Whether you are applying for a job or hiring for the first time, you need to know what an employment background check involves and how the process works. Today, we’ll demystify the laws and regulations that must be observed, plus offer employees some tips on how to discover what will appear on their own background check ahead of time.
If you are applying for just about any job these days, the chances are you will be subjected to a background check. For applicants, this can be a stressful time as they wonder what a check might reveal from their past. For employers, these checks are essential to ensure resumes are truthful and a person is the right fit for their company.
But while we all know employment background checks exist, not many people know exactly how the process works. That’s what this article is all about. We will explain exactly what happens when you are subjected to an employment background check, why so many bosses insist on them, and how they are regulated.
We will also advise on how you can run your own background check today to be sure that no unpleasant surprises show up when you are applying for that dream job.
What is an employment background check?
A background check is a research tool that collates information from a range of publicly available data sources into a detailed report. People are often surprised at the amount of information that a background check can find out about people.
The sort of information that is held in the public domain about almost every US citizen includes:
- Criminal records (federal, state, county, and city)
- Licenses held
- Education history (high school and college)
- Employment history
- Work authorization
- Credit history
- Driving record
- Social media profiles
In the past, this information was difficult and time-consuming to access. But digitization means that a whole industry has sprung up, which searches through hundreds of different public data sources in minutes to pull together reports. These contain a huge amount of detail and are surprisingly accurate, especially given how fast searches are conducted.
Do background checks show employment history?
Employment background checks are a little different from the sort of public background checks that anyone can run. For a start, they are governed by a number of different rules and regulations that govern what employers can and cannot consider when deciding whether to hire someone or not.
The most prominent of these is the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) but there are other federal laws relating to discrimination on the grounds of things like age, race, or sexuality. In addition to this, there are a variety of laws at state and even local levels that employers have to abide by.
As a result, there is a separate industry that has sprung up catering for employment background checks. These specialist providers comply with the laws in different states and will ensure that employers only see the information they are allowed to consider when deciding on who to hire.
But because public background checking sites can access much of the information that specialist employment sites can, job applicants have an opportunity to stay one step ahead of their new boss.
They can use these sites to run an unofficial background check on themselves and get a pretty accurate impression about what their prospective employers can and cannot find out about them. This allows them to ensure their application is consistent with this information and also be prepared to answer any tricky questions a background check might throw up.
Most effective public background checking sites
The advantages of running a background check on yourself before applying for a job are clear. The big question is which public background checking site should you use? There are hundreds out there and while they all claim to be the best, the truth is that the difference in quality can be huge.
We’ve tested all the job background checking sites to see which are best at running a check on yourself. This has been a long process, but the results are now in, and our team has identified the three best public background checking sites:
BeenVerified is the top background checking site we tested. The results BeenVerified delivers are consistently detailed and reliable. It is presented in easy-to-read and well-designed reports and in none of our tests did BeenVerified turn up a single piece of inaccurate information.
Once you sign up for BeenVerified you can follow the progress of all your searches on either the beautifully-designed desktop dashboard or through its excellent apps that are available for Android and iOS devices and also extremely intuitive to use. They also offer a very helpful customer support service if you encounter any problems or have any questions or issues to put to them.
This excellent all-round service comes at a very reasonable price. A basic BeenVerified subscription costs just $22.86 per month or you can pay a mere $14.86 per month for a three-month package. We felt this offered exceptional value for money for a high-quality background checking service.
TruthFinder is another site that delivers impressively accurate results. No matter what sort of search we tried, it always returned incredibly accurate results. This was the case even when we used deliberately misleading or inaccurate input terms.
Search speeds were not quite as fast as some other sites we tested. But the information they generated is presented in excellent reports and their apps and desktop dashboard are both top-notch and extremely simple to use. The price is right too, at just $27.78 monthly, or $23.02 per month if you sign up for 2 months at a time.
We really liked TruthFinder’s 24/7 customer support which was both helpful and responsive. It is available on a toll-free number and is great, especially for beginners. The TruthFinder experience was extremely positive and we have no hesitation in recommending them to readers.
Instant CheckMate generates excellent results, even with a bare minimum of information. The central feature of Instant CheckMate is its speeds–which were quicker than any other site we tested–while still delivering accurate results.
Instant CheckMate puts its results across in easy-to-follow reports and there are also nicely designed, user-friendly apps and a good desktop dashboard. The customer service is very helpful too, making for an impressive all-round service.
