Hiring a professional to come to your home entails risk. Will the person show up on time? Will he or she do a thorough job? And, unfortunately, you must consider the possibility, however remote, that the babysitter, plumber, electrician, nanny or whomever you’re seeking might have a criminal record, and might commit a crime again. One way to improve your chances of getting a trustworthy individual to perform services in your home, however, is to run a background check on a candidate before hiring her or him. Of course, if you operate a small business and hire employees who enter your customers’ homes, you have to be diligent about such background checks. After all, if an employee were to engage in criminal activity while on duty, you could face a career-ending negligence lawsuit.
You might want to begin such a search with Google’s Background Check function. However, given that its results can be incomplete, you should never rely solely on Google. Rather, after using Google you should move on to online searches of official state records. That is, if the state or states where a certain person has lived allows people to comb through its criminal records online, then try entering this person’s name and Social Security number into that government website. Many states, though, will require you to submit an application in writing before they allow you to search their criminal records. (If you visit a website like Searchsystems.net, you can look up any state to see what it offers and requires in terms of Internet searches of criminal records.) By the way, you have to search state by state because no single national database of criminal records exists, at least not at the present time.
You should, as a matter of course, obtain from any job candidate a list of references. You can then search the people he or she lists as references on an Internet search engine, and try to contact each one of them through their professional websites. And if any of them have negative things to say about that candidate, you can simply forget about that person and try someone else. In addition, many states run some sort of consumer services agency, and most of these agencies have websites where you can search for the name of a professional and discover what, if any, formal complaints have been lodged against him or her in the past.
Other tools for running background checks on job candidates include the following.
- FBI Records: You may be able to search the criminal records of the FBI. However, often there are many restrictions for an FBI search, and it’s likely that for each individual search you perform you’ll have to pay a separate fee.
- Social Media: Try friending a candidate on Facebook and / or following that person on Twitter. If you find anything suspicious or untoward – for example, if that person brags on occasion about his or her illegal drug use – then you’ll know you should find someone else.
- Country Clerks and Sheriffs’ Offices: Email the county clerks and the sheriffs’ offices of all the counties where your candidate has lived, and you may be able to obtain criminal records, except for records of crimes that person committed as a juvenile.
- Private Investigator: If you don’t have the time or the inclination to perform a thorough background check on someone yourself, you could always hire a private investigator to do this work for you. P.I.’s usually charge by the hour, though sometimes you can find one willing to work for a flat fee.
Take care that everything you do in terms of your background searches is strictly legal. For example, many websites offer to search the backgrounds of prospective employees, but not all of these sites adhere to all laws. If you run a small business, consult your attorney as to the best way to perform such a search. It’s also important to get a job candidate’s permission, in writing, before you launch into a search of that person. (You’ll never be able to search anyone’s credit history without written permission.) Keeping accurate written records of every aspect of a background search will protect you, especially if a candidate winds up accusing you of discrimination for not hiring him or her.