5 Ways Background Screening for Contractors Differs from Employment Screening

Background Screening | October 26, 2020
screening for contractors

When you have an employee clocking in each day, whose work is closely monitored, and with whom there is a direct relationship, the background screening is straightforward.

However, when dealing with contractors, or a contractor network, the variables in background screening for contractors is much different.

In this context, “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. In this article, we are specifically speaking to organizations that engage full-service networks versus the common gig economy reference to contractors who would be engaged by another individual directly.

Keep reading to learn the differences between contractors and employees and how working with a partner who specializes in contractor screening may be a better approach.

1. Focus on Risk and Protection of Customers

When using a contractor network, the focus is on ensuring they are effective, and competent, and do not bring operational, legal, or reputational risk to your organization. For this reason, the searches conducted during the background check process tend to focus more on criminal records, including sex offender and criminal database searches and driving record checks, if relevant to the position. Since most contractors are working on their own, or with one other person, in an environment where they are not directly supervised, they need to be trustworthy and safe to send to customer homes and off-premise sites. Customers expect that they will be safe in their homes, and sending a known sex offender into a customer’s home would be among the biggest risks that could occur.

Verification of education and confirmation of past employment tends to be the responsibility of the direct employer and not as relevant for contractor screening. To protect your organization, you can ensure professionalism and technical competency are covered in contract terms. For this reason, a standard contractor background check is more focused on criminal matters and reducing that risk.

2. Confirmation of Identity

Since most contractors are working on their own, or with one other person, in an environment where they are not directly supervised, they need to be trustworthy and safe to send to customer homes and off-premise sites. For a thorough background check to be done, accurate identification information and demographics must be used. This includes the correct spelling and complete submission of names – given and alias names, as well as the accurate date of birth. By extension, the identity information demands heightened attention from your screening partner related to any discrepancies in names, date of birth, or other identifiers. These are all valuable criteria used in the screening process that can impact the results. Providing false identification information is the most common way for criminals to hide their true identities. Transposing month and day of birth or using a middle name instead of a first name can be innocent mistakes or, more likely, can be deliberate attempts to hide their true information and possible issues that may impact their engagement.

A qualified vendor will not only flag such issues to your attention but will also ensure the issues are resolved before a background screening is completed. Completing a background screening using incorrect or incomplete information will increase your risk and provide a false sense of security.

3. Relative Stability and Tenure 

Many of the contractors in a service network are considered skilled laborers and may be in their roles for years. For this reason, it is important to implement an ongoing background screening effort, typically referred to as a “rescreening program.” Since it takes time for court records to proceed through the judicial system and most individuals will be on their best behavior for the start of any new engagement, the typical rescreen timeline we see across customer networks is two years. This means every two years, each contractor undergoes a complete rescreen. Not only does this ensure that there is an ongoing program to demonstrate due diligence, but it may also uncover records not available during the initial background screening. The mere fact that there is a rescreening program could be a deterrent to delinquent behavior in the network. This, coupled with self-reporting requirements in service contracts, can mediate risk once a contractor is engaged.

4. The Expectation to Maintain a Safe Work Environment

Since many contractors are working with equipment, appliances, gas, or power, they need to be sharp, productive, and clear-thinking. For this reason, many contractor networks undergo drug screening. This is typically done at the start of the contractual relationship as well as at the rescreening intervals noted above. Drug screening is not included as a commentary on someone’s morals or out-of-work behavior, but it is done to ensure they are not posing a safety risk when in a customer’s home or office location. Anything that impairs their judgment, impacts their thinking or reflexes, or alters their expected behavior can be detrimental to your organization in terms of claims or even reputational damage.

5. Ability to Apply Your Standards

While the contractor may have been screened to the standards of their direct employer, these standards may not equal your own. Likewise, many programs carry only a certification that the individual has been screened. What your organization is willing to accept in a background screen may be different, and implementing your screening program allows you to apply and uphold those standards. It is your reputation and business you are protecting, so relying on certification is insufficient. Should the unfortunate circumstance arise where there is an issue, the ability of your organization to cite its policy, program, and requirements may well be the saving grace when facing legal or other claims.


When evaluating the risk and quality of your contracted network, background checks can play an important role. Screening your contractors ensures consistent brand protection and standards across your direct hires and contracted services. Customers view contractors as an extension of your organization and do not differentiate their expectations based on whether you directly employ them or not. Your company name is what they remember, not the contracted company that engages the actual contractor doing the work in their home.

Many background check companies will indicate they screen employees and can also handle contractor screening, but as we’ve demonstrated, there is a difference, and the expertise needed to balance those needs is critical to the success of your contractor screening program.

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 website.

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

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