Background checks: the theories behind the process

Abstract

The use of background checks has become more prevalent and is perceived as having crucial importance in hiring in the private sector, given the extent of employee crimes. In examining this phenomenon, security and administration scholars have promoted the general security necessity of such checks but have only focused on the application of legal and constitutional provisions relevant to the background check process. As a result, the security field has overlooked the theoretical bases for background checks and the theories addressing how background checks should be conducted. To address this gap, this article presents a qualitative meta-analysis of the theoretical literature from a variety of academic fields and identifies four overarching themes important for understanding background checks as a tool for hiring. Then, as an illustration, the article examines how well the regulation of background checks in the U.S. financial sector reflects theoretical findings, exposing critical gaps between research and practice. Thus, this analysis provides security practitioners with important guidance in how to effectively use background checks as a crime prevention tool.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In their most recent report, their 10th edition, ACFE analyzed 2,690 cases across 120 countries. The cases analyzed in their study were chosen from the results of a survey the organization sends to members. While this study has methodological limitations, it is the largest known comprehensive study on occupational crime conducted on a regular basis.

  2. 2.

    As explained further in the methods section below, the population of research literature examined was narrowed to include literature where background checks were discussed and also at least one theoretical perspective was mentioned.

  3. 3.

    All the theories that the researchers encountered are included here. No theory was included or excluded based on the numbers of mentions in articles.

  4. 4.

    The FDIC published proposed rules in the Federal Register in December 2019, and public comments were invited to be submitted through February 2020. Currently, the FDIC Board of Directors are considering the comments and how to proceed with the proposed amendments.

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Binns, C.A., Kempf, R.J. Background checks: the theories behind the process. Secur J (2020). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41284-020-00260-4

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Keywords

  • Background checks
  • Corporate security
  • Crime prevention
  • Criminological theory
  • Due diligence
  • Employee crime
  • Hiring processes
  • Insider threat
  • Internal investigations
  • Onboarding
  • Security management