Demystifying the Background Check

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By Reneé Zung
August 04, 2020
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All job seekers know that a background check is one of the final stages of starting a new job; however, very few people know why. A background check is a way for the employer to confirm who you say you are, you have the skills and competencies to do the job well, and that you will not cause any harm to your colleagues. The wrong hire could tarnish the reputation of the company’s brand or its employees.

Employment background checks verify a person’s work history, education, credit history, driving record, criminal record, medical history, use of social media, and drug screening. An employment background check includes information for the past 7-10 years. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires employers to comply with certain regulations to ensure that the background check process is completed with fairness, accuracy, and privacy of the personal information.

E-Verify is used by employers to verify the identity and employment eligibility of newly hired employees. The online check compares information from the I-9 form new employees are required to fill out with government records to confirm that the employee is authorized to work in the U.S.

Criminal history may be part of your background check; however, it is important to know that having an arrest record or spending time in jail are two different scenarios. Being arrested doesn’t constitute being a criminal. It is important to list any arrest, no matter how insignificant it might be.

In most cases a background check is just a formality that is part of the hiring and on-boarding process.

Credit history is verified and, in some cases, may hinder the hiring process. For instance, if you are in debt (beyond the typical student loans, mortgage, or revolving lines of credit) and you are applying for a job in a bank, that might indicate a poor fit for a job that involves being responsible for company money or consumer information.

Speeding tickets and or other moving violations in some cases will also hinder the hiring process in some situations. For example, if you are applying to be a driver or you are a field sales representative you may be considered a high-risk candidate when your job requires you to drive a company vehicle and you are on the company’s insurance.

Did you know that even if the state you live in has legalized the use of marijuana, if the company you are being hired for has a zero-tolerance policy, or as part of their offer process requires a drug test, you may not be offered the job, or you can be fired for using marijuana on your free time? However, if you are using a CBD product, the rules are different. In fact, the Federal Government has removed hemp and hemp-derived products (including CBD) from the Control Substance Act, Schedule 1.

What if your background check comes back with a red flag? A red flag will differ from company to company; however, what constitutes a red flag is a discrepancy on your employment application and the results of the background check. One of the most common red flags is if you claim to have graduated with a college degree, however, this can’t be confirmed by the educational institution. Other common red flags include posting aggressive, violent, discriminatory, or inappropriate behavior on social media. A word of caution, before you post, ask yourself, “Will I regret this in a day, hour, or year from now?”

What can I do if I am informed that I have a red flag?  The good news is that under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you can dispute your information. All you have to do is call the Client Service Center to request a copy of the report (866-604-6570).

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