Alyssa McLellan
Jobcase Contributor
Posted June 8, 2020

What you need to know about background checks when applying

Most employers run background checks before hiring. Find out why employers do this, what they're looking for and the steps you can take to put your best foot forward and get the job.
Alyssa McLellan
Jobcase Contributor
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What you need to know about background checks when applying

Whether you are submitting a resume through a company’s website or completing an online application, you will have to answer questions about your background and qualifications.

Most times, you’re also asked to check off a box certifying that the information you are providing is true and acknowledging the potential employer now has the the right to conduct a background check. You check the box, but truth be told, you’re a little nervous. What happens next? And what are employers looking for?

Employers conduct background checks as part of standard screening processes.

More than 96% of employers conduct at least one kind of background check before hiring prospective applicants. Employers do this for a variety of reasons--but 89% of HR officers report that they conduct checks for purposes of safety of the company, other employees, and for customers.

What is included in a background check?

The phrase “background check” might seem confusing. While potential employers almost always check references and verify your work history, some also check other records or your online profiles. There are also different methods companies use to conduct background checks--some larger companies may use an outside service, while others make verification calls themselves. Here are some of things that a background check might include:

  • Criminal records (state, county, and city)
  • Credit history
  • Employment history
  • Work authorization (whether you are eligible to work in the US without a visa)
  • Education history (high school, GED, college)
  • Social media profiles
  • Driving record

According to a report from HireRight, background checks are most commonly performed to verify criminal records (84%), employment history (72%), and identity (67%).

What can you do to prepare for a background check?

Most employers run some kind of background check, so Since background checks are pretty standard across industries, if you know you are going to be looking for a job, is there anything you can do to prepare? The good news is that yes--you can be proactive about managing your records and information--here’s how.

1. Maintain accurate records of your employment and educational history with dates of employment or attendance, supervisor contacts, and position titles.

2. Request copies of your various background documents including your credit history, driving records (check your state’s Registry or Department of Motor Vehicles), and your legal record if applicable (each state’s Department of Public Safety maintains these). Sometimes there are errors on these reports, so it is good to know in case you need to request corrections on your records or provide additional information to the hiring company.

3. Reach out to your references to make sure they know they may be contacted to speak on your past work experience

4. Review your social media accounts--check privacy settings and delete content that might not be the best representation of your candidacy as a prospective employee

Also: if you think there might be anything potentially questionable on your record, it is a good idea to be proactive and discuss it with a potential employer. If you’ve had gaps in employment or a poor credit history, there may be extenuating circumstances like illness, death, divorce, that have played a role in your situation. Now is the time to speak up and let your prospective employer know if there is anything about which you are concerned as it shows that you are being forthcoming and addressing potential issues head on.

Background checks: What are employers actually looking for?

It can be nerve racking to know that you are under the microscope, so to speak, but for most--a background check is just a necessary hurdle to getting hired. If you are wondering about what kinds of things can disqualify you from receiving an offer of employment, here are a few possibilities: Criminal record--if you have past convictions on your records that overlap with the job’s core responsibilities (for instance, a DUI charge if you are applying for a job as a delivery driver).

Inaccurate reporting of qualifications or credentials--if the job requires certification like a state license or a particular degree and you have misreported that on your application, this is reason for disqualification

Poor credit history--if you are applying for a position where you might be managing customer accounts or the accounting books for a business, this can be seen as a red flag

If you ever feel that you are denied employment for reasons related to unfair bias, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency that enforces laws against employment discrimination. If you think that you are being discriminated against based on information found in your background check, first request a copy of the report from your HR hiring contact and check this section of the EEOC website to learn more.

In the end, background checks are meant to ensure a workforce that is well-qualified and safe. This step is an important one in the hiring process and even if you have issues in your past, if you are well-prepared, you will be ready to address any potential challenges.

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Alyssa McLellan
Jobcase Contributor
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Luxardo Farfan

Weeklie

1y
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Jose Pena

Hello. I just thought I would tell you that I liked the article you wrote about What You Need to Know About Background Checks.

1y
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1
Marie Grotjan

I liked the background check article too, but my daughter has a felony on her report even tho she is honest and she is 3 years clean. She cant find anything. What should she do?

1y
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Matthew McGuire

That is correct, it does not just take 5-minutes. That is why references are recommended just to explain the details.

1y
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Karen Delgadillo

I went through one of these "background" checks with Hire Right when applying for permanent job with Coca cola. I had previously cleared a background check with the temp agency which sent me to Coca cola for a holiday assignment. I worked 3 months for Coke with NO problem, handling all their Christmas cash during that time. When they made me a job offer, we had to wait for Hire Right to clear me. Not only did they include my bad credit from recent divorce, at 63 years I had to go through a physical stress test. I was declined for a low paid cashier job based upon mycredit history, even though I cleared it to work through Christmas. Hire Right has federal law suits against them for discriminate hiring information, do be warned. They do this to protect client from having to honor temporary employee job offer.

1y
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Christine Padilla

Exactly how far back in years do they check for background

1y
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Susanne Burnett

Thank you for posting the background check article. It is good information for anyone new to the job market and hiring processes that many companies have in place. The information was posted to assist job seekers and that alone is appreciated. But the fact of the matter is that companies/businesses and their Human Resources department have established hiring processes that are unbelieveably inappropriate with the level of privacy that they will access regarding a job candidate negating many privacy laws in existence. Each state has their own set of rules; the laws and regulations will vary from state to state so knowing that is a good place to start when learning about your rights. "Ban the Box" law is a fairly new law and needed law with so many companies pushing the envelope on EEOC discrimination and in appropriate background checks; oh and don't forget that some companies have you take a drug test too so yes the internal microscope effect not to mention the level of humiliation and anger at having to be at the mercy of some stranger (usually pompous, arrogant and demeaning) and undertone of bullying which will be a tell tell sign of how healthy the mangement is. All of this dog and pony show is often for a position that the applicant took tensteps back on and was willing to do so. Improving and or eliminating some of these practices or processes, but most definitely improve it by taking this ridiculous allowance of power back down a few notches to where it needs to be which is a 5 to 7 year parameter on the background search . Discrimination is prevelant on many levels and many people are facing the level of hardship that simply frighten the rest of us so do take note of that.

Nobody should ever have the right to take another person's right to survive away...that needs to be illegal immediately ; this type of treatment and or behavior from corporate HR is non productive, disruptive and oppressive, actually, it is seriously and literally disturbing and dangerous. If they would just find their common sense or even better common decency, because everyone has the right to work, the right to survive.

1y
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Michael Huller

Susan Susan Susan I love what you wrote outstanding love it love it love it great thank you! My name is Mike and I tried to apply and was not allowed to because of my background I was just released from prison to the November 2019 as of now I work at Fairway supermarket in Manhattan in the bakery department! I was looking for second job I’m going to ask how long do they hold that over my head before I can apply again!

35w
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