Being aware of the kinds of checks employers can run, and preparing for them, may help you land that job. Being unprepared may cost you the offer.
An employer background check is a common encounter for job seekers in today’s job market. The wealth of easily accessible personal information and history due to computerized record storage makes requiring and performing backgrounds checks much easier than in the past.
Reasons For Background Checks
Background checks are required for a number of reasons, depending on both who is doing the hiring, and what position the applicant is applying to fill. Some positions have screening mandates due to federal or state laws, such as positions requiring interaction with children, the elderly and other vulnerable groups. Other reasons may include corporate liability, access to sensitive government or military information, national security concerns and financial responsibility.
Some employers, such as the federal government and the military, conduct background checks using internal personnel and resources, but the majority of employers use third-party verification services. Depending on the level of scrutiny required by the employer, the background check can be simple or very detailed and complex.
Starting The Background Check
Background checks begin when a job seeker fills out specific paperwork authorizing the employer to conduct a background investigation. The applicant must be informed that they are consenting to a background check and the rights they have under federal and state law. This required paperwork will ask for very detailed information that the applicant must honestly provide:
Different Background Checks
Are done to verify accuracy. Such checks may reveal any criminal activity associated with the addresses. The prospective employer will then be likely to look more carefully at other parts of the background check.
Social Security Number Checks
Provide a wealth of information for an employer. Any names with the identification number you provide are listed, and can help to verify the address history check. This check may also reveal criminal activity to an employer if you have such a history and did not reveal it.
Can be made to verify personal friends, business associates and former employers, depending on what the prospective employer requires.
Criminal Record Checks
Look at local and national records and will be required for many different positions, especially jobs that involve work with vulnerable populations or security. This check may turn up any warrants, arrest records or court documents with the candidate’s name.
Sex Offender Registry Checks
Are done at the local and national level. Sex offenders are often not permitted to work in certain industries or around certain populations. Therefore, an employer would check to ensure a potential employee is not on this list.
U.S. Terror Watch Check
Is particularly important for some industries, including science, government and business.
Credit Report Checks
Have become a way to understand a potential applicant’s financial history. Late payments, evictions or other negative entries on an applicant’s credit report may indicate to an employer that the applicant will not be a stable employee.
Can be checked for potential employees who will be using company vehicles or working as a driver in some capacity.
Are not required for all jobs, but may be used as a way to check the presumed work habits of recent graduates, or to verify the proper educational background required in certain fields, such as teaching.
Military Service Records
Can be checked to verify veteran status, especially if that is a reason for hire.
Professional Or State Licensing Checks
Are done to ensure all of an applicant’s required licenses are relevant and current.
Claims may be checked to see if the potential employee is eligible or legally allowed to work.
Social Media Checks
Can be done with or without a candidate’s knowledge, especially if the candidate has many public and easily accessible accounts. Any public behavior deemed unacceptable by the company may prevent a job offer being extended.
The information an applicant provides is a starting point for the verification process. False or omitted information on the application that is then revealed by the verification agency is generally grounds for refusal of employment consideration, or termination if employment has started.
Some Candidate Protections
It is worth noting that not all background checks, especially in the areas of criminal history and credit reports, are performed under the same set of rules. Many states have more stringent laws than those in place at the federal level for limiting information that can be considered during a background check.
Exclusions To Information That Can Be Obtained
Certain types of personal information and records are excluded from general background investigations. These include specifics of military service records, medical and mental health records and education records. If an employer deems such information vital to the hiring process, and is permitted to do so by law, it must inform the applicant and obtain specific written permission to request such records. Otherwise, only general military and education information, such as dates of service or attendance and graduation and discharge dates, may be obtained. However, the type of military discharge for an individual is a public record and can be obtained by any background check.
Tips For A Successful Background Check
With employer background checks becoming such a common part of the job application process, an applicant should make preparations in advance to avoid surprises and potential scenarios that could result in being eliminated from employment consideration.
Know the rules for the state in which you are applying
Some states have stricter rules on information that can be considered when conducting employment checks. Do not list information that is not allowed or not necessary under state law.
Request a copy of your credit report
With many employers using credit reports as a screening tool, applicants need to check their credit report before authorizing an employer to do so. Incorrect credit information can cost the most qualified applicant a job opportunity.
Check court records if you have criminal or potential criminal charges in your past
Certain offenses have time limits for reporting. If you were initially charged with a certain level of offense that was then dropped to a lower level, make sure the court records reflect that. Make sure all records reflect expunged or dismissed charges.
In advance of your application, compile a list of previous addresses and employers, along with their contact information, for the last seven years
Failure to provide employer contact information can delay your background check. Many companies have specific contact numbers for employment verification, but it is expected that the applicant will provide this information to the verification service.
Most employers require professional references, so family and neighbors do not qualify
The standard number of required references is three former or current colleagues or supervisors. You will need to provide contact information, titles and the length of your association. It is important to notify any person that you list as a reference that you want to do so. You need positive recommendations from them. Do not assume people will give you good recommendations. Also, give your references the phone number and email that the investigating company will be using so that they do not ignore the call.
A final warning
Some background check companies ask the reference you provide for a second reference contact, so warn the contacts you give that they should have a second positive reference name, with contact information, ready to give to the company.
Employer background checks are an expected part of many job application processes now, and their use will only grow as public record access becomes even easier. Understanding federal and, especially, state limitations and protections are keys to making the process less stressful for the applicant. There are some background check companies that will run a background check on you at your request for a fee. This could be a worthwhile investment if you are applying for a management position or one that requires greater scrutiny of your financial or credit history. Regardless of the position you apply for, verifying the accuracy of your own personal information in advance of an employer background check will save you time, ensure no surprises and make the entire process flow more easily.