When sending employees or sub-contractors into a client’s personal space, you need to check their closets for skeletons.
According to a 2012 study by SHRM, more than half –- 53% –- of businesses surveyed did not use credit background checks when hiring and as many as 31% are not using criminal background checks on all employees, meaning they are opening themselves up to potentially hiring untrustworthy employees.


Many employers will conduct background checks or credit checks as part of the process of considering and hiring a potential employee. This is especially important to do when employees will be alone with someone else’s valuables or if they are handling money. It is common for all employees of a cleaning company – support/management staff and technicians – to be in clients’ homes and to collect cleaning fees; so the background check becomes not just a liability insurance requirement for many but part of creating a sense of security and trust with a client.

Background checks are run for many reasons. Most commonly they are performed to make sure that the candidate does not have a less than savory past. Since there are many types of background checks, ranging from a basic county/state of residence search to terrorist watch list and international searches, the type of search can vary based upon the position that is being filled.

The Basic Background Check

Background checks prove to be extremely valuable because of the amount of information an official check can reveal about a potential employee. An employer should be looking for several things when completing a background check. 

 – Any illegal activity, charges or convictions.
 – Has the candidate been honest about their past.
 – Education verification
 – Reference Verification
 – Employment history

If a candidate has been untruthful or omitted information on an application, in a resume, or during other steps of the interview and pre-screening process, the data revealed in the background check should help highlight common red flags.


Beyond the basics, though, cleaning business owners will want to ensure that they have done their due diligence…and then some. Why? Because different types of background data illuminate different parts of a candidate’s character and attitudes towards a positive working performance, such as honesty, fiscal responsibility, and other concerns related to employees who will be in homes or businesses where property and information security are vital. 

1. Criminal Background Check
For any employee who will be delivering service in the home or workplace, the 10-year criminal background check is a basic place to start. This check will reach out to the state criminal agencies in every state where that candidate has lived during those 10 years as well as to the national crime database (usually a 12-year check). You may also choose to add a local city and county criminal check, which in some areas include reports not leading to an arrest or conviction.

2. Professional Licensure
While members of the residential cleaning industry are not yet required to hold licenses for their services, many who come to the industry may hold professional licenses from previous careers. For example, an application listing a Registered Nurse (RN) license should raise a red flag; a professional licensure check will reveal the current status of that license. Learning that an RN license was revoked due to a patient care problem or substance abuse may make a hiring manager think twice about trusting that candidate in clients’ homes.

3. Credit Check
Credit checks are less commonly run than they should be, especially when a candidate will be handling financial dealings or products for the company. The question the hiring manager needs to be thinking with credit checks is, “How can a candidate properly handle financial dealings or sell financial products for the company if they cannot properly handle their own financial situation?” There are always exceptions to this rule, especially if a candidate is upfront and honest about a financial situation they might have that could have been caused by someone else, such as identity theft, fraud or divorce. 

When an employer runs a credit check, they will also look at several things to determine suitability for the position: 

  – Does the candidate pay their bills on time? This is critical if a candidate will be in a position where they manage a company’s finances. 
 – Does a candidate live within their means? This is key in determining the likelihood of a candidate “borrowing” money. If an employee is consistently living outside their means, there may be a higher chance that they would misuse funds in their control. 
 – Has the candidate filed bankruptcy? This points to the candidate living outside his/her means and can indicate a problem with finances.

The key implication is that candidates in persistent financial distress are more likely to mismanage funds to which they have access and even to steal from employers or clients directly.

4. Workers’ Compensation History
Any in-home service company currently struggling with increased costs of Workers’ Compensation insurance from a claim can benefit significantly from adding a Workers’ Compensation history check on all candidates. This simple data check – which includes a list of any filed claims, a description of the incident and injury, and the outcomes of the claim – can easily help identify patterns of injury that service business owners want to avoid.

5. Sex Offender Registry Check
Though in most cases, the convictions of sex offenders will appear on national and state criminal background checks, the inclusion of a separate sex offender registry check on candidates may reveal additional misdemeanors and can be an added comfort to a prospective client.

