Background checks are growing in prevalence and popularity. Background checks can be a condition part of an employment offer, and they can even be used to determine whether or not you can rent an apartment. While background checks were previously reserved for those in high profile and high security risk jobs, more and more employers are starting to run background checks on all employees.
Information that Might be Included in a Background Check
Even if you have nothing to hide, you might be surprised at just what people are using to check into your history. For instance, some are using social networking sites such as Facebook to look into people’s personal lives. Other information that might be presented on a typical background check report may include:
- Character references
- Court records
- Credit records
- Criminal records
- Driving records
- Drug test
- Education records
- Interviews of neighbors
- Jail time
- Medical records
- Military records
- Past employers
- Personal references
- Property records
- Sex offender lists
- Social Security number
- State licenses
- Vehicle registration
- Worker’s Comp claims
Information that is Not Included
Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, there are limitations to what a consumer reporting agency can research. Your state may have even stronger laws and labor codes. Background checks, also known as consumer reports, cannot contain certain information, including:
- Accounts in collection older than seven years
- Bankruptcies older than 10 years
- Civil suits and judgments, as well as arrest records, older than seven years
- Negative information, excluding criminal convictions, older than seven years
- Paid tax liens older than seven years
In some states, the seven year rule also applies to criminal convictions, and you will want to contact your state agency to find out what the specific law is.
Getting Your Permission
Under the Fair Credit Report Act, there are some records requiring your permission for people to be able to access them. This can include information such as:
- Medical records
- Military service records
- School discipline records
- School financial information
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, there are certain disclosures and consent requirements outlined for employers that perform background checks. In order for the report to fall under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the employer must use an outside company to conduct the research. They must also get written authorization from the potential employee that is separate from other application documents.
Should the employer use the information contained in a background check to deny an applicant, terminate an employee, or perform other adverse actions, they must follow certain steps. Before the adverse action takes place, the applicant is to receive a disclosure with a copy of the report. After the adverse action takes place, the person must also receive a notice with the name of the screening company and notice that the employer made the decision, along with information on their rights to dispute information that was found.
Preparing for a Background Check
The best way to prepare for a background check is to know what information is contained within it. Some things that you can do include:
- Get a credit report – You have the right to obtain a copy of your credit report annually. If there is anything amiss, you should dispute it immediately. This will also help you to explain any mistakes to the interviewer before they ask about them.
- Check court records – If you have ever been arrested or in another court case, check the files to make sure that the information listed is current and correct. In some cases, reduced charges may not be noted or not properly dismissed or expunged.
- Check the DMV – Especially if you are interviewing for a driving job, it is important to know what is on your driving record. When filling out your application, remember that DUI or DWI convictions are not considered minor traffic infractions.
- Conduct a background check – You can do a background check on yourself to get an idea of the information that your employer may find.
- Get your personnel file – In some states you are able to get your personnel file from previous jobs for a period after you leave a job. You may also be allowed to copy documents with your signature. While you are looking at this information, it is also helpful to find out what your previous company’s policy is on releasing personnel files.
- Talk to neighbors and colleagues – Your potential employer has the right to talk to neighbors and other associates to gain information pertaining to your character. Warning them ahead of time that they might be contacted can help divert problems.
- Deal with digital dirt – Do a search of your name online to see what comes up, and if it is something unflattering, then you may want to edit it or contact the website to have it removed. If you blog or use a networking site, make sure that you remove any information that could hamper your efforts at seeking a job.
Background checks will only become more prevalent as our entire society becomes digitally connected. Whether you want to conduct a background check or are preparing for a potential employer to run one on you, the more information you know about applicable laws and rights, the more prepared you shall be.