Pre-employment Background Checks – Should You Be Worried?

Just about every company will require a pre-employment background check before bringing on a new employee. It’s as easy as 1-2-3 unless you have something to hide. In that case, you may have an issue that needs to be brought out before a prospective employer discovers it.  Honesty is always best in the event that you have a skeleton lurking in the closet.

What Should You Expect?

Amy B. Crane’s article published on clearly maps out the ABCs of pre-employment background checks.

She wrote, “If you’ve applied for a job lately, chances are you signed a consent form for a background check.  When you sign that consent form, you open your past to a potential employer. Your credit history, driving records, medical records, military records and court records are an open book.”

In the same article: “There are a lot of things that potential employers can find out about you,” says Tena Friery, research director at the consumer rights organization Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. “This goes far beyond credit information and can include information about your personal characteristics and mode of living. One of the privacy concerns related to this is that there is no standard of relevance. The information that is gathered and disseminated doesn’t have to apply to the specific job.”

How Can You Prepare?

The U.S. Small Business Administration has published an article providing more information regarding pre-employment background checks and the law.

With this information in hand, you should be able to prepare yourself for a pre-employment background check. Keeps these steps in mind:

  1. Take time to check your credit report to ensure that everything is accurately reported.  If you do find something that is questionable, there are links on the credit reporting sites that allow you to submit requests for review. It’s well worth your time to know as much as possible about what a potential employer might find.  You can view your credit report listed with the three major national credit bureaus (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax) by going directly to their websites and logging in. Access to your credit report is offered periodically at no charge.
  2. Pay a fee to legitimate agencies that perform background checks to head off any potential problems you might not be aware of. After you have worked so hard to prepare your resume, apply for positions, and get through the interview process, you certainly don’t want something to come up that could keep you from receiving an offer!
  3. Be aware that when signing a background check consent form, you are allowing investigation of driving records, vehicle registration, motor vehicle history, credit records, criminal records, social security number, education records, court records, workers’ compensation, bankruptcy, character references, neighbor interviews, medical records, property ownership, military records, state licensing records, drug test records, past employers, personal references, incarceration records, etc.  Most of this information is available from consumer reporting agencies.
  4. Expect that a potential employer will verify past employment and academic records as well. It is extremely important to be honest in all you tell the organization you are interviewing with.  In these days of high technology, no area will be left uncovered. If you aren’t truthful on your resume or application, expect to get caught and don’t expect to receive an offer.  Some companies will fire you on the spot if they learn you lied about your background. It doesn’t pay to lie.

“The goal of a company is to find out as much as they can about the skills and behaviors an applicant will bring to an organization,” says Mary Massad, vice president of human resource development for Administaff, a personnel management company. “An employer is basically trying to establish whether you will be a good fit for the organization and what type of risk you might pose to that organization.

“A lot of applicants are shocked when a background check is actually run and turns up something that is at odds with the information they’ve provided,” Massad says.

If you sign a consent for a background check, it’s safe to assume that the company you are seeking employment with will be conducting such a screening.

What Are My Rights?

The Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act put national standards in place for background checks conducted by consumer reporting agencies. The following link will summarize your rights.

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