The job search process can be a brutal and often times frustrating experience. First applications, then interviews, and after you ace it all and get the job offer, the one thing standing in the way between you and your dream job is the background check.
Many misconceptions revolve around a company’s routine background check policy. What does the background check uncover and what exactly are companies looking for that could harm your ability to land the job? Let us uncover some of those unanswered questions about the dreaded background check.
First of all, a background check will verify that the degree on your resume is the degree that is confirmed though the university. Often times employers need dates and former names in order to check this information and verify degrees or licenses. Remember, that your disciplinary history and any problems with your school can hold up the receipt of your degree (eg. overdue fines or lost library books). Clear up those issues before you pursue a job, and don’t lie about your education history… it’s easy to find and in most case, it’s public record.
Convictions or Criminal History
Another important item that will be verified during a background check is criminal history. Being forthcoming about criminal history is important when applying for jobs. Depending on the state, employers have limits on how far back and what types of crimes they can consider when hiring. If there is something significant in your criminal history, make a document that covers the event including court documents and other articles that could explain the incident. Recent spotlight on criminal background screens from the EEOC has stressed the two prong process instead of a blanket policy when assessing potential candidates. This two-step process includes a targeted screening for “the nature of the crime, the time elapsed, and the nature of the job” and then an individual assessment to ensure that qualified applicants have not been mistakenly screened because of false, incorrect, or irrelevant information.
A very common item in a background check is the credit report. Why is this important for employment? Companies want to see financial stability, which translates into responsibility. Your credit history can be an indication of other troublesome characteristics if poor. Are companies concerned with a late credit card payment? Probably not. But items that have gone into default or court could be an issue. Student loan defaults may also be something that a company looks at. If there are issues related to medical bills or emergencies however, employers tend to understand and not be too harsh. You can run your own credit report at any time. Stay on top of those items and know what your score is before your employer asks so you are more prepared to answer questions regarding their findings.
One huge misconception is that employers are only checking for dates and titles at previous jobs. This is completely false. Employers may choose to conduct their own background check and not just call the references you provide either. Two types of reference checks exist today, first is employment verification where they simply call to verify title and dates you worked for a specific past employer. Some companies provide more information while others just verify. Other employers can verify employment through W-2 forms or other tax records. Be truthful about your job history and this section should be a breeze.
Some job types require operating a motor vehicle, so this can be a common and almost mandatory part of the background check. This check will include license status, dates of insurance and expiration, violations, suspensions, and other actions.
Things To Remember
1. A negative report does not automatically mean that you won’t be getting the job. Employers take many factors into account when they are performing a background check. They will not automatically cut you out of the running if something comes back on your report that is considered negative. However, make sure that you’re honest and forthcoming with anything that you think may affect your background check. Be prepared to show documentation for any criminal history, and be able to explain any inconsistencies that may appear. Overall, honesty is the best policy. It’s much better to tell human resources ahead of time, rather than wait for them to find a discrepancy during the background check.
2. Sometimes errors occur due to identity theft. Be aware that not only credit history, but false reporting of crimes can be reflected on your background check as a result of identity theft. If you have ever been a victim of identify theft you should check your credit report and background history to make sure that there are no issues. Many different companies allow you to run your own background check for a nominal fee. Doing this prior to application could help you get any issues identified and straightened out.
3. Not everything will show up on a background check. The Federal Fair Credit Report Act (FCRA) standards must be followed by consumer reporting agencies. The FCRA protects against reporting on tax liens, collections, and civil suits after seven years, or bankruptcies after ten years. These time limits however do not apply to jobs paying over $75,000. Juvenile criminal convictions cannot be reported either, however adult convictions can be reported at any time with some states setting their own limits.
4. You can get help, if you believe you’ve been victim of employment discrimination. The FTC helps those that have had employers gathering their background check information without permission or reject you without sending required notes. Also, the EEOC enforces federal laws to make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant.
Honesty is the best policy when it comes to applying for a new job. A background check is not the only factor employers consider when considering a new hire. Be truthful during the process, and you’ll have the best opportunity for landing that new career. Be sure to contact us if you’d like help with finding a new career. We can help you walk through best options, depending upon your experience and skill levels.