Is your company hiring? Whether this is your first time creating a staff or simply another annual employment run, refreshing yourself on the basics is a must. Laws can change from year to year, along with recruiting strategies and generational expectations, so it’s in your interest to give this post a quick read.

Many employers choose to perform employee screens on their batch of candidates to better their chances at finding the perfect hire—and if you don’t, you should. However, most are unaware that this practice is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and that risky candidates can still slip through the cracks without proper employee screening. Whether you’re running a trucking company or an at-home day care, there are some essential dos and don’ts when it comes to screening potential employees. Let’s take a look.

Essential Employee Screening: Dos

  • Verify employment

It may seem obvious, but the amount of employers who don’t actually verify a candidate’s employment history is staggering. Perhaps their role wasn’t as esteemed as “Account Executive,” or maybe they didn’t even work there at all. Either way, the only way to find out is by doing a bit of research. Call the numbers provided for various former supervisors and ask them to confirm their name, position, title, role, and responsibilities. You can also ask if their former employee is eligible for rehiring, which can indicate a red flag if they left on bad terms. Note: the number of their “manager” might actually be their best friend’s phone number, so check the internet to make sure the information provided to you was accurate.

  • Run a background check

Make sure your pre-employment screening is complete with a background check, especially if your company is in a field that works with children or sensitive information. A criminal report can reveal a wide amount of information, from minor infractions to major arrests. You’ll need to filter through this information to see what’s salient; for example, you probably won’t discriminate for a J-Walking ticket, but you probably don’t want to give someone with a DUI on their record a job as your delivery driver.

  • Be compliant

Keep in mind while performing employment screening that you need to maintain compliance with federal laws and regulations. The government—through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Federal Trade Commission—has privacy legislation in place which protects your candidates’ information. Be sure to receive written permission to perform the check, comply with all Fair Credit Reporting Act requirements (FCRA), and to not misuse the information in violation of EEOC laws. Non-compliance can land you in a whirlwind of trouble and might demand representation in employment litigation.

Essential Employee Screening: Don’ts

  • Discriminate

The EEOC considers unlawful employment discrimination as disqualifications on behalf of age, disability, compensation, genetic information, harassment, national origin, pregnancy, race/color, religion, retaliation, sex or sexual harassment. It’s illegal to use any of this type of information that you might find within your employment screening during your hiring decision. If you’re still unsure what’s considered discriminatory, be sure to protect yourself by checking ahead of time.

  • Assume accuracy

Sometimes employers will perform a pre-employment screen, but only verify a few pieces of information and assume the rest is accurate. Work history is usually confirmed, but statements regarding education or credentials are often taken for granted. Don’t assume the accuracy of anything on your candidates’ resume or application, and make sure your employment screen is all encompassing.

  • Fall into the halo effect

The biggest mistake employers can make during hiring is falling into the halo effect and neglecting to run any screen at all. The “halo effect” refers to an interviewer’s biased tendency to form a generalized positive impression of an applicant influenced by the like ability of their character. For example, an amicable interviewee who strikes an incredible first impression and gets hired on the spot, might actually have a fluffed up resume and a history chock full of unwanted surprises. Choosing to screen one candidate over the other might also been seen as discriminatory, so make sure to preform background checks consistently and unilaterally—no matter how amazing they might seem.

Equipped with these three essential dos and don’ts, you’ll be well on your way to a new hire in no time. Keep these things in mind when looking for your next employee to better protect yourself and your company. Happy hunting!