What You Need to Know About Employers Who Check Your Background

You’ve just interviewed for the job of your dreams, and things are looking pretty good. However, there are a few more steps that must be completed before your job offer is finalized. In addition to a reference check, your employer mentioned they would like to conduct a background check. This report includes information, such as your credit history, employment history, and criminal record. What are they looking for? What if there’s a mistake that causes the employer to reconsider hiring you?
When you hear the words “background check” it’s not unusual to feel a little anxious, even if you don’t have a criminal past. There’s always the possibility something could go wrong, such as being confused with someone who has a similar name. Here’s what you need to know about employers who check your background.

Employers conduct background checks to protect themselves

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A background check is part of risk management. | Pixabay

Have you ever wondered why employers go through the trouble of checking your background? Know it’s more about them than you. A Society for Human Resource Management study found 52% of organizations do background checks to reduce legal liability for negligent hiring. Roughly 49% check a candidate’s background, so they can make sure the work environment will be safe for other employees.

 Not all employers conduct background checks

businessman presenting at a meeting
Not all employers think a background check is necessary. | iStock.com

If the interview process has your stomach in a ball of knots because you’re concerned about the background check, you might not have to worry. The same Society for Human Resource Management study revealed about two-thirds of companies (69%) conduct criminal background checks on their candidates. So, there’s a chance you don’t have to be anxious about losing out on an opportunity because of something negative in your background report.

Your permission is required

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Your permission must be in writing. | iStock.com

You shouldn’t be in the dark about whether an employer decided to do a background check. An employer is required to ask for your written permission before getting a background report, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Although you can deny permission, this could result in your application getting rejected. If the employer proceeds to conduct a background check without your permission, get in touch with the Federal Trade Commission.

An employer must give you a copy of your report if you’re denied the job

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You have some rights when it comes to the background check. | iStock.com

If something in your report causes an employer not to hire you, you’re entitled to a copy of your background report. In addition to the report, you should also receive a “notice of rights” detailing how to get in touch with the company that produced the report. There’s a chance there could be some inaccurate information about you in the report, so this gives you a chance to review the information and make sure everything is correct.

You can check your own background

business man using internet on smart phone
Background check companies often make mistakes, such as mixing up people with similar names. | iStock.com/anyaberkut

If you’re curious about what is in your background report, you can access a copy. Do this by filling out a form on LexisNexis Personal Reports. Some of the information you’ll be able to see include your driving record, evictions, rental payment history, previous addresses, criminal records, and more. It’s important to review your reports because background check companies often make mistakes, such as mixing up people with similar names or reporting an arrest and failing to mention no charges were filed, the National Consumer Law Center reported.

You can make corrections to your background report

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It’s best to correct errors as soon as possible. | iStock.com/anyaberkut

If you’re concerned your background report might contain errors, you have a chance to correct it. It’s best to correct errors as soon as possible. Depending on the error, it could cause you to get turned down for the job. You can make changes to your profile by contacting the reporting company. Tell it about the mistakes, and then ask the company to make corrections. The company is legally required to investigate the claim and make corrections (if it was indeed an error) within 30 days. Afterward, send a copy of the corrected background report to the employer.

Background checks matter even after you get the job

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Don’t get too comfortable. | iStock.com/NakoPhotography

Are you up for a promotion? Congratulations. One thing you should know is you might face an unexpected hurdle along the way. Some employers do a background check when considering internal candidates for promotions. So don’t get too comfortable just because you’ve been there for a while. Paul Barada Sr., founder and chairman of Barada Associates, said on his blog this practice makes good business sense.

Recently I wrote about the growing trend toward re-checking employees anywhere from annually to every five years. That also makes good sense because people change over time and because it’s always better to be safe than sorry. The same logic applies to people being promoted within an organization. The more significant the position is to the organization, the more thorough the check should be.

An employer can’t ask for more information based on your race or ethnicity

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All candidates are to be treated the same. | iStock.com

Employers must be careful when it comes to how they conduct their background checks. One area where they must use care is when it comes to your racial background. Know that an employer is not permitted to request additional background information because you are of a certain race or ethnicity. Candidates are to be treated the same, regardless of race, sex, religion, or national origin, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Committing a crime won’t necessarily hurt your chances

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You might still have a shot at the job. | iStock.com/photique

There’s still hope if you have a criminal history. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the crime, you might still have a shot at the job. For example, if you committed a crime that was not severe, an employer might overlook your indiscretion and still hire you. Roughly 84% of employers surveyed in the human resources study said the severity of a crime (the more severe, the less likely they are to make a hire), influences their final hiring decision.

You might have an opportunity to explain yourself

Some employers will let you provide more information about a criminal record. | iStock.com

A criminal record will not always mean an employer tosses your resume. Some employers are willing to let you provide more information about a crime you committed. More than half (58%) of respondents in the human resources survey said they would allow a job candidate to explain the results of their background check before making a hiring decision. And surprisingly, 27% of employers said they would allow job candidates to explain the results of their background check after making a hiring decision.
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