What Do Employers Check During a Background Check?
So you’ve found your dream job, filled out an application, and aced the interview with flying colors. You are convinced that the employer is ready to offer you the job, and the only thing standing between you and perfect employment is a background check. But what do employers look for in background checks, and do you have anything to worry about in the screening process? Below, we’ve outlined the basics of background screening so you can know what you’re up against on this last major hurdle of employment screening.
Criminal History: Virtually all pre-employment background checks include a look into one’s criminal history. Depending on the employer, this check may have a nationwide scope, be limited to the state in which the job is being offered or the counties where you lived in the recent past. Either way, employers are looking for the same thing: criminal convictions that may impact the ability of an applicant to satisfactorily perform the job at hand.
National Wants and Warrants: In addition to criminal history, background checks scan national want and warrant lists to find whether there is a warrant out for the applicant or employee’s arrest. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) dictates that employers can only take actual convictions—and not arrest record alone —into account during a background check, but arrest warrants can still impact your employment even though they are not conclusive evidence that the subject committed committed the conduct.
Nationwide and State Registries: The average background check typically checks nationwide criminal lists like terrorist watch lists and FBI most wanted lists as well as state and local sex offender registries.
Social Security Validation and Trace: Criminals will often use false identities and aliases in an effort to gain employment. Checks using the social security number not only validate that the actual number exists, is not listed on the Death Master Index and isn’t flagged for fraud, but also reveals alias names and addresses associated with that number.
Resume and Application Verifications: From references to employment history and from education to professional licensing, resumes and job applications present a lot of information for employers to sift through. A comprehensive background check can help to determine whether or not an applicant is lying about or exaggerating their employment or education history.
Civil History: While criminal background checks look through court records and state registries to find criminal convictions, civil searches go through county and federal civil court records and provide information about claims, suits, and judgments filed by or against the subject. This can include contracts, personal injury, discrimination, eviction, and other claims.
Driving History: Not all employers will look into their applicants’ driving records, but if a job involves the operation of a motor vehicle, then chances are high that a driving record report will serve a key role in all pre-employment screening. These searches look into driver’s license statuses, including expirations, tickets and violations, or suspensions.
Credit Checks: Just as your credit history is checked when you apply for a loan or for a new credit card, many employers like to take a look into it as well. Especially for jobs that involve investments or frequent handling of money, a pre-employment credit report can show tell tail signs of behavior that is incompatible with the job responsibilities.
Drug Testing: In addition to the basic criminal background check, many employers also insist that their workers—both new applicants and current workers—submit to drug tests in order to ensure a safer and more productive workplace environment. The amount of substances that are checked for can range from a few like Cocaine, Marijuana, to a larger set including Amphetamines, Phencyclidine PCP and Methadone.
Michael Klazema has been developing products for pre-employment screening and improving online customer experiences in the background screening industry since 2009. He is the lead author and editor for a background checks blog and community. He lives in Dallas, TX with his family and enjoys the rich culinary histories of various old and new world countries.
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