If you’ve ever wondered what people see when they search for your name online, you aren’t alone. It can be easy to see what other people are seeing about you, though, at least as far as Google.
What’s not so easy is figuring out what potential employers see when they do a screening of you.
If you’re in the market for a new job, you might be wondering exactly what would-be employers can and can’t see on a background check. It can be nerve-wracking to think about. Whether or not you get a job can depend on what someone sees when they run a check of your background. Even if you don’t have a criminal record, there could be financial or other issues that you worry about popping up.
While it can vary depending on the employers, the laws where you live, and the type of screening, the following are some general things to know about what employers might be able to see on a background check.
The Basics of Employer Background Checks
An employee background check is generally a review of your records. This can include your criminal, commercial, financial, and employment records.
If an employer goes through a third party to check your background, they’re restricted on what they can check and how they can use it by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
FCRA is federal legislation setting standards for consumer reporting and its uses in different capacities.
You should know that an employer or someone you’re interviewing with can’t check your background without you knowing. An employer has to notify you in writing they’re going to do a screening, and you have to provide written authorization if they’re going through a third party.
With that in mind, if they’re making inquiries on their own and not going through a third-party company to get the information, they don’t legally have to get your consent.
As an example, an employer doesn’t need your consent to contact people you worked for in the past. They just have to let you know if they’re using a screening company that’s third-party.
If an employer decides against hiring you because of something they found in screening from a third party, they have to give you what’s called a pre-adverse action disclosure. A pre-adverse action disclosure includes a copy of your consumer report, and it explains your rights.
You have to be given an adverse action notice that states the employer decided not to hire you, and they have to tell you the contact information for the screening company they used.
What Can An Employee Check?
With all that in mind, back to the original question—what can an employer check? What could an employer potentially discover about you?
There’s a pretty broad set of information your employer can access regarding your history.
They can look at your credit history, criminal records, driving records, and employment history.
At a minimum, a background screening might be used for identity verification. An employer can search databases like Social Security Administration records and the database for the Department of Homeland Security.
They can learn whether or not a job candidate provided a valid Social Security number and to who it belongs.
Basic identity verification can also be a way to check a provided address. An employer can then cross-reference information to make sure an applicant doesn’t share inaccurate information.
An employer might want to verify your employment history by making sure everything you provided on your application or resume is correct. They’ll confirm in many cases not only that you worked there, but when you worked there your salary and your job title. You shouldn’t ever lie or embellish your resume even in these areas.
An employer might check your credit, especially if you’d be working with money or making decisions in the company. A credit check can include your current address and your previous addresses. The credit check for employment purposes won’t include your credit score, but it will include everything else that a potential lender would see if they pulled your report.
For example, if your credit is pulled as part of the hiring process, the employer can see mortgages, student loan debt, loans you defaulted on, car payments, and late payments.
A credit report can show public records, such as bankruptcies.
As far as your criminal records, what an employer can obtain depends on the state where you live.
In some states, an employer can’t ask about incidents that happened past a certain point. For example, they might not be able to ask you about anything that was more than seven years ago.
If someone does a criminal background check on you, they might be able to see offenses that occurred at any level, including county, state, and federal. They could see any pending charges you have currently and convictions, whether misdemeanor or felony. They can also often see dismissed and acquitted charges.
Motor vehicle and driving records, drug screening, and education verification could be part of a more comprehensive overall employee screening process. Whether or not many of these types of checks are done depends on the position that you’re applying for. Generally, the more high-level or, the more sensitive information you’ll be interacting with, the more rigorous the screening process you’ll have to go through.
Why Does It Matter for Employers?
While it can create some anxiety to think about going through a screening process for a job, from the perspective of an employer, it’s important.
According to a survey from CareerBuilder, nearly 27% of employers in the U.S. said a single bad hire costs their company more than $50,000.
There are so many expenses that can stem from a bad hire, including the costs of termination, potentially having to pay additional healthcare expenses, or a company could even face litigation for different reasons.
Then, the company has to shoulder the costs of hiring someone new, which is also expensive.
If you have any concerns or questions about pre-employment screening, you can always run a background check on yourself to gain more of a perspective of what the employer might see.