Companies use background checks
to protect themselves and to know
the applicant is "straight up" with
their representation of who they
are and what they have done.
They are at risk if they don't do one.
You may be presented with a formal document authorizing a Criminal Background
check to be performed by the employer or their agents. Sometimes drug screening,
financial checks, and others may be included. If you decline the checks your job
application will not move any farther.
Carefully read the consent for a background check to see if you can obtain a copy of
the report(s). Some companies will allow it, others will not. IF you find the incorrect
information you have a right to challenge it with the potential employer as well as the
company providing the information.
Laws, unfortunately, have changed and companies can withdraw an offer after all of
the checks have been completed and deemed acceptable with start dates and salary
discussed. Some are reported to have worked their first day and told that position
had been canceled.
Age discrimination is still alive but in the current market (starting around 2016), it is
pure dollar costs and with a focus on credentials for younger less experienced hires
than those with proven track records for performance and contributions.
A company, depending on their business, may require checks beyond the normal ones
or due to requirements of government. If you have presented yourself in an honest
and factual matter, these are normally easy to comply with and are normally NOT an
item you will pay for.
So what are the checks that may be required?
CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECK
You will be requested to complete a form with basic information, including some
confidential information such as Social Security Number, for the purposes of a
criminal background check. This often is handled by a private company who was
selected by your prospective employer. The request is generally processed by
the local Sheriff's Department. The form and processing for Government jobs is
often more involved and is discussed later. Failure or refusal to provide any of
requested information may result in a withdrawal of the employment offer.
Checks are normally for a 6 to 10 year period. If you were at the same address
in the same city and state your background check most likely will be completed
faster and by the local Sheriff's Department. If you had addresses outside of the
County, State or Country, this will increase the time to complete your background
check as additional agencies will be involved. Some agencies are faster than
others so estimating the time for completion is not reliable.
Items being checked for the requested background check window typically
- confirmation of known addresses
- any charges brought against you that were not dismissed or expunged
- any convictions including charge, date and municipality
Companies have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace to their employees
and for those who visit their facilities. The use of drugs creates a risk to the
employer in multiple areas and raises legitimate concerns about an employee's
ability to function on the job or concerns about projecting a negative image on
Often the hardest part of a Drug Screen is the waiting time. Drug testing will require you prove who you are, as problems of people impersonating the
person to be tested. The actual testing performed using a number of possible means:
A common test conducted which is collected in a sample container and marked
with your information. Great care is taken to insure this sample meets a
number of validation standards to reduce the potential of fraud in the sample
You do not want a test result indicating a sample was rejected due to failure of
their sample integrity safeguards.
2. Hair Sample or Fingernail Clipping
This involves taking a small sample of hair from your head from an area that
is not readily noticeable. Clippings may come from any hand or finger. Drugs
remain in the hair longer than they do in urine.
Should you fail the Drug Screening, Federal Law allow you the opportunity to
retake the test at the expense of the employer. This is a safeguard for human
error or other factors that may produce an inaccurate or invalid result.
Employers generally will not support or accept a third test.
If you lived at one address for the span of the background check, your results could come back within hours of two days depending on the agency and their workload.
FINANCIAL BACKGROUND CHECK
If you work in a bank, financial institution, or casino you may be required to
complete a Financial Background Check. This is often conducted through a
Credit Reporting Agency to assess your ability to pay bills on-time and if a
potential risk of handling a debt load exceeding their ability to pay per the
This is not a complex check to submit for and normally only requires a few
days for processing if that long.
Including the Resume entry for References Upon Request died decades ago yet you want to identify no less than three people who are willing to serve as your reference.
These dropped from favor by some employers because:
1. They were "cherry picked" people who would only say good things.
2. They may be family members giving a false name or had a name change
This should NOT give you reason not to enlist FOUR people to serve as references.
Companies need to protect themselves. Receiving good references is part of that protection. Having on record a name, phone number, date and time along with the written or even recorded conversation provides that protection.
Get caught having provided fabricated references or references impersonating someone other than who they really are is NOT a good career improvement event.
Termination for such an act does get around quickly.
LICENSES or CERTIFICATIONS
In this area the employer may place the burden of proof on you versus them doing a background check which can be as simple as going to a web site for confirmation.
Licenses are required for a variety of jobs such as a pilot, commercial driver, security guard, private investigator, etc. Pilot's Wings or licenses do not come from a box of Cracker Jacks. Such submission will draw laughter and potentially leave you "blacklisted" from future employment. Don't go down this path.
Certifications often carry a serial number, sometimes can be found on-line by the certification company. Some companies will insist on a photocopy of your certification.