By Jeff Shane for Hcareers.com
Almost all of us can relate to the experience (when filling out a job application) of having been asked to sign a consent form authorizing a prospective employer to conduct a background check on you. Your life - including credit history, credit scores, driving record, etc. - has become an “open book,” with much that you once deemed “private” now accessible to many. More ominous still, any inaccuracies - of which you may not even be aware - could be undermining your efforts to land new employment. What do you need to know to ensure that your background check is an employment asset and not a liability? First – and most critically – it’s important for you to know what is in your own report. A background check might reveal data that is irrelevant, out-of-context, or downright erroneous. Or, the report might reveal information that is illegal for use in hiring purposes, or comes from questionable sources.
What's included in an employee background check? Depending on the source you access for the report, it may include anything from a simple verification of your social security number, to a detailed account of your personal history and acquaintances. Among some of the categories of information more commonly observed in a background check:
• Criminal Records
• Civil Judgments
• Professional Licenses
• Tax Liens
• Sex Offenders
Note that there are key types of information, which, while useful to a prospective employer in making a hiring decision, cannot be obtained by them (under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, or FCRA) without your permission. Examples include:
• Educational records
• Medical records
• Military service records
How can a prospective employer use your background report in evaluating your candidacy? Under Federal law, if an employer uses input from a background check to deny you employment (or to terminate your employment, rescind a job offer, or deny you a promotion) it must give you notification that includes a copy of the report and an explanation of your rights under the FCRA.
However, there are ”loopholes” in this requirement: If an employer conducts the background check “in house” (as opposed to using a third party), it is not subject to the notice and consent provisions of the FCRA. Similarly, if an employer tells a rejected applicant that its decision not to hire them was based on something other than the background check, then the disclosure requirement mentioned above may not apply.
Bottom line: It is very possible that you may have damaging content in your background report that you are not even aware of. If a prospective employer checks your report and uncovers negative information, they may never tell you of this content. You may end up losing many good employment opportunities until such time as you have a background check conducted on yourself to see what is actually “out there” about you.
What are your next steps? The best way to prepare for a background check is to be proactively aware of any potentially damaging information that an employer might find. Consider using a reputable third party to obtain an exhaustive background check on yourself. For example, the report generated by background and reference-checking experts AllisonTaylor.com addresses over 40 different categories in your background history.
If you do find false or misleading data about yourself in your background check, there is a written process for having such data removed. Contact the nearest Consumer Reporting Agency (with offices in many major cities) for details of this process. Equally important, use your background check to ensure that your resume and job application data are truthful and accurate. Even if you land a job with a falsified resume, it's not worth it being uncovered at some later point and ruining your employment history. In summary, it pays to conduct your own due diligence in accessing and potentially acting upon the same data that an employer accesses about you. The career you save may be your own.
Allison & Taylor and its principals have been in the business of checking references for corporations and individuals since 1984. Allison & Taylor is headquartered in Rochester, MI. For further details on services and procedures please visit www.AllisonTaylor.com or call 800-651-2470.