When you first started your job hunt, you probably polished up your resume. You created some great cover letters, ironed your interview outfit, and started getting your documents in order. We’ll bet you forgot one hugely important step, though: preparing for your employment background check.
If you’re like most job applicants, you probably have gone through a background check process before. This practice is only becoming more common. Even volunteer organizations may require a background check before you begin to donate your time.
Most background checks are not performed by your prospective employer. Instead, they will likely be performed by a third party company. These companies each perform background checks slightly differently, either due to internal processes or at the request of the employer.
“I have a blemish on my record. Will it show up on my background check?”
It depends. There is no industry standard for what is included in a background check report. While one employer may only check your employment history, another employer may do a thorough criminal background check, a drug screen, and require character references.
Whether your background is squeaky clean or there are a few things that an employer might turn up, here are three things you can do to prepare for the process:
Know your own background.
If you do have any red flags on your record, don’t try to hide them or assume they won’t be found. Have any conviction, parole, or other documents in order and ready to provide to your prospective employer. Even if you don’t think there is anything to find in your background, securing extra copies of your degree and making sure to have your I-9 documents on hand will be invaluable when it comes time for the background check process.
Know your rights.
There are things that can’t be screened for or held against you. Employers and background screening companies must comply with the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, and additionally, employers must not let any information they obtain lead them to make a discriminatory decision. Your area may also have “ban the box” laws and/or regulations that affect an employer’s ability to ask you about any convictions prior to making an employment offer conditional upon passing an employment background check that meets the employer’s hiring criteria.
What do I do if I find an error?
If you find an error when checking your own background, you can dispute it! Errors can occur because you have a very common name, your social security number or birthdate was mistyped, your identity has been stolen, or there was a mix-up with the court record. If you are denied a position because of a background check error, the employer has to tell you that your background check results were the reason. You can also request that the information be corrected within 60 days of getting your results; you simply need to file a dispute with the background screening company that provided the report to the employer. If it is determined that the disputed information does not belong to you, is erroneous, or cannot be verified from the original source, the background screening company will need to remove or correct the information on the report, as the case may be, and offer to provide a revised copy to the employer for free.
With your documents together, knowledge of the laws and rules affecting background checks, you are prepared to make the process as stress-free as possible. Good luck with your job hunt!
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