Background Investigator Jobs
Background investigator jobs offer interesting and challenging careers for self-motivated and detail-oriented individuals. While these jobs may not be as glamorous as the ones performed by fictional investigators in the movies and TV, they can also be as rewarding. In this article we go over the background investigator's job description, the requirements of becoming one, the qualifications and training, as well as the salary.
If you already have a private investigator job and want to specialize in conducting background checks, or you want to move into this career from new, then we will show you how. We will show you what career options are open to you, from entry-level to background investigator jobs working from home, we will help you get your background investigator career path started.
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Background Investigator Job Description
What does a Background Investigator do? Essentially, a background investigator's job is to gather facts about particular individuals who are applying for employment positions in the private or public sectors. The investigator will look into these candidates’ past so that managers and other related parties will have enough information to decide if they should hire them or not.
Employers conduct background checks for various reasons, the most prominent of which are to avoid bad hires that could compromise the safety of their company, other employees, and their customers. The actions of an employee that has been poorly vetted may expose the company to legal liability. A company needs to show that they have exercised all due diligence in the hiring process to defend against lawsuits.
As part of their job, background investigators will spend a lot of time interviewing people. When conducting a background check, for instance, they may talk to a candidate’s family and friends, as well as people they have worked or associated with in the past.
In addition, a background investigator will look at various databases to find various records on a candidate. For instance, they may check with law enforcement authorities to see if a candidate has a criminal record. They will also check with the candidate’s college to see if their academic records match those declared in their resume and application form. The investigator may also go over the candidate’s application and resume’ with them; to ask questions about inconsistencies or historical employment gaps that need to be addressed, as well as other areas that need clarification.
Once the background screening process is complete, the job of the background investigator is to summarize their findings in a written report. They may also be asked to give an in-person briefing to managers and other related individuals involved in any decision making process. Unless they are specifically asked to by their employer, they should not offer their opinions. Their job is just to research, uncover and provide the facts needed so that an informed decision can be made.
Aside from private investigators conducting background checks, there are two main categories of background investigators:
- Corporate Background Investigators
- Government or Federal Background Investigators
Corporate Background Investigators
Corporate background investigators work for large private companies. Although they are primarily involved in screening potential employees, they may also be tasked with investigating employee misconduct and looking into harassment claims, as well as accusations of improper activities.
A corporate background investigator may also be asked to do a background examination of other businesses in preparation for potential mergers and acquisitions. These background investigators' job is look at areas such as liabilities, corporate risks, security breaches and unfair trade practices.
In addition, they may offer more specialized and comprehensive background investigations for companies in particular fields. For example, in addition to the standard background checks, healthcare companies and hospitals may also ask the investigator to confirm the validity of the candidate’s licenses and accreditations. If the candidate will work with vulnerable patients such as children, the background investigator may check to see if they appear on the national sex offender registry. The investigator can use public and semi-public records and online databases as well as make legal requests for information under Freedom of Information laws.
Government and Federal Background Investigators
Government background investigators or Federal background investigators work with government agencies to conduct background investigations of individuals applying for government employment and those applying for a security clearance. They are also tasked with conducting background checks on individuals who have already been granted a clearance but require re-investigation at periodic intervals.
Federally credentialed background investigators may be directly employed by a government agency or be contract investigators. Contract background investigators may be directly contracted by a government agency or be sub-contractors who work with a company that a government agency directly contracts with.
Background Investigator Job Duties
Here are some of the tasks that a background investigator might perform during the course of their job:
- Conducts background checks by interviewing a candidate’s personal references, members of their family, neighbors, former and current employers and co-workers, and law enforcement personnel.
- For each person interviewed, the investigator will prepare a comprehensive interview statement so that a reviewer will be able to draw logical and reasonable conclusions about the candidate.
- Obtains and reviews municipal and State law enforcement records where the candidate has resided to determine if the candidate had been a person of interest in a crime, whether as a witness, suspect, victim, or alleged perpetrator. The background investigator may also obtain records from Federal agencies such as the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
- Obtains relevant documents to determine if the candidate is in compliance with the organization’s employment policies.
- Reviews candidate’s completed background interview forms with them in order to determine if there are inconsistencies, errors and/or omissions, to ensure that their statements are complete and accurate.
