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July 2, 2021

A guide to background checks

You’ve followed the components of your talent acquisition strategy, found an ideal candidate and are now ready to make the hire. However, before you officially extend the offer, you need to complete a critical part of the hiring process by conducting a background check. You can also make the offer contingent on the results of the background check.

You can look into parts of the physician’s background to make sure there aren’t any large issues prior to bringing them in for an on-site interview. Many organizations will consult the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) to know whether it makes sense to look into the candidate further and continue utilizing their time and resources.

Physicians and advanced practice providers care for patients, prescribe medicine and work in a demanding, ever-changing industry, so you want to make sure they are well-trained and able to give patients the best care possible. One way to verify experience and feel confident the candidate can perform well in this new role is to perform a health care background check, which is more involved and more thorough than some other industry’s background checks.

What does a health care background check include?

Health care background checks are tailored for the medical profession and can differ based on what your organization requires or how comprehensive you want to be.  Most background checks for physicians and APPs will include the following - or a variation of the following:

  • Identity verification

Every background check should start with verifying the identity of the person you are about to hire to make sure they are who they say they are.

  • County criminal search

Criminal searches specific to a county require an individual pulling criminal history records from the past seven years - or more - for the candidate on which the background check is being conducted.

  • National criminal search

By searching multiple databases, a national criminal search will show any felonies and misdemeanors at the state and county levels.

  • National sex offender search

You can search the public database to see if your candidate is on the registry or has ever been convicted of such a crime.

  • Employment verification

If you’re about to hire a candidate, their CV most likely included great experience and employment details. Employment verification is a way to know they did in fact work where they said they did and that they were employed during the years mentioned on their CV. This is not the same as a reference, but rather confirming they worked at the facility mentioned in their CV during the years stated.

  • Education verification

Similar to verifying the candidate’s employment, you want to confirm the information they stated about their education is also factual.

  • Professional license verification

Each state requires physicians to have certain licensing and credentialing. If they are relocating for your opportunity, you may need to help guide the candidate through the process of getting licensed in your state, but they should have the licenses and credentials they need to practice medicine - and practice in their specialty - prior to employment with your organization.

  • Drug screening

A drug screening, especially in the medical field where medication is prescribed, is imperative. The most common pre-employment screening is a 5-panel drug test, but some will use a 10-panel test to look for even more substances.

  • Motor vehicle records

A motor vehicle report can alert you to any violation from driving under the influence to unpaid parking tickets. Traffic convictions the candidate doesn’t disclose - depending on the severity - can be a red flag and speak to their history.

  • I-9

An I-9 is usually completed upon a successful background check as part of the onboarding process. This form verifies the candidate’s eligibility for employment.

What is the best way to conduct a background check?

Most businesses will hire companies to perform their background checks, but before you select your partner, make sure your organization has a consistent policy on background checks and that everything involved in the policy is legal. Once you have the plan in place, you can choose a company with whom to work and run your background checks.

A standard background check will usually take three days to a week. If there is missing information or any details are inaccurate, it could delay the process, so ensure the candidate provides accurate information and you have all required documentation up front. Being prepared can help speed up the results.

COVID-19 has caused longer wait times for background checks with court closures and other holdups, so plan ahead for possible delays until the pandemic comes to a definitive end.

 What if your candidate fails their background check?

When a candidate fails their background check, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to rescind your offer. Find out what caused them to fail and make sure the reasons are accurate.

Consult your policy and see if there are any details about a potential hire failing a background check. There might be some leniency depending on which profile or screen they failed and the violation. Once you know your options, talk to the candidate and let them explain the situation.

After talking to the candidate, you can make the decision whether to hire them. If you decide to move forward with the hiring process, follow the steps outlined in your organization’s background check policy and proceed with the hire.

If you choose not to hire the candidate based on the screening results, tell the candidate, stating the reasons why.


You learn a great deal about a candidate during the interview and hiring process, and conducting a thorough, efficient background check only verifies you are making the right hire for your organization.

Read PracticeLink articles by Megan Trippi

Megan Trippi

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