An employee background check is an employer’s review of an employee or a potential employee’s criminal, commercial, employment, and financial records. Some employers conduct background checks before the offer of employment and some make an offer then let you sweat it out while the check is being conducted.
Employers typically contract with a third party to check into someone’s affairs. Lucky for potential employees, the Fair Credit Reporting Act restricts employers from getting the information they do not need. So, no, they won’t find out about that little embarrassing thing you did a few years back. The FCRA sets the screening standards and defines a routine background check as a consumer report and they are limited in scope. Thankfully.
If an employer conducts a background check on you, you must be notified in writing that they are checking, and you must provide written authorization. Before proving written authorization, it is a good idea to inquire about the things they will be checking and how the information will be evaluated, and employment impacted.
If an employer is conducting inquiries on their own, they do not have a legal obligation to ask for your permission. For example, they do not have to get written authorization to contact a former employer. If an offer of employment is not extended because of a consumer report or if a job offer is rescinded, the company must provide you with a “pre-adverse action disclosure”. Included with the disclosure should be a copy of the report and a written explanation of your rights. You may if you feel is it worth your time, dispute the report.
What Employers Can Check
A background check may range from simple verification of your date of birth and social security number to a more thorough check into your personal history. The employer may want to check your credit history, work history, driving record, criminal records, medical records, and drug test results. Feel uncomfortable yet?
An employer can also complete what is known as a character check and contact personal acquaintances to speak about you. Typically, the information they check will be related to the job you applied for. For example, if you are hired to work at a financial institution, it would be reasonable for them to check to see if you have any banking related offenses on your record.
Are Some Things Private?
There are some things about you that cannot be disclosed to an employer. This includes bankruptcies over ten years old, civil lawsuit and arrest records over 7 years old. Sometimes the restrictions are impacted by the salary offered. Some records, such as academic and medical records cannot be accessed without your written consent. Laws surrounding background checks differ from one state to the next.
Preparing for a Background Check
The best way to prepare yourself for employee background checks is to make yourself aware of the information the employer is searching for and know, beforehand, what they will find out. Get ahead of any errors on your credit report and any other report that the employer will check. We live in a social media-driven world. Despite your privacy settings, be careful with social media use and be mindful of what you post, comment or blog. Lastly, make sure your resume and application represent you truthfully. Resist the temptation to over enhance or lie. You just might get busted.