- Prepares a final background investigation package by organizing all materials gathered in accordance with the organization’s established procedures. The investigator may be asked to present their findings to management and supervisors, as well as other related individuals.
- Prepares a summary of adverse background information about the candidate uncovered during the background screening investigation. This will be based on the investigator’s objective evaluation and analysis of the candidate’s background as measured against the standards of the organization.
- Provides a final recommendation as to whether or not the candidate should be hired based on the guidelines of the organization.
Background Investigator Job Requirements
Following are details about the expected requirements involving a candidate applying for a background investigator job opening. Bear in mind however that some government agencies or companies may have other or different requirements than those listed here. In order to become a background investigator for a particular agency or company you will need to contact them directly; but the following points are some important requirements for a background investigation job.
In general, candidates for background investigator jobs are expected to have at least a Bachelor’s degree, although they are not required to have any specific Master's degree. However, they should have an educational background that is relevant to their specialization. For instance, an investigator working with a financial services corporation may need to have an accounting degree, and may even be a Certified Public Accountant. They may also have completed coursework in business-related subjects.
- Communication Skills
Just as important as their academic background, background investigators need to possess certain qualities that ensure that they are successful in their field. For instance, having good active listening skills is a must. The investigator must not only be able to listen to what the interview subject is saying, but also to what they are not telling them. They must also know when to let the subject talk, and when to interrupt them to ask questions.
- People Skills
A background investigator must also have good people skills. They should be able to interact with people from many types of backgrounds tactfully and with cultural sensitivity. The candidate should also not feel that they are being discriminated against during the investigation screening process, since they may sue the company if they are not hired.
- Detail Oriented and Time Management Skills
In addition, a background investigation job requires that a person needs to be detail-oriented and have good time-management skills. Background screening needs to be completed in a timely manner since the employer may lose the candidate to another company if the process takes too long. In addition, the investigator may handle several cases at once, and thus needs to be able to manage their time to ensure that all of them are performed satisfactorily.
- Computer Skills
Of course, a background investigator needs to have basic to intermediate computer skills, such as knowing how to use word processing software and being able to conduct internet searches.
- Ability to Drive
Investigators are also generally required to be able to drive and have a valid license and their own vehicle, since they may spend a lot of time visiting their interview subjects.
- Understand Laws and Legal Procedure
A background investigator should also have knowledge of the laws in the field where they are working. For instance, in the course of their investigation they may discover a business, they are looking into, is doing something that is unethical but not technically illegal. They should know how to distinguish between the two so that it will be reflected in their report.In addition, they should ensure that their background investigations are compliant with the applicable laws on equal employment opportunity. They should be aware of privacy laws and be careful that they are not violating a candidate’s privacy while they are performing their investigations. They should also exercise caution when requesting a candidate’s credit report. This is a controversial background screening practice that has been criticized as being discriminatory and irrelevant to assessing whether or not a candidate is qualified for a position.
- Excellent Writing Skills
Background investigators should also have good writing skills. They should be able to communicate their findings clearly in their written reports so that the reader understands what the facts are.
- Ability for Discretion
Finally, investigators should know how to be discreet. Any information that they uncover is considered private and not be discussed with anyone else other than authorized personnel.
Federal Background Investigator Jobs
Federally credentialed background investigators have the following basic requirements:
For a job as a contract background investigator:
- 3 to 5 years experience with law enforcement, Federal or military investigation
- Be eligible for or already hold a security clearance at the level the agency requires
For a job as an employee background investigator:
- 3 to 5 years experience with law enforcement, Federal or military investigation OR
- A four-year degree plus background investigations training that is certified and provided by the company
- Be eligible for or already hold a security clearance at the level the agency requires
The Office of Personnel Management's National Background Investigations Bureau is the agency that issues credentials to Federal background investigators. To become certified, you must meet the training requirements for the position and get certification through an agency that is contracted by the government.
Most Federal background investigators are contractors who work from home, so they need to have the following:
- A computer with reliable and fast connection to the internet
- A land line / mobile phone
- A fax machine
- A document shredder
- A reliable vehicle
They are also generally required to travel within a certain radius from their home or office. Hence, to increase their efficiency they should have detailed maps of the area around their vicinity or have a GPS device.