6. Drug Screening 
While a criminal background check might show an inclination toward drug use, just as many candidates have never been arrested or convicted of drug use. That’s why drug screening upon employment has become a pretty standard part of the background check process. In addition to being illegal, the use of prohibited substances indicates a tendency to ignore or directly rebel against rules, procedures, and authority.

7. Motor Vehicle Report
When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with a $6 Motor Vehicle Report on candidates you intend to hire, especially if they will be:
 – Driving a company car
 – Driving a personal vehicle marked (even temporarily) with company insignia
 – Driving a personal vehicle while in company uniform
 – Driving a personal vehicle while transporting tools of the trade to, between, or from jobs.

The fact is that cleaning technicians cannot deliver service without driving to and from clients’ different locations. But that doesn’t mean a less-than-perfect driving record has to eliminate a candidate; employers can pair up teams where at least one member is an approved company driver.

If asking technicians to drive their personal vehicles, employers can also require the car owner to provide proof of insurance, have the hiring company excluded from fault on the insurance policy, and complete and pass an approved driver safety training program. And to encourage continued good driving, business owners may consider offering bonuses or compensation for keeping that driving record clean.

Optional: International Background Checks

One last option business owners want to have available to them is an international background check for candidates who have worked outside of the United States. This is separate from the simple legal work status checks run through eVerify; an international background check will include employment verifications and criminal background searches for the candidate in those other countries.

Including Social Media Reviews in Background Checks

According to a recent benchmarking report, as many as 61% of employers are using or plan to use social media to improve their recruiting efforts, and 21% of respondents intend to use social media as part of their background check procedures.

Employers are now reviewing candidates’ social media accounts, seeking insights into behavior patterns, attitudes toward theft or fiscal mismanagement, and to see with whom a candidate is engaging.

Particularly for employers whose staff are an extension of their public brand, the social media check is quickly becoming an integral part of the employer’s due diligence. But as social media reviews are new and not regulated, business owners who choose to use them should know the risks they face and establish a clear policy and protocol company-wide regarding the use of social media in relation to the business. Further, hiring managers must remain non-discriminatory in hiring, even when a social media check reveals information that cannot be used legally in hiring decisions.

Risks of Not Running Background Checks

The use of background checks may not be independently a required part of the hiring process in the United States, but cleaning business owners may find themselves required by two types insurance important in the industry:

General Liability Insurance often requires specific types of background checks and recommends others. 

Care, Custody and Control Clause: referenced in The Professional House Cleaning Technician’s Manual as the basis for many of the operational choices made by cleaning business owners, “the Care, Custody, and Control clause is a standard tool insurers use in a written policy to clearly communicate what they will replace or repair in case of an accident.”

Between the general liability insurance and the specific CCC clause, the proper background check and resulting hiring decisions become your “insurance” against denied claims and potentially enormous out-of-pocket expenses.

For those business owners making background checks a routine part of the hiring process, the only risk is to candidates or hired employees, primarily if they have been dishonest with the potential employer. Honesty goes a very long way. When beginning the background check process, employers should encourage applicants to reveal hiccups in their background rather than hide them. Be sure to offer candidates an opportunity to explain or even provide documentation to remove potential red flags. 

Keeping It Simple

With so many different areas of a candidate’s life to examine, the background check process can feel overwhelming. And the time and financial cost of running these manually for each candidate can also seem out of range. But it doesn’t have to be.

First, review your general liability insurance and Care, Custody, and Control clause to identify any specifically required checks as well as the recommended checks that meet your insurance requirements.

Second, consider past problems you’ve encountered in your business which might have been avoided with an additional type of check; in particular, problems that occur more than one time are a strong indicator that another type of check would be a time and money saver.

Third, seek out a background check provider who can help reduce costs by bundling your ideal collection of checks together into one package, saving you both money and time and helping you protect your current employees, your current and future clients, and ultimately your business and reputation. 

Jennette Pokorny, Chief Operating Officer at EverNext HR, has over a decade of human resources experience. Jennette aims to alleviate some of the difficulties business owners lose sleep over.