Job Searching Tips

Understanding Employment Background Checks

By: Cynthia L. Vargas
Jul 20, 2021 • 4 min read

A Guide to Understanding Employment Background Checks – What You Need to Know! 

Job seeking is not the easiest, nor is it the most enjoyable task, regardless of how many job searching resources individuals access. There are many obstacles to overcome when looking for a job. Whether it’s having the keywords to make your resume stand out, or having a stellar cover letter, challenges can get in the way. Passing your background checks, however, doesn’t need to be one of these obstacles.

Landing an interview is the first step, but the most important step of the application process is acing the background check. The simple notion of a background check often increases an applicant’s anxiety level, which increases the chances of not applying to jobs. Understanding the different background checks is beneficial to ease nervousness and apply to jobs with confidence. 

three women sitting at the table

What is a Background Check?

Background checks are a general search of an individual’s public records. There are several checks hiring employers may do, such as educational, credit, employment verification, and lastly, criminal record check. In some cases, an employer may also look into the potential candidates’ social media accounts to ensure they align with the company’s values and environment.  

Why do Employers Perform Background Checks?

Employers perform background checks to ensure the safety of their staff and to avoid any possible liability. These verifications vary from employer to employer, and they also depend on the position.  Employers need to verify certain licenses and certifications are valid and have no restrictions or limitations. 

How Long Does a Background Check Take?

Some employers may conduct background checks in-house, while others may use third-party. A typical wait time can be from three days to one month. Most employers will choose the longer wait time option in order to ensure the accuracy of the background check. 

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Tracing your Social Security Number

A background check begins with a quick social security number trace. This trace verifies the following:

  • Potential candidates names, along with any aliases associated with the individual
  • Date of birth
  • Current address, along with previously associated addresses. 
  • Assesses the validity of the social security number.

A social security number trace is the foundation of background checks. While it does not provide the employer with all the information, it certainly opens the door to begin a more in-depth search. 

Types of Background Checks

Employment Verification

This type of background check allows employers to validate the candidate’s past work history, ensuring their qualifications and experiences align with the role applied for.  

In most cases, HR will call each workplace listed to determine the validity of the candidate’s resume.  This process may seem tedious, but it will also allow the hiring manager to gain insight into what kind of candidate they are potentially hiring.  

woman in black leather jacket using macbook air

Motor Vehicle Reports 

Most employers do not conduct motor vehicle background checks unless the role requires you to be behind the wheel and in a company vehicle.

This kind of report provides the employer with information about whether the applicant or current employee has any traffic violations – including driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 

Education Verification

The education background check validates the potential employee’s educational credentials. It will provide the employer with all information regarding the candidate degrees and schools and universities attended. 

The benefit of having this information is to ensure the candidate has the necessary credentials for the position in question. It also serves as leverage to measure a candidate’s academic success. 

Alternatively, an employer may simply ask the candidate to present their credentials in order to expedite the hiring process. 

Sex Offender Verification

A sex offender background check is not performed for all jobs. However, if the position entails interaction with children or being in contact with the public, chances are this verification will be performed. 

This background check ensures the safety of all employees, along with those in contact with the individual. This verification usually coincides with the criminal background assessment, which is the last one on this list. 

Criminal Check 

The criminal background check is one of the most critical when it comes to pre-employment screenings. It usually goes hand in hand with the sex offender background check, especially if a comprehensive criminal background check is conducted. 

This is the most in-depth background check. It will provide employers with multi-state information. This will allow the employer to access all the risk factors of hiring an individual with a criminal background or not hiring the candidate. While the benefits of performing a criminal background check may be: 

  • To protect company assets.
  • Minimize risk by maintaining a risk-free environment.
  • Complying with federal, state, and local regulations.
  • Adhere companies policy

man in white dress shirt and blue denim jeans sitting on brown sand

Fingerprint Check

Fingerprinting is used to determine an individual’s identity, allowing a complete criminal history record to be generated with a single impression. Fingerprints are generally taken for one of two reasons: for criminal investigation and charging or to complete a civil background check for an employer. 

Civil fingerprints are obtained for pre-employment screening, licensing requirements, and other statutorily authorized purposes. These are used to obtain State and/or federal records. This type of check is essential for candidates looking to apply for a job in public schools, daycare centers, airports, fire departments, and more. 

International Background Verification

These are usually required for candidates who have recently lived in/studied in a different country. This will consist of understanding foreign laws and regulations, as well. This is usually a general international background check which will consist of criminal, educational, employment, and financial categories. 

Due to the possibility of not knowing the foreign language or laws, it would be most beneficial to use a third party for this verification process, which may lead to a prolonged delay. 

Can I Do a Background Check on Myself?

While this is not the norm, it is certainly permissible. This is a great way to see what information is provided to employers in regards to your background. Some individuals perform these to see what shows up before applying for certain positions.  

Also, this would be a good time to access social media accounts. There may be information on your social media accounts that do not align with your potential employer’s goals or not. This would be a good time to take into consideration your past activity on social media. 

Overview 

Background checks are performed to ensure the safety of employees and the integrity of the organization. However, what happens when the potential candidate interviews well but has a criminal record? There are many companies that are trying to change the narrative and are offering jobs to individuals who may have a criminal record. Though this may not be the norm across the board, it does provide a sense of relief for those individuals who are seeking a second chance. 

We hope this guide helps educate you and calm your nerves as you begin the next phase of your career journey! Best of luck.

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