Everyone in the workforce has submitted to some type of background check prior to finalizing a new role. When you work in data privacy, ediscovery, or cybersecurity, your new employer needs to know you can handle highly personal, sensitive, and confidential information. These screenings are commonplace, can be extensive, and may be a little nerve-wracking. They also help you prove your skills and ultimately, your worth to an organization.
According to a recent report by HireRight, a background check provider, these screenings for employment are most commonly performed to verify criminal records (84%), employment history (72%), and identity (67%). However, TRU Staffing Partners has seen its clients verify educational backgrounds, certification claims, credit histories, driving records, and some even check social media post history. Also, it’s commonplace for employers to require separate drug screenings (including tests for marijuana use) in addition to delving into candidates’ backgrounds. Given the wide range of checking done, it’s wise to prepare as much as possible for the scrutiny and know what to expect.
Where background checks start and stop
The 2019 survey from the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) and HR.com found that 96% of employers conducted some sort of background check. Most said they check applicants for both part-time and full-time positions. HireRight’s Benchmarking Report notes that because more organizations are employing contingent, contract, or temporary workers to meet hiring demands, screening this population has now become commonplace.
Per the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), background checks are prohibited from including many items of adverse information if they are older than seven years. These items include paid tax liens, accounts in collections, civil suits or related judgments, and especially arrest records. Therefore, the most common lookback period across the country is seven years.
You can count on not being asked about deep personal background while still interviewing. The National Employment Law Project says 35 states have adopted “Ban the Box” laws, for example. Those laws generally restrict an employer from asking about an applicant’s criminal record during the early stages of the hiring process. Two-thirds of employers (66%) waited until after a conditional job offer to conduct a background check, but organizations are screening more often outside the hiring process: 49% of employers stated they conducted background checks only during the hiring process, down 10 percentage points from 2019.
For employers, screenings give security
Employers routinely do background screenings to avoid negligent hiring risks and liabilities. According to the 2020 survey from the PBSA and HR.com, almost 94% of employers performed at least one type of background check, while 73% of employers had a standard screening policy. The survey also found that 85% of employers said access to international screening capabilities was important, with 57% of them saying international screening was important to their organization directly. Although costs vary based on the screenings performed, employers can choose between basic, standard and premium screenings, costing an average of $15 to $80 per report. While this may seem like an unnecessary expense, it’s cheaper than making a bad hire – a CareerBuilder report found that the average cost of a bad hire is $15,000.
What background checks cover
CareerBuilder also found that 46% of workers don’t know what information employers are checking for during a pre-employment screening. These are the most common for the industries that TRU represents:
- Past and current employment verification
- Education validation
- Proof of licenses and certifications
- Existence of criminal records
- Proof of identity
- Motor vehicle records
- Known drug use
- Credit histories
Typical timelines for background checks
Recent technologies have given employers the ability to do mobile employee background screenings. This has sped the reporting process, and according to HireRight, has made background checks more transparent to candidates. TRU has found that the typical timelines for employers to receive reports include:
- Academic verification
- Requires candidate to sign a release form and can take several days
- Criminal checks
- If limited to one state, check can take one to two business days. International records can take up to 20 days.
- Employment verification
- Typically takes two to four days
- Professional certification verification
- Typically takes an average of two business days
- Credit checks
- Typically takes around two to four days after verifying details with credit bureaus
How to prepare for background screenings
- Clean up social media profiles and check privacy settings
- Keep good records of your academic history and past employment:
- Have a detailed list of employer names and start and end dates going back 10 years (or as long as you have been working)
- Retain paper and/or secure digital copies of your academic transcripts and diplomas
- Hold on to pay stubs and other records that show where you’ve worked
- Keep the contact information of past employers and references handy
- Get copies of your records and if you see inaccurate information, report it immediately
- Credit reports
- Driving records
- Criminal records
- Be honest
- Be honest and address parts of your history that might contain potential “yellow flags” with your talent agent, so it can be addressed proactively
- Let your references know they may be contacted
- Contact your professional references and let them know they be contacted as part of the screening process