Conducting Background Investigations and Reference Checks

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Conducting Background Investigations and Reference Checks.

Background Investigations: Background checks are important to take, for instance, if government security clearances are required for the job you are interviewing for, an employment background check may be required. To throw more light on this, I will ensure to make it more explicit so you can know how to get prepared for it

What Is a Background Check?

A background check is a review of a person’s commercial, criminal, and (occasionally) financial records. Typically, an employer will contract with an outside vendor who specializes in background checks.

The background check company will review your records to determine if you are who you say you are and whether there are any red flags in your personal or professional history.

Depending on restrictions imposed by state law, these records might include criminal history, employment record, credit history, driving record, and even medical history.

However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) cautions employers against using medical history or genetic information in hiring decisions.

Why Employers Carryout Background Checks

There are many reasons why background checks are commonly used in hiring.

The employer may want to make sure you are telling the truth. It’s estimated that over 40% of resumes can contain false or tweaked information, so employers want to ensure that you can do what claim. (Once they hire you, an employer may tout your qualifications to clients if it is revealed that these qualifications are false, it reflects poorly on the employer.)

The employer may perform a background check to find out whether you actually graduated from the college you said you did or to confirm that you worked at your previous employer(s) during the time stated on your resume or your job application.

These checks can also be used to protect employers from liability issues if employees behave poorly, employers can sometimes be held responsible for negligence, or failing to do the research required.

For example, if a bus company hires someone with a poor driving record, they can be held responsible if the driver gets into a crash; the expectation is that a bus company should check the driving records of any candidate before hiring.

What Can I Do to Prepare Myself?

There are a number of steps you can take if you think a potential employer may run a background check on you:

Get copies of your records prior to interviewing. Order a free report from a national consumer reporting company by visiting

Request a copy of your driving record from your state Department of Motor Vehicles, particularly if the job you’re applying for involves driving. If you were involved in a civil lawsuit, contact the courthouse that handled the case.

Be honest. Don’t try to hide anything from employer chances are, they’ll find out anyway. If you know something will come up in your background check that may be a concern, address this with your employer as soon as you can.

Keep your finances in order. Pay your bills on time, all the time. Consistency shows you’re financially responsible and will improve your credit score overall.

Remember, you may be Googled! This is one aspect of background checks that are often overlooked. Hiring managers are increasingly running simple Google searches of candidates, so it’s important to take control of your personal search results.

Make sure all your social media accounts, blogs, and personal websites are up to date and clean of anything that could cast you in a negative light.

Let your friends know they may be asked about you. Let past colleagues and friends know they may be approached to answer questions about you, either from the past or the present.

Information Included in a Background Check

What’s included in an employee background check? The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) sets the standards for screening for employment. The FCRA defines a background check as a consumer report.

Before an employer can get a consumer report or run a credit check for employment purposes, they must notify you in writing and get your written authorization. In some states, there are limits on what employers can check.

Employment History Verification

Your employment history includes all the companies you have worked for, your job titles, and the dates of employment and salary earned at each of your jobs.

An employment history verification is conducted by an employer to confirm that the employment information included on your resume and/or job application is accurate.

What Other Information Will Employers Seek?

Employment background checks are being conducted by employers more frequently than in the past. That’s for several reasons, including concerns over negligent hiring lawsuits.

However, background checks don’t provide all the information many employers seek. If you’re interviewing for a new job, you can expect to encounter some of these requests for information:

Job Applicant Credit Checks

It’s becoming more common for companies to run credit checks on job applicants as well as employees being considered for promotion. Find out what information companies are allowed to check, how to handle a credit check, and how it might impact hiring.

What’s in your credit report and why is it relevant to employment? The information available from your credit report can hamper your job search and can be grounds for knocking you out of contention for a job. Especially when it comes to jobs where money and financial information is involved, bad credit can be an issue.

Drug and Alcohol Tests

There are several types of drugs and alcohol tests that candidates for employment may be asked to take. Hiring can be contingent upon passing pre-employment drug tests and screenings.

Review information on the types of tests used to screen for drug use, what shows up in the tests, and how employment drug screening can impact hiring decisions.

Criminal Records and Background Checks

Laws vary on checking criminal history depending on your state of residence. Some states don’t allow questions about arrests or convictions beyond a certain point in the past. Others only allow consideration of criminal history for certain positions.

Employment Verification

When hired for a new job, employees are required to prove that they are legally entitled to work in the United States. Employers are required to verify the identity and eligibility to work for all new employees. An Employment Eligibility Verification form (I-9 Form) must be completed and kept on file by the employer.

One of the questions job seekers frequently ask is “What can an employer say about former employees?” Some job seekers presume that companies can only legally release dates of employment, salary, and job title. However, that’s not the case.

What is a Background Check for Employment?

Employers conduct background checks (also called background screenings and pre-employment screenings) either internally, or they hire background check companies, to ensure you’re a top-quality candidate.

Depending on an employer’s criteria, a background check may investigate a candidate’s criminal records, education, employment history, credit history, motor vehicle, and license records, and/or civil records.

The process may sound intense, but the government offers some protections in terms of what type of information employers can look at during a background check.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) sets national standards for employment screenings. According to the FCRA, employers can’t look at the following information when performing background checks on job candidates:

  • Bankruptcies after 10 years
  • Civil suits, civil judgments, and arrest records, after seven years from the date of entry
  • Paid tax liens after seven years
  • Accounts placed for collection after seven years
  • Any other negative information (except criminal convictions) after seven years

There are a couple of big caveats though, says Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy at consumer advocacy group Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

The law only applies to background checks performed by an outside company; in other words, companies are exempt from FCRA’s standards if they conduct background checks in-house. The restrictions also don’t apply to jobs with an annual salary of $75,000 or more.

If you are a job seeker, it’s important to educate yourself about your rights involving background checks and to properly prepare yourself to answer questions about the information that may turn up.

Remember, background checks are as much a part of the hiring process as resumes and cover letters—it’s best to prepare yourself before a problem arises. Good luck!

EDU Team.

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