What Will a Professional Background Check Tell an Employer About You?

Almost all of us can relate to the experience – when filling out a job application you are asked to sign a consent form, authorizing a prospective employer to conduct a background check on you.

Your life – including credit history, credit scores, driving record, etc. – has become an “open book,” with much that you once deemed “private” now accessible to many. More ominous still, any inaccuracies – of which you may not even be aware – could be undermining your efforts to land new employment.

What “must know” information do you need to ensure your background check is an employment tool and not a hindrance?

First, you should be aware that a prospective employer must gain your written permission in order to conduct a background check associated with your employment application. And if they wish to communicate with your associates, neighbors or friends, they will need you to sign off on what is known as an investigative consumer report.

What’s included in an employee background check? The Fair Credit Reporting Act sets the standards for screening for employment. At a minimum, a background check will verify your social security number. However, employers are generally seeking additional data on employment history, educational credentials, credit history, and possible criminal background.

While there are obvious privacy concerns related to such requests, employers (arguably) have at least some justification in their “need-to-know” efforts. According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a consumer rights organization, areas of employer inquiry and concern might include:

  • False or misleading data offered by job applicants, e.g., fictitious employment or educational credentials
  • Negligent hiring lawsuits brought against an employer as the result of an employee causing harm to others
  • Federal and state legal requirements for certain positions, e.g., those related to contact with children or the elderly
  • The fallout from corporate scandals

Please note there is information that cannot be disclosed in a background check. An example is school records, which are confidential and cannot be released without the consent of the student.

Although you cannot be discriminated against because you filed for bankruptcy, note that bankruptcies are a matter of public record and it will show up on a background check.

Criminal history – The laws vary by state – some states don’t allow questions pertaining to arrests or convictions beyond a certain point in the past. Others only allow consideration of criminal history for certain employment positions. This information does typically appear on a complete background check.

Also, employers cannot request medical records and are not allowed to make hiring decisions based on an applicant’s disability. They may only inquire about your ability to perform a certain job.

So, What Are Your Next Steps?

The best way to prepare for a background check is to be proactively aware of any potentially damaging information that an employer might find. Consider using a reputable third party to obtain an exhaustive background check on yourself. For example, the report generated by background and reference-checking experts JobReferences (myjobreferences.com) evaluates over 30 different categories in your background history.

If you find false data about yourself in your background check, there is a written process for having such data removed. Contact the nearest Consumer Reporting Agency for details of this process.

Equally important, ensure that your resume and job applications are truthful and accurate. Even if you land the job with a falsified resume, it’s not worth it being uncovered at some later point and ruining your employment history.

Know that if you are ultimately not hired as the result of information contained within a background check report, the employer must offer you a disclosure that includes a copy of both your report and your rights. They must also serve you notice that they have decided not to hire you and inform you of the name and location of the nearest Consumer Reporting Agency, as well as information on how to proceed in disputing the report (should you choose to do so).

In summary, it pays to conduct your own due diligence in accessing and potentially acting upon the same data that an employer will access you. The career you save may be your own.

For more information, please visit, myjobreferences.com.

About Allison

Allison & Taylor Inc. and its principals have been in the business of checking references for individuals and corporate accounts since 1984. We have successfully built our brand and corporate recognition and have been recommended by industry specialists such as The New York Times award-winning author Martin Yate (“Knock ‘Em Dead Résumés”). Numerous articles have been published about our business in newspapers and magazines including The Christian Science Monitor, The Wall Street Journal, Glamour Magazine, New Woman, Worth, National Business Employment Weekly, The Detroit News, and The St. Petersburg Times.