All this is available from just $34.78 a month for a one-month subscription to Instant CheckMate. Alternatively, a three-month subscription is available $27.82 per month. At these prices, they are not the cheapest, but for fast and accurate results, they are definitely worth the extra cash.
Why do employers run background checks?
The reason almost every employer runs a background check on prospective staff is quite simple. People are frequently not honest on their resumes and this can ultimately end up costing them money.
The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners has estimated that resume fraud costs employers hundreds of millions of dollars a year through a combination of wasted time, poor productivity, substandard work, and other issues.
It makes sense to spend a little money running a quick background check to ensure that the person who has applied for a job with you is honest about his skills and background. Ultimately, they will end up saving money if they get their hiring decisions right!
What do employment history checks include?
Employment background checks can bring home very different information depending on the service you use, the source they search, and how conscientious they are at their job. Some will go to the effort of manually seeking out hard copies of some records that haven’t been digitized and will search exhaustively through every possible source. Others will not be so diligent.
But in general terms, an employment history check can be expected to reveal the following details:
- Identity details – Firstly they will confirm that the identity details you have provided your prospective new boss are genuine.
- Address histories – Checking your address history can be vital in determining if other information on your resume is accurate.
- Employment details – They will check that the information you have provided about your employment history is accurate. Permission is required for this search but it is likely to include contacting some past employers, requesting payslips and other details, and also searching online records for other versions of your resume to check that they corroborate the basic facts.
- Education and licenses – If there is a minimum education requirement or a specific license or other qualification that you need for a job, an employment history check will seek to confirm that you hold everything you have claimed.
- Criminal records – Many employers are reluctant to hire people with a criminal record. For some jobs, certain crimes will automatically rule you out. For example, no business operating in the financial services sector will hire a convicted fraudster. While they will ask this information from you directly, employers will also want to get your claims verified.
- Credit history – This can give an indication of how financially responsible you are and how good you are at managing your finances. Written permission is required.
- Military records – If a candidate has served in the armed forces, it is permitted to see their service records. Again, they will need written permission to do so.
- Drug use – Some employers will also run drug searches to check that you don’t have a record of drug use of drug-related crimes. Again, they will need your specific permission to do this.
- Worker’s compensation – Some employers like to see details of any workplace compensation claims you have made. This is subject to legal restrictions in some states but in others, they are perfectly entitled to check.
What laws and regulations apply to employment history checks?
Employment background checks are regulated under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). All background checks being run for the purpose of employment must be compliant with this law which is why so many businesses opt to use employment-specialist background checking companies that guarantee compliance.
There are other laws around discrimination in employment background checks that all employers must comply with. This includes such things are not using a person’s race, sexuality, or gender as a factor in your hiring decisions. In addition, there are various state and even local laws that can affect how employment background checks must be carried out where you are. As an employer, you should check what the situation is where you are and if necessary consult a lawyer if you are unsure.
Perhaps the most essential law which employment background checks must comply with is around applicant permission. An employer must get written consent from an applicant, on an individual form, before they can run any formal employment background check on them. This is also required if they plan to look at certain specific information including credit reports, detailed military records, or school transcripts.
If an employer decides not to hire a person on the basis of information uncovered as part of a background check, they are also legally obliged to inform the applicant of this fact. They must provide the applicant with a copy of the background check and an explanation of what information contained in it has excluded them from the role.
Can I change the information an employer might find in a background check?
This is a complicated question with no definitive yes or no answer. You can certainly ensure that some data doesn’t show on your background check, but it will depend on where your bosses’ background check is sourcing its information from.
There are some criminal records that can be sealed or expunged. This doesn’t guarantee they won’t appear on your background check but it means they shouldn’t.
If the information has been sourced from your own social media sites, you can change these profiles. That doesn’t guarantee an employer won’t see stuff on an archived version of your site, but it makes the chances far less likely.
But in general, public records are almost impossible to get rid of once they are recorded. But by running a background check on yourself, you can at least see what your new boss will find out and be prepared with an explanation or an excuse before he even asks you about it.
Employment background checks can reveal a huge amount of information about someone. They are overseen by a number of federal, state, and local laws and employers you’re your written permission before carrying them out.
In this article, we have explained exactly what sort of information your prospective employer could find out about you and why they tend to use specialized searching sites. We have also detailed how you can get one step ahead by running a background check on yourself and recommended the best sites to use to do this.
Have you ever lost out on a job because of a background check? How have you dealt with the problem? Do you have any tips or tricks for our readers we haven’t mentioned in this article? It is always helpful for people to hear about real-life experiences, so why not share yours today using the comment box below?