What is Included in an Employee Background Check?
Imagine this: You aced your job interview after several months of applying to positions. Your resume is polished, and you have your references lined up. A job offer seems so close you can almost taste it.
Unfortunately, there’s usually one more obstacle: A background check.
Companies run background checks for several reasons, and almost all employers will do one in some form. Companies check credit reports, criminal and driving records, and employment histories.
Background checks are standard practice, and there’s no need to be overly worried about them. Each employer checks different things, depending on the type of job and industry, and each employer has their own standards. A candidate never “fails” a background check, so to speak. It’s more so a job candidate didn’t meet the standards of that particular employer based on the things discovered.
There are a few things candidates can do to ensure they get past a background check, including maintaining an excellent online reputation and being honest on your resume. It’s also important to know your rights, including the fact that employers must always get your consent before a pre-employment check.
Empire Resume will delve into pre-employment background checks and let you know what companies look for, ways you can better your odds of getting past them, and the laws companies must follow.
What Do Companies Look For?
Companies are legally able to dig into a lot of information about job candidates, and they typically run a background check as the last step in the hiring process. Usually, an offer of employment is contingent upon the candidate “passing.”
Many employers use a third party to run checks, and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) ensures the checks are lawful. Employers must also notify candidates in writing and get their written consent before running a check. If they don’t hire you based on something they found, they must provide you with a copy of the report and a copy of your rights.
Here are things many employers check for:
- Employment history. Companies check the dates on your resume and verify your employment history. They may also confirm your salary. Therefore, it’s important to never lie on your resume. Employers will question your honesty and integrity if you stretch the truth.
- Criminal record. Employers check criminal records for many reasons – one of them is because they must ensure the safety of other employees. If there’s a workplace violence incident, a company could be held liable for negligent hiring. However, there are laws that vary from state to state on exactly what criminal record information employers can obtain. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) also says job candidates cannot be denied employment because of prior criminal offenses.
- Credit checks. Companies will run these checks to investigate how you manage your finances and look at things like mortgages, student loan debt, credit card debt, defaulted loans, and late payments. Credit checks are especially crucial if you’re applying to a job in the financial industry or one where you’ll be handling money.
- Driving record. This information shouldn’t be too big of a deal unless you’re applying for a position where you’ll be driving. If that’s the case, speeding tickets and accidents may be a significant blemish. Even if you’re not applying for a transportation-related job, a DWI or DUI on your record may raise the eyebrows of some employers.
- Drug and alcohol tests. While not exactly a background check, many employers require you to pass a drug screening. For a typical office job, this may not happen. But for jobs where workplace safety is a consideration, there’s a very good chance of it.
Background Checks and Your Rights
Several laws protect job candidates when it comes to background checks, and many of them vary from state to state. For instance, companies can contact previous employers, but each state has its own laws that dictate what they can and can’t ask (including salary history).
When screening you for employment, companies must also follow the FCRA. One part of that law mandates that employers can’t use any information they’ve discovered to violate EEOC laws, which protect workers from discrimination based on age, race, religion, or gender.
There’s an exception to the FCRA, but it usually applies when you’re already working for a company. If an employer is investigating you for misconduct, they’re not required by law to get your consent to run a background check and don’t have to disclose what they found.
Employers may sometimes do physicals or medical history checks, though these checks are limited by laws. A company may need to know your physical condition and medical history if the job requires essential duties like carrying boxes, for instance. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) limits the medical information employers can dig up, and the law makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against you based on disabilities or medical history.
What You Can Do to Pass Background Checks
Some type of background check before employment is inevitable, but don’t worry. You can do several things to check your own records and improve the odds of getting past this pre-employment hurdle.
As Empire Resume has reported before, a cursory part of many background checks nowadays is examining job candidates’ online reputations. That includes searching their names on Google and looking at their social media profiles. For this reason, it’s essential to keep an excellent online reputation and maintain a high degree of professionalism on social media sites.
Employers are required to hand over your records after they run a check, but you can also check these things yourself. Empire Resume recommends running your own background check while you’re job-hunting. Order a free credit report from a national consumer reporting company, request a copy of your driving record from your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, and request other records that employers may look at.
Running your own check is essential for several reasons. One reason is you’ll know if there are any red flags on your records, and you can have an honest conversation about them before an employer runs a check. By the same token, keep a level of honesty and transparency throughout the entire hiring process.
Lastly, it’s always important to keep your finances in order. But doing so has the added benefit of giving you a good credit score and financial background when you’re looking for a new job. A murky financial history may not disqualify you for every position but keeping it clean can help.
More Vigorous Types of Background Checks
Not all background checks are created equal. Checks for a regular office job are a far cry from one for a job in the federal government or U.S. military.
Military background checks are among the most vigorous for any field in the U.S., mostly because work in the military deals with national security information. Even entry-level jobs and positions without security clearance require vigorous checks.
All federal employees and military employees must be fingerprinted and screened in the FBI criminal database. Checks may also include a drug test and further investigations into a candidate’s criminal record.
Security-clearance background checks are even more in-depth, and they include extensive interviews. Candidates go through an interview, and then the government also interviews the candidate’s spouse, family members, friends, professional references, and others.
Background checks in the healthcare industry can also be vigorous. Most healthcare organizations check job candidates for criminal and sex offender records on a national level, identity verification, drug screening, and healthcare sanctions.
Honesty is the Best Policy
Background checks are an essential part of the hiring process for most every employer, so be prepared for them. Different employers and industries have varying standards for checks, and state and federal laws also dictate what employers can and can’t do.
Honesty is always the best policy when dealing with background checks. Remember that employers must notify you and get your written consent before conducting one, and if they don’t hire you because of what they found, they must disclose their discoveries.
Empire Resume suggests running a check on yourself while you’re looking for jobs, so you don’t get any unwanted surprises. Even if you do have a blemish or two on your record, it’s not the end of the world. For instance, if you have a bad credit report, but that’s not relevant to the job you’re applying to, most employers will shrug it off.
Empire Resume can help you with one crucial aspect of preparing for a background check: your online reputation. Our experts can help you craft an awesome LinkedIn profile that’ll rank high in Google search results when potential employers look you up online.
Also, be sure to stay tuned to Empire Resume’s blog for everything you need to know about looking for a job, especially in these trying times.
Maria Gold is a Content Manager/Writer for Empire Resume. She is dedicated to helping educate and motivate people with the latest career articles and job search advice. Her interests range from writing to programming and design. She is also passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.