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How Much Am I Legally Allowed to Look into Potential Hires?

As a business owner or department manager, you want to hire people who you know will be a positive influence on the company. Unfortunately, you don’t know most applicants outside of what is listed on a résumé and what you learn in an interview. While you may be able to do further research on an applicant’s background, it is important to know what limits the law may place on your ability to do so.

Publicly Posted Information Is Generally Fair Game

Most employers will do a Google search to look for information about potential job candidates. Anything that comes back in the search results is generally acceptable to ask about or to use as a basis for making a hiring decision. The same is usually true for anything posted to a public Facebook or YouTube account. However, you generally cannot ask for an applicant’s Facebook password or otherwise demand access to a social media account.

Consent Is Generally Required to Conduct a Credit Check

A potential hire’s credit report may contain information that may be useful when making a hiring decision. For instance, someone who owes a lot of money to creditors may be tempted to steal money. Someone who has a poor credit score may be tempted to make money by filing a false workers’ compensation claim.

However, before you perform that check, make sure you get consent to do so. Otherwise, the candidate may have a legal claim against the company. It is important to point out that information in a credit report may not be accurate, which may render a credit check a waste of time and money.

Get Consent Before Doing a Background Check Too

Whether you do the check yourself or use an online background check service, get permission before going through with it. Research has shown that they can have a disparate impact on minorities or others who may have a criminal record. Some states have allowed applicants to withhold consent to background checks, and others don’t allow employers to conduct background checks until late in the hiring process.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to know as much as possible about the people who you are tasked to hire. However, if you go too far, you could be on the wrong end of a lawsuit. Even if you win the case, going to court for any reason could have both short and long-term ramifications for the perception of your brand. Use your research skills wisely as you search for better candidates in the pool.

Author Information: Eileen O’Shanassy is a freelance writer and blogger based out of Flagstaff, AZ. She writes on a variety of topics and loves to research and write. She enjoys baking, biking, and kayaking. Check her out on Twitter at @eileenoshanassy.

Bob Kraft

I am a Dallas, Texas lawyer who has had the privilege of helping thousands of clients since 1971 in the areas of Personal Injury law and Social Security Disability.

About This Blog

The title of this blog reflects my attitude toward those government agencies and insurance companies that routinely mistreat injured or disabled people. As a Dallas, Texas lawyer, I've spent more than 45 years trying to help those poor folk, and I have been frustrated daily by the actions of the people on the other side of their claims. (Sorry if I offended you...)

If you find this type of information interesting or helpful, please visit my law firm's main website at You will find many more articles and links. Thank you for your time.

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