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What Do Employers Look for in Background Checks?

By Matt Casadona

Background checks

June 23 2021 - Are you wondering what employers look for in background checks? What is the purpose of a background check? Is there anything that the employers can’t check? These are common questions that most new hires or applicants might be wondering about.

Many employers conduct background checks on job applicants. There are different types of background checks depending on the requirements of the role, the type of company you’re applying to, and other factors. In this article, we’ll go over the main things employers look for when they run a background check.

What is the purpose of background checks?

A background check is meant to provide a review of an individual’s employment, criminal, financial, and commercial record. This review allows the employers to make sure the candidate has been truthful in their interview and resume, and helps to ensure there is nothing in their history that would be of concern to the employer. While a background check minimizes the potential risks for the employer, it also allows employers to make sure the background of the candidate is not in conflict with any of their policies.

For most employers, a background check allows them to confirm that a candidate is competent for the position. Some applicants do not fully understand the requirements of the job, so the employer’s responsibility is to make sure they are hiring the right person for the job. A candidate might fail a background check if, for example, an employer finds out that they have overstated, or even outright lied, about their qualifications or work experience.

For certain types of occupations, workplace safety is another reason for background checks. If the candidate has a certain criminal record, they might not be eligible for the position. An employer can face claims for negligent hiring in a situation where an employee hired without a proper background check was involved in harming another employee of the company. Workplace theft is another risk for employers that can be minimized by background checks.

What does a background check look at?

Identity Check

An employer wants to be certain that the candidate they are hiring is being honest about their identity. If a candidate is misrepresenting their identity, that is a major red flag for the employer. An identity check also provides essential information for the employer that is often used to complete a comprehensive background check. Identity checks can include verifying a candidate’s Social Security number, passport, driver’s license, and other forms of identity.

Criminal Record

When an employer brings a new candidate into their workplace, they need to be confident they know the criminal record of the candidate. This includes checking for any violent crimes, sex crimes, fraud, theft, embezzlement, felony convictions, and more.

Keep in mind that not every crime will automatically disqualify the candidate for the job position, but the employer needs to make an informed decision by verifying the criminal record. Apart from workplace safety and protection from negligent hiring lawsuits, a background check is also important for the reputation of the employer and to foster trust amongst their current employees.

Criminal record

Employment and Education Verification

An employment and education verification can include verifying a candidate’s academic degrees, employment histories, attendance in high school and universities, GPA, honors achieved, areas of study, and professional licenses. This verification allows the employers to ensure the candidate has the experience and qualifications that they claimed to have in their interview or on their resume.

Companies that specialize in background checks often have up-to-date lists of diploma mills to check if the candidate has obtained a degree from one of these diploma mills, which provide a degree for a price without requiring any education. The candidate might be able to present the degree to the employer, but without a background check for the education, the employer cannot be confident about the value and authenticity of the degree. Some companies might even offer international employment and education verification services, which examine degrees received in foreign countries.

Credit History

Credit history can be part of a background check by an employer. The credit history of the candidate is an indicator of whether the candidate is responsible with their finances. For certain roles, this can be an important factor in the hiring decision.

For example, would an employer be comfortable hiring someone in their accounting department who is not able to manage their financial obligations? Credit history can show if the candidate has been delinquent in paying back their student loans, mortgage payments, credit payments, and other types of liabilities. Employers will likely run a credit history check if they are hiring the candidate for a financially-focused role.

What can’t employers check?

There are certain types of information that employers are not able to check for in a background check. This can include civil suits and judgments, arrests more than seven years old, bankruptcies, paid tax liens, or accounts placed in collections that are more than seven years old.

Additionally, the medical and military records of a person are off-limits for background checks. However, keep in mind that, while medical records might not be available for the employer, they can order a drug and health screening for the candidate as part of the hiring process. This might include hair, oral fluid, and urine drug testing.

Is it possible to prepare for a background check?

As background checks can be comprehensive and find out all the important information about the candidate, it is highly recommended that candidates be honest in their resume, interview, and all interactions with the employer. Be upfront about your past, whether that means your education, employment history, criminal record, or even your credit score. If you’re straightforward with a potential employer, you’ll likely have a better shot at getting hired than if you lie.

It is also important to safeguard your privacy by being careful about what you post on social media or share online. Just remember to always be honest and don’t publicly share anything you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see. With these steps, any candidate can maximize their chances of passing a background check by employers.

About the author

Matt Casadona

Matt Casadona has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, with a concentration in Marketing and a minor in Psychology. He is currently a contributing editor for 365 Business Tips. Matt is passionate about marketing and business strategy and enjoys the San Diego life, traveling and music.



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