aren't like a gallon of milk: at some point, they won't suddenly expire and lose usefulness. Instead, think of a background check like a snapshot in time: when conducted correctly, it's an accurate representation of—in general—the past seven years of someone's criminal history as well as a verification of their employment and education.

Past details are, for the most part, set in stone. Usually, a new background check won't find further information about that particular block of yearsHowever, the moment you complete the background check, your employee or job candidate can do something new that might appear on the next snapshot—like a fresh conviction.

We don't share this information to create fear or worry the hard-working HR managers of the world: sadly, this is simply part of the work that goes into verifying potential employees. While we cannot give you a specific number for when you should investigate your employees for potential red flags, we can point out some potential triggers that imply scheduling a new round of background screening might fit well for your circumstances.

checklist on chalkboard

1. After an Extended Leave

It makes sense to screen a contractor, employee, or volunteer after some form of lengthy absence. Excused types of leave for volunteers or employees will understandably have some form of procedure governing them. However, if a contractor or vendor does no work for you for a year or two but then returns, that return may be a good time to do a customized screening just for the years they've been gone.

The time when a volunteer, contractor, or employee is not with you is more uncertain than the time they spend with your company. You get a feel for someone's ability to manage their workload when they come in consistently each day.

When a person returns after being away for an extended period, their absence is almost like a "black box." Without some form of screening upon return, you have no clear picture of whether or not this is the same person you hired. While minor absences covered by company policy may not justify this kind of screening, an extended period between contact deserves another investigation.

2. Before Transfers, Promotions, or New Responsibilities

When you plan on giving an employee more responsibility—either through moving to a new department or promoting them into a higher-level role—you may have grounds to screen them again. For one thing, there may be aspects of the initial screening that you want to review with new eyes, given that a change in their role may highlight different needs.

  • Education verification may suddenly seem more significant when attempting to decide on who to promote.
  • Knowing that you aren't promoting or transferring someone who has had a dramatic change in their criminal history recently can offer real peace of mind. 

expired rubber stamp

3. Screen Employees Every 2-3 Years in Sensitive Fields

Some fields may merit background screening every two or three years, such as when working with children or in complex financial industries with specific responsibilities.

The idea of having to run a check every couple of years is less work if you have some form of modernized screening platform. For example, the CTrack system from CNet Technologies allows you to customize your system and easily automates background screening on a timescale that works for your unique needs.

While it's an additional expense to re-screen frequently, these updated snapshots of your employees can include only that which you don't already know, making them more straightforward.

4. In Other Circumstances, Screen at Least Every 4-5 Years

If the above conditions don't apply, we recommend screening employees and active vendors every 4-5 years. Considering that the standard time frame for criminal screening only goes back seven years, and you're more than halfway to a new seven-year period by the time four or five years of employment have gone by.

While consistent job performance may be a good indicator that no new red flags have appeared, doing your due diligence to have a complete picture of your long-term employees is a wise choice. After many years of employment, many employees of companies become "fixtures" and seem like they could stay forever. While this is a source of valuable expertise, make sure that these employees are sticking to the high standards you set for your talent at work. 

Ultimately, no one can tell you exactly how often to screen unless your industry has a federal, state, or locally mandated requirement for screening periods. Instead, you have to weigh the kinds of things you find on pre-employment screenings against the risks they could pose if committed after your employees begin their work.

Some parts of screening, such as drug testing, are routinely offered in the workplace long-term. In contrast, other components, such as education and employment verification, really only make sense to do during pre-employment screenings. 

Whatever the unique needs of your business are when it comes to screening, CNet Technologies can help! We are experts in the field of third-party screening and screening technology. How can we help make your life easier? Reach out to us today: let's work together to make the hiring process better!

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