You can find more information on how to become a Federal background investigator on the Association of Certified Background Investigators website.
Background Investigator Job Training
The best course of action if you want a job as a background investigator is to be hired for an entry-level position in an investigative agency. Or you can look for an on-the-job internship position. These internships will allow you to work with senior background investigators to learn the skills needed to perform the job. For instance, if you are working with an insurance company, you will be taught how to detect insurance fraud.
Some companies may also provide new investigators with fully paid background investigator training programs. These programs may take a few weeks to complete. Once you’re done, you will work with a senior background investigator before being given cases of your own.
If you are studying on your own to become a background investigator, it would be helpful to gain some training in police science and criminal justice. This will not only familiarize you with the relevant laws, it would also provide you with the necessary investigative and research skills. You can also undergo an approved background investigator training course such as the FLETA Federal Background Investigator Training Program.
This training may also be helpful if you live in a state that requires investigators to have a license. As part of the licensure process, you may be required to take an exam that tests your knowledge of State laws and regulations on issues relevant to your profession, such as privacy, employment and Freedom of Information laws. Other common requirements for background investigator job licensure include passing your own background check and having the necessary liability insurance (if you work in the private sector such as a private investigator).
It is also important for your career that you pursue continuing investigator training and education to keep your background checking skills relevant. For instance, you can take courses in new techniques for identifying and preventing fraud, as well as staying compliant with new background screening and privacy laws.
Background Investigator Jobs Salary and Outlook
Here we're going to cover a background investigator's salary and future career prospects; so if you decide you want a career as a background investigator (whether working for a private company or the government), you know what your future holds.
What is a Background Investigator’s Salary?
According to PayScale.com the salary for an experienced background investigator has a positive trend. An entry-level background investigator that has less than 5 years experience can expect to earn an average yearly wage of $38,000 and a background investigator with semi-career experience can expect to earn an average of $48,000. An experienced background investigator’s yearly salary who has 10 to 20 years of experience can expect to earn an average total of $56,000.
Corporate background investigators are classified by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as falling under the general category of "Private Detectives and Investigators". According to the BLS, the median annual pay for this occupation was at $50,090 as of May 2018.
Federal background investigator jobs pay by the hour, starting from when you leave your residence or place of business. Hourly rates vary depending on the state you’re living in and the agency you’re working for. You are also paid for the time spent writing reports, as well as a mileage rate based on how far you’ve traveled. This rate is set on the first of every year by the Federal government.
Certain expenses deemed as business-related are reimbursable. These include parking and record fees and cell phone and long distance calls. However, the cost of your equipment, i.e. office supplies, printer ink, etc. is considered your “overhead” and is not reimbursable.
What Are The Background Investigator Job Prospects Like?
Employee background screening has become a matter of course in large businesses and corporations and is an integral part of their internal security and employee hiring process. If you have the right job credentials, up-to-date training along with field experience, you stand a good chance of landing a good background investigation job. Working in the government as a Federal background investigator is a promising future career with the steady numbers of government employees coming and going - needing high amounts of regular application screening.
Why Work as a Background Investigator?
Why do you want to work as a background investigator? Just as in criminal investigator jobs, a background investigator is protecting businesses or countries (if working for the government) from criminals, fraudsters, spies and even terrorists. It is a job with huge responsibilities for if you fail to screen an applicant thoroughly and correctly, who knows what will be the result - stolen intellectual property that destroys a business or deadly harm to people of a city.
The thrill of sifting through records and interviewing for information has been likened to the thrill of treasure hunting. Some background investigators saw the career as a step towards specialization from being a private investigator covering general investigations to becoming more skilled in one area that suits their personality and preferences.
Whatever your reason in searching for a career as a background investigator, the job is a rewarding one, not just because of the good salary you can earn, but from protecting others.
Becoming a Background Investigator - What’s The Next Step?
Now you’ve reached the end of this article you might be thinking of a background investigator career path. You can become a background investigator by following some of the guidance and links to other resources in this article. We wish you well.
Looking For a Background Investigator Job - What’s The Next Step?
If you are already a background investigator looking for a better job, or want to move into the private sector and looking around for well-paid jobs, you can search our jobs board for the best background investigator jobs in your area.