When you apply for a job, it's common to have a pre-employment background check. Companies often use information from criminal records, driving records, and credit history to help them make employment decisions.
Each year, there are around 7.63 million arrests in the US. And the number of people with misdemeanors or felonies on their criminal records is growing.
If you're like the many others who don't have a spotless record, it's still possible to get hired. More employers are open to second chances as long as you've made positive changes in your life.
So what is a background check? And, what are employers looking for? Let’s find out.
What is a background check?
During the application process, you'll usually be asked for a background check. Depending on the job in question, the company could look at your criminal record, driving history, and financial history.
They'll usually verify your work history and education.
Employers don't do checks on employment candidates themselves. They use a third-party background check agency.
These companies access records from local, state, interstate, and federal databases and send the hiring manager the final report.
If you're a potential employee, you'll need to give permission for a background check. If you deny the request, you may not get the job.
For an accurate background check, you'll usually need to provide your Social Security Number (SSN), address, and date of birth. Make sure these details are correct to avoid delays in your report.
Most checks go back between five and seven years. For high-earning roles, it can go back ten years or more.
Why do employers do background checks?
Employers want to make sure they choose the right job candidate for the position. They want to create a positive and safe customer experience. And they need to protect their current workforce.
When the employer has all the information, they can make an informed decision based on the job title. For example, if someone has a criminal history of assault and battery, they may not be suited to a job working in a healthcare setting. But, they could be a good fit for a factory position.
Employment-related background checks can be the final stage before you get the job.
In most states, there are ban-the-box laws, so employers won't ask about your history until after you've completed the interview process.
This gives you an opportunity to explain your circumstances and convince the hiring manager that you have what it takes.
If you do have a red flag, think about what you can do to change your life. For example, you can go through rehabilitation or volunteer in the community.
What are employers looking for?
There are a number of things employers look for during the background screening process. Each company is different, and some have more flexible hiring standards than others.
Here are a few key areas they may focus on:
1. Criminal history
Criminal background checks are common. The criminal search can reveal misdemeanors, such as petty theft, trespassing, or cyberbullying.
And it'll highlight any felonies, such as murder, sexual assault, or arson.
If you have a criminal record, it can impact your chances of getting a job. But each employer is different, and you may not automatically be ruled out.
Let's say you're applying for an armed security position. If your criminal history flags firearms offenses, you probably won't get hired. Alternatively, if you have a misdemeanor for minor drug possession from a long time ago, you could get the position.
Some employers believe in second chances. Make sure you're honest during the interview process and showcase your other skills and abilities. It's about giving the employer a complete picture and showing them you're more than your past.
2. Driving record
A job candidate may have a pre-employment check that looks at their driving history. Your motor vehicle record will only be relevant for certain positions.
For example, someone could be applying for a job as a delivery driver, or they may have access to the company vehicle. In these scenarios, a poor driving record could exclude the candidate from consideration.
Food delivery and ride-share companies such as Lyft, Uber, Instacart, Grubhub, and Doordash usually do a driving record check. These brands want to know their drivers will be safe on the road.
What shows up on your driving history? Everything from minor infringements, such as parking tickets and speeding fines, to more serious offenses, such as a DUI (driving under the influence), reckless driving, or a hit-and-run.
3. Work history
Whatever you put on your resume can be verified. So, you should always be honest about your employment and education history.
If you're caught lying, you could miss out on your dream job.
The hiring manager will usually do an employment reference check as part of the employment verification process.
They'll call anyone you've listed as a reference, asking them to vouch for your skills and abilities.
They'll also make sure your educational background is accurate.
4. Credit history
Your credit history won't always be relevant. But in some cases, the employer might want to see your credit records before making the final hiring decision.
The credit check can show credit card debts, bankruptcy, and loans. It'll also show your credit score.
If it's a job with financial responsibility, the credit check will be more important. For example, if you're applying for a job with an insurance carrier or bank, you'll be dealing directly with finances.
These types of companies want to know that you're trustworthy and can manage money. Even minor red flags can affect your job eligibility.
On the other hand, if you're applying for a job as a server or construction worker, the company usually won't ask for a credit report.
5. Social media
Hiring managers may look at a job applicant's social media activity. If you have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or other accounts, they can give the employer an insight into your values and attitudes.
First impressions matter, and your online presence can influence employment decisions.
If you're worried about this part of the background check process, consider turning up your privacy settings. Alternatively, you can remove anything you don't want a future employer to see or delete your account.
