How Is a Background Check Done for Employment in the US

The most common reason an employer runs a background check is to avoid potential risk to their workplace. That means reducing the risk of potential liability long-term by screening potential candidates before offering a position. The background check will occur for some companies during the application process; others will occur before or during the job offer (making it contingent upon receiving a background check).

Some employers, however, perform background checks on an annual or semi-annual basis. Often this is to ensure a continued safe environment for staff and clients, checking criminal backgrounds for potential issues.

How an Employer Performs the Check

Before hopping on to a website like Check People, an employer needs to get written authorization to perform a background check. This authorization is typically included on the application form, with a signature required. Next, they need access to personal information like your Social Security Number, date of birth, address, and full name to pull the report, which they will either ask for or will include on the consent form.

What Information is Included in the Employment Background Check?

The answer depends on the type of employment you’re pursuing. For most employers, a typical background check will include work history, criminal record, medical history, education verification, credit history, and motor vehicle reports. Some companies may not require all of the listed items, but only a few may be included in the report.

More recently, companies are also scanning through social media activity during the hiring process. By viewing social media accounts, employers can identify potential risks inside and outside the company that may cause concern. Finally, your background check may also include a drug screening at the time of hire.

For specialized jobs, additional screening may be required. These may consist of complete financial screening (in an environment where someone would be responsible for financial accounts or large amounts of money) or vulnerable person police checks (for those hoping to work with children or the elderly) may also be ordered.

Do I Have to Consent to a Background Check?

No, you don’t have to consent to a background check, but an employer can make it mandatory for all applicants to undergo one before hiring. Refusing to have a background check can be a significant warning to potential companies. Most companies want to lower their risk of liability within the company, meaning they don’t want to hire potential employees that may increase the chance of something happening on the job. Employers looking for drivers, for example, won’t hire someone with a driving record checkered with accidents, speeding, and DUI charges.

Before being hired, many employers will ask their staff to sign a contract of employment. In these contract terms, annual or semi-annual background checks can be required to continue work. Failure to agree to this contract would prohibit them from hiring you. So, while it isn’t mandatory to submit a background check, it can seriously hinder the ability to secure a job refusing to comply.

How Far Back Do Background Checks Go?

For the majority of background checks, the average reporting period is between seven to ten years. However, some information (for example, the sex offenders list) may report longer or indefinitely. In addition, the reporting period depends on your state of residence. Therefore, always confirm the rules and regulations within your specific state before applying. It’s important to know what state regulations dictate before job applications if you have a few things in your past you would like to prevent potential employers from discovering.

What If An Employer Doesn’t Want to Hire Me?

An employer is allowed to use your background check to determine your eligibility for employment. Should a company decide not to pursue an applicant based on the report, they must send them a copy of the report used to make the decision, as well as “A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.” Some potential candidates may be allowed to explain findings on their report, mainly if there are gaps in employment history, criminal offenses, or questionable medical history.

Who Performs the Background Checks in the US?

All employers are required to use an FCRA-compliant company to perform background checks, regardless of in-house or if they hire an outside company to complete the process. Most often, these background checks are outsourced to third-party companies. These companies will have access to independent databases, including medical records, criminal history, and additional screenings mentioned above.

Can I See a Copy of My Report Before I Apply?

Yes! Many companies offer background checks that include all of the above information at a small fee to the consumer. Ordering a background check on yourself is essential to confirm current information, ensure the report is error-free, and review any details on the file for future applications. Knowing what is on the file will also allow you to explain any errors before the interview. The more informed you are, the easier it will be to explain or justify potential concerns for employers down the road.

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