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Background checks: an introduction

Background checks: an introductionBackground checks were once the preserve of government agencies, large multinational companies and the financial services industry; however, with fears of legal action, security threats and dishonest interview candidates, more and more HR departments are opting to screen all new hires.

This desire to know the truth about an applicant’s background has trickled right down to domestic workers too with nannies, household staff and cleaners now being asked to agree to a background check before being offered the job. Banks screen applicants for loans, landlords screen potential tenants and online daters are checking the background of new lovers.


In accordance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act candidates need to give written consent for the check to take place and although everyone has the right to refuse, it can hurt your chances of getting a job or a loan.

Background checks can be as simple as a free reference check and a few phone calls to previous employers to confirm dates of employment, reasons for leaving, salary levels and work performance. A chat with personal references is also common to give an insight into character, lifestyle and beliefs and a call to a university can verify qualifications mentioned on a resume.

More detailed background checks cover everything from credit history to driving records, criminal records and personal habits. And private investigators may speak to relatives, neighbors or friends in order to create a thorough picture of an individual so that an employer or a lender can make a decision about the person’s suitability for a job or a loan.

If any of the information you have given the employer or the bank manager is erroneous then you’ll have little chance of hiding it. Screening procedures are becoming more common, and online background checks have increased competition, dropped prices and made it easier than ever for employers to look into your past.

So don’t be surprised if you’re asked to agree to a background check, even for work with a small company.

In all it’s best to be honest in the information you present and bring up any skeletons in your closet at the interview – at least you’ll get have the opportunity to defend yourself.