What does an employee background check entail?
How to check an employee's background.
An employee background check can be as simple as a few phone calls and reference checks or it can be a full-blown professional check of all records held on an individual. What can and can’t be checked depends on the state laws in the employer’s location and on their particular needs.
All employee background checks will confirm social security number, qualifications and work history. But it may also include criminal records, credit and driving records as well as information on the candidate’s acquaintances. All enquiries should, however, relate to the job application. For example, if you’ve applied for work as a commercial driver it would be normal for your employer to check your driving record, or if you wish to work with children or in a bank, a criminal record check will probably be included.
Can criminal records be included in a company or school check?
Laws regarding the ability to undertake a full criminal history check differ from state to state – some states do not allow checks for arrests or convictions beyond a certain time limit, usually around 20 years, while others only allow a criminal record check for particular jobs.
In some states such as Colorado, Florida, Illinois, and Ohio, workers’ compensation files are considered public records and can be consulted as part of an employee background check. In other states employers can only inquire if an individual has filed a claim, and others will not release any information at all.
If you’ve served with the US military your name, rank, salary, assignments and rewards can be disclosed without your consent as part of an employee background check. Consent is required for student records however. And although you cannot be discriminated against because you have filed for bankruptcy, information on bankruptcies is a public record so it is easy for companies to find this information.
Some information, such as medical records, cannot be disclosed. And employers cannot request information on a person’s disabilities. They can only ask about an individual’s ability to perform certain tasks.
Most companies abide by the Fair Credit Reporting Act which states that an individual must agree in writing to a background check before the process is put in motion. You can of course refuse to give the company your permission, but this may preclude you from being shortlisted for interview as it suggests you have something to hide.
If you’re applying for a top job, or a sensitive job such as work in a school, and are concerned about your background check it’s best to be up front and honest about anything you suspect your employer might find out about you – and be prepared to talk your way out of the situation if it arises at interview.