10 Common Misconceptions about Employee Background Checks

10 Common Misconceptions about Employee Background Checks

If you’ve applied for a job recently, or gone in for an employment interview, then you’ve probably been asked to consent to a routine background check. In many ways, pre-employment background checks are becoming as important to hiring managers as your resume, application, and interview responses. Although the background check has become a pivotal component of the hiring process, many job hunters still have countless misconceptions about what background checks are and how they work.

Here are 10 of the most common misconceptions that you should get out of your head before your next job interview.

1. Background checks are solely looking for criminal history.

When consenting to a pre-employment screening, many applicants simply equate “background check” with “criminal background check.” While employers will check your criminal history, that’s not the only thing they are going to look at. Depending on the employer, a background check might also pull up your credit history, your driving record, your civil history, and more. Employers will also take the time to verify your educational background, your job history, and any professional licenses or certifications you may have. Some background checks even include a drug test.

2. I can control the narrative of my background check with great references.

The list of professional references you hand over at a job interview can certainly help your employment chances, but reference checks are merely one small part of employment background screenings. Just because your references praise you to the moon and back, that doesn’t mean your prospective employer is going to skip the rest of the check. They’ll still pull up your criminal history, credit history, and more.

3. Employers won’t find out if I lie about job titles, salaries, or employment dates.

Embellishing a resume is such a common thing that many job searchers feel like they have to do it to compete in a crowded job market. This is a misconception itself. Part of your background check includes employment verification, where your prospective employer will contact the human resources department at your old job and ask about your job title, your employment dates, and your salary. Lying about any of these things, therefore, is a good way to get flagged as a liar.

4. An applicant is powerless to fight back against background check findings.

False. If you are ever disqualified from employment consideration based on background check findings, you have a legal right to find out why. Your employer is required to provide you with a copy of the background check that led to your disqualification, as well as to inform you in writing of the decision. While this information usually won’t help you get the job, it will alert you about any false information that is coming up on your background check, so that you can fix it before your next interview.

5. My social media profiles are off-limits to hiring managers.

While the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is not a big fan of employers making hiring decisions on the basis of social media background checks, that doesn’t mean that such checks are illegal—at least not yet. Of course, an employer is not allowed to discriminate against you based on information that they are not allowed to know, and wouldn’t have known without going online. Such information includes your age, race, sexual orientation, and religion. However, in most cases, such discriminatory information is absolutely not what a hiring manager is looking for. Instead, they’re on the hunt for inappropriate photos, profane comments, or anything else that might indicate a person who is a risk to their company reputation. In other words, clean up your Facebook before your job interview.

6. All background checks companies provide the same information.

One of the biggest misconceptions about background checks is that there is a big, universal cloud of criminal history that employers pull from to run background checks. In actuality, there are many different criminal history registries out there, scattered throughout different cities, counties, and states throughout the country. Other information, from your driving history to your civil court records, are similarly scattered, which means that one background check may find different information than another. Different employers also use different screening firms to run their background checks, and every firm goes about the task a bit differently.

7. If I’ve never committed a crime, I don’t have to worry about the background check.

This is another big one, especially among young people. Many applicants assume that, since they’ve never been convicted of a crime, they don’t have anything to worry about from the background check. This belief is incorrect for numerous reasons. First of all—and as we’ve established—a background check is about more than criminal history. Secondly, background checks don’t always return accurate information. If you have a common name, your background check might flag someone else’s criminal record. And if you’ve been the victim of identity theft, then your credit history could be in ruins without you knowing it.

8. There are plenty of employers out there who don’t run background checks.

This statement might have been true 10 or 20 years ago, but today, it’s 100% false. With the job market as crowded as its ever been, and with employers becoming more conscious of threats and lawsuits, you’d be hard-pressed to find any employer these days that doesn’t require a background check.

9. Employers won’t hire me if there is something unattractive in my background.

While it is true that people with criminal convictions face a harder time finding jobs than those with clean records, the belief that it is impossible to find a job with a black mark on your record is incorrect. Laws are in place to prevent blanket employment discrimination against criminals, and more recent movements—like “ban the box” and expungement—are making it easier for those with criminal histories to compete for jobs.

10. There’s no way to know what’s going to come up on your background check.

One of the smartest things you can do to prepare for a job interview is to run a background check on yourself. As is mentioned above, not every background check is the same, and there are no guarantees that the information that comes up on your test check will also be reflected in your employment screening. However, running a background check on yourself is a great way to find out if there is any inaccurate information coming up on your record—before that inaccurate information loses you a job.

Don’t miss out on your dream job because you don’t understand how employment background checks work. Learn about different background checks so that you truly know what you’re up against when you go in for that job interview. Doing so will boost your peace of mind and give you a better chance of getting the job.

Still looking for a job at an organization you’ll love? DAVIS Companies specializes in finding job seekers best fit opportunities, not just open positions. If you are looking for work, take a look at DAVIS’ job openings.

About the Author:

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 Backgroundchecks.com. 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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