A Background Check BEFORE or AFTER you Make a Job Offer?

July 11, 2017

Many clients who are putting together their first background screening program ask us the same questions:

  1. Can I do a background check before I make a job offer?
  2. Or is it better to do it after I make the job offer?

These are easy questions to address. Unless a background check or certain aspects of it are restricted or prohibited by state/local law(s) which say you can complete them only after you have made a job offer, you should strive to get them done BEFORE you make the job offer. However, screenings for drugs and medical exams are typically only permitted after a job offer has been made. 

Here is the main reason you want to try to complete your checks before you make a job offer: Why offer a person a job only to rescind the job offer when the results of the check come in and indicate items that cause you to make the ‘no hire’ decision? Applicants can, and do, get upset in this scenario.

Example: The applicant comes in on Wednesday to complete an application. You call him back on Friday for an interview. It goes well and you make a job offer contingent on the results of the background check. You order the background check on Friday afternoon and get the results Monday or Tuesday. Bad news. You decide you can’t hire this person. The person went out that weekend and put down a deposit on a new car or bought a bunch of toys for children, assuming he had the job. You send him the pre-adverse action letter on Tuesday and he realizes he probably isn’t going to be hired after he sees his report.

Why take the risk of having a disgruntled person to deal with? There are plenty of stories about people who get violent in situations like this. The bottom line is this: If law permits, it seems prudent to not make the job offer in any way before you get the results of a background check.

This information is not intended to be legal advice. We suggest that all employers contact legal counsel with questions about background checks and all employment-related issues.

Contributed by Steven J. Austin of LABORCHEX.

Through the Michigan Chamber partnership with LABORCHEX, members get discounted pricing to employment background screening services. To learn more, please email Kym Lewis or call him at 1-800-880-0366.