What do Background Checks Reveal?

As you sign the release at the bottom of your employment application giving permission for a background check, you might wonder exactly what that investigation will reveal. What information might come to light as people rummage around in your past?

The reasons for checking can vary, from a routine criminal background check that most potential employers require to an in-depth perusal of every database available. If the position involves handling money, working with children or the elderly, or another sensitive task, employers must ensure that their hires have been vetted before a job offer is extended. This step can prevent trouble for the employer and those served by organization down the line, even stymying legal action against the company for not doing their due diligence. 

In this age of abundant information, a search of public records can reveal birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, and property records. Employers will also generally run a Social Security check to make sure the potential employee is legally able to work in this country, along with current and past addresses and date of birth. References from resumes and applications will also be checked to verify the applicant’s education and work history.

The next most common check is one for criminal records. A survey of these databases can reveal offenses, warrants, arrest records (even if the charges were dropped later), and incarcerations. This additional step helps employers determine the reliability and trustworthiness of applicants.

Driving records could be part of a background check if the job entails providing transportation for others or delivering goods for the employer. Credit reports may be pulled if the applicant is applying for a lease and will reveal credit card and student loan debt, previous mortgages, bankruptcies (for up to 10 years), car payments, defaulted loans, and late payments. Applicants might consider getting a copy of their credit report (free once every 12 months) before filling out applications, just to be aware of what is on it and clear up any errors ahead of any credit check. 

If you’re filling out an application, whether it is for a job, a new apartment, or another reason, honesty is always the best policy. If there is an issue that could possibly raise a red flag, bring it up yourself before a background check is done. The internet is so vast that keeping secrets is nearly impossible, and if you bring it to the fore yourself, you will look more trustworthy than if you tried to cover up the potential issue.

Many applications state whether they can accept people with certain offenses, including criminal convictions. If you do not meet the requirements of a position due to something on your background check, it may be best for you to search for a position that is more suited to your current situation. If you feel you need to consult an attorney to assist with any legal aspects of the process, it might benefit you to do that early on.

Background checks are done for a variety of reasons, and the depth of the digging often depends on the type of application. This important step protects the employer or organization from unexpected repercussions later, and it gives the applicant the opportunity to verify and correct their own information periodically.

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