Common Misconceptions About Background Checks

John Krautzel
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If you've ever applied for a job, you know that many companies perform background checks to screen candidates. For most companies, the result of the background check is just as important as a candidate's resume, cover letter and interview responses. While background checks are becoming more commonplace, there are still several misconceptions about what they look for and how they work.

Probably the most common misconception about background checks is that they only check for criminal history. In fact, many background checks include educational background, employment history, credit reports, or professional licensing and certifications. Many background checks also include a drug test.

Another misconception about background checks is that they won't expose a candidate's lies about former job titles, salaries or dates of employment. Embellishing one's resume is a common practice in today's competitive job market. However, an essential part of any background check is employment verification, in which the hiring manager calls the human resources departments at your former jobs to get information directly from the source. This way, any falsifications you may have on your resume become immediately apparent, and could cost you the position.

Many people think their social media presence is exempt from employer background checks. As of 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission does not consider it illegal for employers to make hiring decisions based on social media profiles. It is always a good idea to keep your social media profiles clear of anything that may make you look bad, such as drinking or partying pictures, nudity, crass language or slander.

Another common misconception about background checks is that if you've never been in trouble with the law, you have nothing to worry about. Remember, background checks encompass much more information than just criminal records. Also, for people with common names, it is possible for inaccurate information to make its way onto your background check. Victims of identity theft are also at risk for inaccurate information, especially fraudulent credit information, to appear on their background checks.

Another common belief is that there is no way to know what information is going to come up on your own background check. In fact, it is highly recommended to perform a background check on yourself to know what kinds of things an employer may see. While there are many different kinds of background checks and not everything will show up for everybody, it is still a good idea to know the information on your own background check.

Understanding how most background checks work is important to any job search. Learning about different background checks and knowing what might show up on yours is crucial before stepping into your next interview. Not only will you enjoy greater peace of mind; you'll also be prepared to answer questions the employer may have concerning your background.


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  • Athyey A.
    Athyey A.

    Good care advice, thank you for this valuable advice.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    We have all heard the horror stories of people being fired because of some random post they made on FB... or a rant they went on. It's all true - employers, whether current or perspective, will look at your social media sites. They will google your name to find out what they can about you. In addition to the standard criminal background check, some companies still check your financial background, too. They don't want to hire someone who can't handle their own personal finances. Of course they do understand how the economy has affected most of us and might be a bit more lenient on the financial aspect than they would be on the criminal - unless you are going for a position where you would be required to handle money and then all bets are off. So take the time to google yourself and see what comes up. Go through your social media accounts/sites and take away anything that you wouldn't want your Mom to see. Once you do that, the background check will be one less thing you have to worry about!

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