Contractor Background Check Program: Best Practices You Should Be Following

Background Screening | December 2, 2020
contractor background check

Hiring an employee is not the same as engaging a contractor through a regional or national service network.

The supervision, direct relationship, and other requirements that exist in an employment relationship are not present when your organization uses a service network to deliver services or products to your consumers.

So, why would the contractor background check practices be the same? They are not.

For clarity, the term “contractor” refers to any individual that is not directly employed by your organization but undertakes a contract to complete a service or job for you. These best practices are designed to guide organizations that engage full-service networks, versus the common gig economy reference to contractors who would be engaged by another individual directly.

In most service contract relationships, your organization will never have direct contact with the contractor doing the work on your behalf. Your organization is focused on risk mitigation and ensuring no contractor will do operational or reputational damage and for this reason, most of your interest will be on safety. For this reason, identity verification is a key component to any program as are the specific background searches conducted and how individuals are monitoring once in your service network, and below we review each of these in turn.

Keep reading to learn the best practices for managing your contractor background check program.


Properly verify the person’s identity for accurate contractor background check results

To ensure a complete and useful contractor background check, the personal identifiers of the individual being screened must be accurate. This means any name(s), date of birth (DOB), Social Security Number (SSN), and address information needs to be correct and thorough. Each background search should contain a Person/Identity Search, once called an SSN Trace.

This search is used to verify the identity of an individual by searching hundreds of sources including credit bureau header information, USPS address forwarding details, utility bill records, voter registration data, licensing and registration data, and various repositories of information. The search returns all associated names, DOB, and address history details for the individual which are then used as pointers for additional searches conducted. It also determines if an SSN is included on the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File and therefore invalid, when and during what year(s) the SSN was issued. This is important to confirm the date of birth and geographic location of the individual. Ensuring honesty in this information sets a strong foundation upon which other searches can be conducted.

Importantly, the identity search will help verify that the names provided, known as given names, are accurate, and it may provide a middle name that can be used for a more thorough search. Additionally, other names the individual may have used, former names, other surnames, nick or preferred names, may also be identified. These can then be reviewed to determine if they should be included in the background search. Oftentimes, those with criminal records will use alternate names to reduce the chance of those records being identified so using all known names is very important. The DOB, used along with the name, is the single most helpful identifier, to locate possible records and any discrepancy in the DOB may exclude records that should be part of your search. Performing a criminal background check using incorrect or fraudulent information invalidates the entire criminal background check altogether.

To learn more about this topic, read our article on the identification process.


Conduct Criminal and Driver Record Searches to understand if the individual poses a risk

Among the most common components of safety-focused background checks are criminal, sex offender, and driving records. These searches, which are conducted effectively will provide insight into the contractor’s background and suitability for eligibility in a service network. Ensuring that your customers are protected in their homes, workplaces, and communities, as well as protecting your reputation, relies on ensuring contractors are not posing a risk. Services of note are county criminal record check, federal criminal record check, a national criminal database search, and a sex offender registry search. If driving is required in their role, a driver record search should also be included. If the individual is a “helper” or will be working on the vehicle but not responsible for driving, this driving search is not as applicable. Let’s look more closely at the recommended scope for each of these search types and why they are considered best practices for a contractor background check.


Follow an appeal process to offer the individual being screened an opportunity to explain results before a decision is made

An addition to the background screening process that is quickly being embraced by the ban the box and fair chance movement, is the concept of an appeal. This step occurs after the contractor background check is completed and before a final decision is made on the findings, specifically when those findings may have an adverse impact on the individual. An adverse impact is an event like not being hired, not being deemed authorized to work on a contract or other restrictions on their final status with your organization. The appeal process is in addition to any prescribed requirement under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, (FCRA).

An appeal is an opportunity for the individual being screened to confirm the accuracy of the report contents and appeal for further consideration based on those findings. It offers the chance to provide additional information related to the matter at hand, most often a criminal history, and share extenuating circumstances for the issue, rehabilitation efforts since the issue, and/or other considerations that should be made before a final decision is arrived at. This is the chance for the individual to demonstrate why they should be considered for the role and deemed suitable for the opportunity. It also ensures that an individualized assessment is done specifically to that individual and their unique situation. It does not use a rigid process for making decisions but allows for some flexibility to accommodate various situations.


Continuous Criminal Monitoring after the initial background check

While a comprehensive contractor background check is valuable at the outset, and during regular intervals, of the engagement with an individual, continuous monitoring provides an ongoing method of ensuring risk is managed and reduced. Continuous monitoring is the ongoing process of reviewing criminal records on an individual that may flag internal threats and safety concerns. It is a helpful tool in a risk management strategy and will be best supported when used with a self-reporting policy, which encourages individuals to come forward with any relevant information that may impact contract program participation.

Using the individual’s name, date of birth, and SSN, where available, this service provides access to near-real-time data for United States (US) arrest, court, and booking records from county jails and Department of Corrections facilities across most of the US. While not nationwide coverage, sources cover most of the population and are a suitable search to identify potential behavior that may pose a risk to your business, customers, brand, customer loyalty, and reputation. Continuous monitoring will typically provide notice within 24 hours of the event. Incarceration and booking alerts provide a proactive tool and more timely information over a wider geographic area than a local level county record check and serve to fill the gap between more thorough background screenings.



Sharing your organization’s expectations with your service network is not enough to ensure compliance with your requirements. The requirement for background checks should be documented and agreed to in every service contract for every provider in your network. A proper program will also include having your partner report compliance rates across the network, versus relying on a self-certification, which is common and demonstrates far less diligence. Throughout the evolution of the program, compliance rates should also increase, and this will demonstrate the commitment to compliance that is required across your whole network.

Of course, background screening is only one risk mitigation tool in a comprehensive contractor management program. In addition to background screening, additional risk mitigation components are COI Management, License Monitoring, Badging and Credentialing, and TIN Matching.


About PlusOne Solutions

PlusOne Solutions has been an industry leader in the risk management field by specializing in compliance programs that meet the complex challenges of geographically dispersed contractors, vendors, and employee networks. PlusOne Solutions protects companies from possible financial, legal, and reputational risks associated with contractor and vendor relationships while creating safer work environments. To learn more, visit our site.


Contents are provided for information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Users are reminded to seek legal counsel concerning their obligations and use of PlusOne Solutions services.


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