Job Seeker's Guide to Background Checks

Nancy Anderson
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Job seekers should expect to undergo a pre-employment background check no matter what position they apply for in the contemporary job market, according to a March 2017 survey released by CareerBuilder. Therefore, it's never a good idea to embellish your resume, qualifications or job history.

Types of Checks

Before delving into the survey results, CareerBuilder notes that a usual background check involves two or more things. A reference check means someone in HR or a recruiting agency calls your list of references, and these people vouch for your work ethic, personality, dates of employment and salary levels. A second type of check is more thorough and could include your criminal history or credit history, depending on the sensitive nature of your work. Although a previous arrest or conviction doesn't automatically disqualify you from employment, these things can raise red flags.

Survey Says

According to the survey, as many as 72 percent of companies employ some kind of background check on employees. A full 55 percent undergo drug testing and screening. That means a majority of employers conduct some kind of thorough investigation into your work history, so the chances of recruiters finding out about your actual qualifications and skills are pretty high.

What Job Seekers Must Do

There are a few things you should do since you should already expect an employer to run a thorough background check. Make sure your dates of employment are absolutely accurate down to the month and year you started and left a job. Otherwise, an employer may flag your resume as inaccurate.

Always ask individuals for permission before using them as a reference. That way, the references expect the call and don't act surprised when potential employers contact them.

Fill out your previous work experience, education and schooling as accurately as possible. Employers can even check the previous places where you lived, your driving record and criminal background based on publicly available records. Not every company delves this deeply, but you should be prepared for anything when it comes to answering questions about your past.

Take Control

If you suspect that there's something in your background that could raise a red flag, take control of the situation in three easy steps. Review your online profiles and social media accounts, and make sure everything looks professional. Get rid of any images or comments that seem offensive.

Check your own background by obtaining a copy of your criminal history, driving history and credit history. This gives you the same picture that potential employers can see so you can go into an interview ready with honest responses to any issues.

Know your rights if an employer uses this kind of check to disqualify you from a job. You have a right to a copy of the background check that the employer cites as the reason for not hiring you.

Conducting a background check is usually an essential part of the hiring process. Be as honest as possible on your application materials, and prepare responses to questions employers are likely to ask about your work or personal history.

Photo courtesy of McClarence Joes at


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