So, you’ve survived job hunting and finally landed a job… but it’s contingent on passing a pre-employment background check. What will they be looking for? And should you be worried about what they might find?
Well, that depends upon what’s in your background and what your potential employer includes in your screening. (The types of checks below are the most common.) As long as you’ve been honest on your application and in your interviews, there’s generally nothing to be concerned about.
Types of Background Checks
- Social Security Number (SSN)
This number, of course, is used to identify you as a U.S. citizen. It makes it possible to confirm your formal name, your birthdate, and your current and previous addresses. Confirming those records alone makes it easier to connect you with additional records that could be related to your finances, legal proceedings, relatives and business associates, criminal history, etc.
- Criminal History
These are local, state, national, federal–and sometimes international–records that may be checked to ensure that there’s nothing in your past that could put your employer at risk or disqualify you from obtaining some types of security clearances.
- Controlled Substances
Aka a “drug screen,” these checks are done by healthcare providers to ensure that you’re not taking illegal substances or breaking employer policies on substance use.
- Credentials and Verifications
Your educational background, employment history, military history, professional licenses, and certifications will be confirmed to ensure the accomplishments you’ve claimed are valid and your references will be called to find out if you’re the kind of person who will make a valuable employee.
- Polygraph Tests
Aka “lie detector” tests are used in rare circumstances by employers who may need you to obtain security clearances or work with controlled substances.
- Skills Assessments
These tests are given on paper or computer as a way for an employer to learn more about your skills or other characteristics that may relate to your potential for success in the new job.
Only you can predict how you may fare after background checks. If you’re unsure of what your results may show, do a background check on yourself. Simple web searches can help you find out how to contact the motor vehicle department to get your driving and vehicle records. The same goes for obtaining your own records from police departments. Double-check your graduation records at your former schools. Confirm that all these records are correct and up-to-date and talk to your references. You’ll want to ask them if they’re willing to serve as references for you and you’ll certainly want to know what they remember about your time spent working together. (You can even remind them about that amazing accomplishment from way back when and ask them to highlight it when your potential employer calls.)