Job applicants are often required to submit to a background check by their potential employer before being formally offered the position. When conducting a background check, employers typically review the applicant's criminal records history and credit report, in addition to verifying past employment and educational qualifications. It is critical for employees to be truthful on the employment application, because perceived dishonesty can be even more damaging than what is actually discovered in the background check.
Employers may conduct a local, state or national criminal records check to review an applicant's criminal history. The check may be completed by entering the name into a database or by digitally fingerprinting the employee. Government agencies also have additional access to the FBI database. What constitutes disqualifying information will vary from employer to employer and even between jobs depending on the duties of the position. A conviction of a theft related crime might be disqualifying for a cash handling position, for example. Some employers may be more lenient if the conviction happened a long time ago and there have been no recent convictions.
Employers may use credit reports to assess an applicant's financial responsibility. For certain financial and cash handling positions, employers like to ensure that there are no red flags such as a high debt to credit ratio, which theoretically might increase the chances of the employee stealing from the company. Some employers may also infer traits of irresponsibility and moral values from the credit report, meaning unusually high numbers of late payments and abandoned debts may be a concern. Legislation prevents employers from discriminating against applicants due to bankruptcy.
Employers typically verify an applicant's past employment. The reasons for the verification are two-fold: to check the applicant's veracity on the employment application, and to find out details about the candidate's work habits and abilities. Employers generally ask former employers to confirm the applicant's job duties, dates of employment and reason for leaving, and will compare these against the information provided in the resume to ensure the candidate has not falsified information or exaggerated his experience. An employer will also often ask if the applicant is eligible for rehire, to identify any disciplinary issues.
Education records — like most other records requested through the background check process — are not releasable without the consent of the employee. Employers may request copies of the applicant's transcripts, dates of attendance and qualifications obtained. This verification can provide confirmation that the candidate has the requisite qualifications for the position and confirms the veracity of her resume.
Medical and Workers Comp Records
Medical records are generally not subject to release or disclosure, but some employers require employees to undergo a medical evaluation prior to hire. Workers compensation records are releasable, although an employer may not discriminate against or refuse to hire an applicant because of a workers compensation claim. However, the applicant may lawfully be denied employment if he is deemed to have been dishonest during the application process by failing to disclose a previous workers compensation claim.
Some employers conduct Internet searches of prospective employees to uncover any negative or potentially embarrassing information about the employee. Employers may review social media sites, forums, blogs and other web based materials to determine if a candidate is a good fit for the company. Employers can also use the Internet to verify claims the candidate may have made about his qualifications and experience. Information that might reflect poorly on the company can often result in a job offer being declined.
- Privacy Rights Clearinghouse: Employment Background Checks; A Jobseekers Guide; February 2011
- Federal Trade Commission: Employment Background Checks and Credit Reports
- Federal Trade Commission: Using Consumer Reports: What Employers Need to Know
- Business: Pre Employment Background Check
- Federal Bureau of Investigation: FBI Criminal History Checks for Employment and Licensing
For more than a decade, Tia Benjamin has been writing organizational policies, procedures and management training programs. A C-level executive, she has more than 15 years experience in human resources and management. Benjamin obtained a Bachelor of Science in social psychology from the University of Kent, England, as well as a Master of Business Administration from San Diego State University.