We may be showing our age, but many moons ago we were standing in line at the local video store. A customer wanted to rent a video for the first time and the clerk politely provided an application to be filled out. The customer said he would only provide his name, but not his date of birth, drivers’ license number, address or place of employment.

The video clerk said they could not rent him the video if he would not provide minimal identification. The customer promptly announced he wanted to maintain his privacy. Utilizing uncommon patience, the clerk politely refused to rent him the video, and the man stormed out of the store trumpeting several expletives. Yes, this is an anecdote, and involving a holiday season rental of “Armageddon” at that. But it serves as an example of someone who might potentially refuse a background check.

Here at GroupOne Background Screening, let us state emphatically it is illegal for a background check to be conducted without the consent of the candidate. But can a job candidate refuse a background check? They most certainly can.

Almost all background checks are entirely based on the gathering of public information. In most cases, the screening is conducted to assure the candidate is the person they claim to be. Information such as name, address and employment history are being checked.

In our 35-plus years of background screening experience at GroupOne, we’ve noted almost all candidates are positive towards a screening. They want the job, right? Applicants often have questions about what will be checked and if it’s optional to participate. Yes, it’s optional. No one can be forced to have background checks conducted on their lives.

If the candidate declines the screening, the employer can choose not to proceed with the interview process and note company policies that employment contracts cannot be issued without a completed background check.

Oftentimes, a candidate says no to a background check when they believe what may appear could prevent them from getting employed. Of course, akin to the angry video customer, they might also consider it to be an invasion of privacy.

An open dialogue between the employer and the candidate is the key to a successful background check. Convey a background check is a contribution to the potential hiring process and the information will remain private and viewed by only a select few.

Clearly communicate with the candidate early in the process. Let them know about the background check, why it is company policy and how it will be conducted. Provide plenty of time for the candidate to ask questions in order to create trust and confidence.

The candidate needs to be able to have a chance to state if something may occur during the screening. The background check can then confirm, or deny, what has been discussed.

It’s important to have an internal policy regarding background checks, with the approved screening report a precondition for the candidate to move forward. Such a policy should be consistent, with all of the company’s employees going through the same procedure. You can also convey a background check is only one part of the recruitment and does not serve as the deciding factor. If an applicant still refuses, the company has the right to terminate the process.

We can’t guarantee the candidate will not march out of the office trumpeting colorful expletives. But we can guarantee you will avoid the potentially expensive legal risks for not screening an applicant. And they’ll cost a lot more than a late fee.

The information and opinions expressed are for educational purposes only and are based on current practice, industry related knowledge and business expertise. The information provided shall not be construed as legal advice, express or implied.