Inappropriate content, photos showing drug or alcohol use, offensive language, and hate speech are a few examples of social media red flags. Poor spelling and grammatical errors can also be a turn-off to potential employers.
Do employers do a drug test?
The laws for drug and alcohol testing can vary between states.
Often, drug screenings will be part of the hiring process. You may even be given a conditional offer of employment, and you’ll get the job as long as there are no illegal drugs or alcohol in your system.
Besides the initial drug test, employers may randomly screen their employees.
The most common type of drug screen is a urine test. This test can flag things like marijuana, amphetamines, cocaine, methamphetamines, and alcohol.
Some companies use blood tests, swab tests, or hair tests.
You should read the company’s handbook to learn more about how and when your workplace conducts these tests.
Which background check company do most employers use?
Employers can choose which background check company they use. One of the most popular background screening services is Checkr. The company recently acquired another pre-employment background check company called GoodHire.
Some of Checkr's customers include Adecco, Instacart, Netflix, and Shipt.
Another option employers use during the hiring process is Sterling. Its customers include Lego, Siemens, and Kimberley-Clark.
The process can be slightly different, depending on which company the employer chooses. But the outcome is the same.
Most platforms have a portal where job seekers can log in and track the progress of the report. There's no cost to candidates to use this service.
What happens if you have a red flag on your background check?
If the employee background check has a red flag, it's up to the employer to decide what to do next. They may have follow-up questions to learn more about your history.
You could be asked to explain the circumstances and share any progress you've made.
Most pre-employment background checks are toward the end of the hiring process. So, you would have already had an opportunity to speak to the employer and highlight your skills and experience.
If you made a good impression, a red flag might not be an issue. Some hiring managers will give people a chance if they're a good fit for the job and the company culture.
However, other companies have strict policies about who they'll hire. For example, most food delivery service apps won't take on drivers with red flags on their driving records.
And banks and other financial institutions have to be careful about who they employ. These industries have insurance, and one of the conditions is they can't hire people with a history of financial crimes or bankruptcy.
Can you dispute a background check?
Pre-employment screening is usually accurate. These companies have to follow legal regulations and check a range of databases to make sure they have the right information.
Sometimes, mistakes can happen. If you notice an error on your background check, such as criminal activity that shouldn’t be there, you can dispute it.
Red flags can impact your job offer, and it's important to know your rights. You'll need to contact the background check company directly so they can investigate your claim.
Your dispute should be in writing, and you can send it via email or mail.
For example, if your pre-employment background screening was through Checkr, you can get in touch with their customer support team. Or, you can visit the Checkr candidate support center for answers to frequently asked questions.
Once your background report has been double-checked, you’ll learn the results. If there was an error, it’d be resolved. If the company decides the details are accurate but you’re still unsure, you should seek legal advice.
How long does a background check take?
Timelines vary for different types of background checks. If it’s a quick database search, it can be completed in minutes.
Most employment background checks take up to five business days. There can be delays during busy periods. And some records will be on paper, so they need to be processed manually.
Make sure you provide accurate information to avoid a delay in your report.
Can you do a personal background check?
Knowing what's on your background record can help you prepare for your job application. It's easy to forget years of history, especially if the incidents were minor.
Some background check services can give you a free background check for personal use. You can take advantage of this offer and learn what an employer will see.
If there is an issue or something that's not supposed to be there, you'll have a chance to fix it. And, if there is an issue you've forgotten about, this check will refresh your memory.
Remember, if you get a job interview, you can briefly mention any red flags and explain the circumstances.
Your background check for employment
On the hunt for a new job? If the answer is yes, you can expect a pre-employment background check.
Employers look for different things, but most will be interested in your criminal record. Your driving history and credit history may also be accessed if they’re relevant to the position.
During this process, the company will verify your work and education history. And they may look at your social media to see if your values align with the brand. Some companies expect a clean drug test before you get the job.
Employers use a third-party screening company to perform these checks, and there's no cost to you. If you have a dispute, you can contact the background check provider.
It’s time to start your job search. Head over to our job board for positions in your area. Then, take a look at our resource center for more useful tips.
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!
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.
Exactly how far back in years do they check for background
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.
That is correct, it does not just take 5-minutes. That is why references are recommended just to explain the details.
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?
Hello. I just thought I would tell you that I liked the article you wrote about What You Need to Know About Background Checks.