If you’re searching for a job, you’ve likely spent significant time polishing your resume and practicing your interview techniques. Yet do you know what to expect from the background checks that prospective employers almost certainly will run on you?
The majority of employers now conduct background checks before hiring candidates. It pays to understand the process and to have an idea — in advance — of what an employer may uncover about you.
Employers Use Background Checks for a Variety of Reasons
Every company is different — and employers have numerous reasons for running background checks on prospective employees. In a majority of cases, employers want to determine if a candidate has a criminal history.
If so, the employer may want details such as specific charges and convictions, dates when the alleged crimes occurred, and any punishment.
However, background checks provide a range of additional, valuable information to employers. In fields that require specific credentials — such as accounting, engineering and medicine — employers must confirm that candidates have provided valid information about their education, licenses and other job requirements.
In addition, many employers wish to protect themselves against the legal liability that an unqualified or ill-intentioned employee can cause.
Background Checks Typically Follow Specific Guidelines
Most employers have guidelines in place to help ensure all candidates receive fair treatment throughout the job application process, including the information obtained through background checks.
Requirements vary among states, but employers typically look for data including criminal and driving records, educational and employment history, and personal references.
Employers sometimes are required by the state or federal government to get permission from candidates, in writing, before obtaining certain information — including some medical, military and educational records.
Preparation Beforehand Is Important
If you believe a prospective employer will run a background check on you, spend some time preparing. At a basic level, request a current copy of your credit report and carefully review the information.
In addition, consider requesting your driving record from your state’s Division of Motor Vehicles — especially if you are seeking a job that requires driving.
One of the most critical steps you can take before beginning your job hunt is searching your name online and reviewing your social media history on any platforms you use.
If you find negative or potentially embarrassing information, remove it yourself, or go through the formal process of requesting that the search engine or social media platform remove it.
Speak up If a Background Check Is Wrong
Background checks rely on a variety of records — from universities, medical providers and government agencies. In some cases, records contain errors, and those errors may get passed on to your prospective employer.
A background check that reveals negative information can cost you a desirable position.
If you believe a background check includes incorrect information, you should explain the situation to the prospective employer. Filing a dispute with a background check company takes time but is worth the effort.
By understanding why prospective employers will run background checks on you — and cleaning up unfavorable information — you significantly increase your chances of landing the job you want.
The accompanying guide serves as a primer on the motivations, process and guidelines behind background checks. Before you start applying for jobs, be sure to understand this critical information.