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What Do Employers Look For When They Process A Background Check?

What Do Employers Look For When They Process A Background Check?

For various roles, a background check will need to happen before they send you the offer letter. If you were convicted of a crime that is relevant to the job responsibilities, you will set off a red flag. Some industries need to check your background more extensively if you work with children.

Employers must receive written permission from you before running a background check. If anything in the report leads to the company deciding against hiring you, the employer legally has to let you know and provide you with a copy of the appropriate documentation.

There are red flags that influence companies' decisions when it comes to hiring potential candidates. What exactly do employers look for in a background check? Keep reading to learn what can cause a negative background check.

Seven Areas of Interest

  1. Criminal Background History

Criminal background checks are used by most employers in the United States. Employers want to make sure that there is a safe environment for all employees. Knowing the criminal history of potential hires helps assess whether they might pose a risk to others. For example, people with violent criminal histories or those involving workplace crimes might be considered risky hires. Many employers consider the nature of the crime and how detrimental it is when making a potential hire. There are some industries where a clean record is important. Positions that require a high-security clearance will deny you if you committed a major offense or anything related to addiction, mental health, sex related offenses or cybercrime.

  1. Drug & Alcohol Use

A background check for employment may include a drug and alcohol test but this depends on employer policies and the nature of the job. This test is separate from the criminal, education and employment history checks that make up most background checks. Drug and alcohol testing is more common in industries where safety is a marked concern such as transportation, healthcare, law enforcement and manufacturing. 

  1. Personal Credit History

What do employers look for in a background check when it comes to your credit history? They are looking for financial responsibility and reliability. This includes credit-to-debt ratios, payment history and overall financial management. In most states, employers are allowed to see your credit history before extending a job offer. Having subpar credit is not necessarily a deal-breaker unless you are applying for a financial position. Another instance where your credit history might be of interest to potential employers is if the job allows you access to a company credit card.

  1. Bankruptcies

A thorough background check will display any bankruptcy filings. Employers won't be able to see why you filed for bankruptcy meaning it is on you to explain your financial troubles and the steps you are currently taking to regain your footing. This will matter more for financial jobs than other industries. Most employers understand if a divorce, medical issue or other unexpected event caused you to file for bankruptcy.

  1. Driving Records

Having a few speeding tickets or moving violations on your driving history should not be considered negative to potential employers. Having a driving accident while you are on the clock could mean financial or legal consequences for your employer. If you have a traffic violation or DUI on your DMV record, be prepared to explain the circumstances.

  1. Employment History

Employment history is a part of the process that aims to confirm the accuracy of your work experience as it is stated on your resume and / or job application. The process and extent of your employment history verification varies depending on the employer policies and any related job requirements. You may need to provide an employment verification letter. Some background checks automatically include a report of your employment history, a list of all previous companies that you have worked for, your job titles and the corresponding dates of employment. 

  1. Education Verification

Employers want to ensure that the information you provided is accurate and truthful when it comes to your education. It is a crucial step when it comes to evaluating your qualifications. It can also influence compensation especially in roles where educational attainment is tied to your salary expectations. When running a background check, many employers will verify your credentials and some will ask you to show certificates of achievement or awards. 

How Long Do Background Checks Typically Take?

No one likes to wait, so it is helpful to be prepared for how long a background check might take. A standard background check takes between a few days to two weeks. A simple employment verification and criminal record check might only take a few days. If you have lived in multiple locations or have a common name, it can take longer to accurately gather all the necessary details. 

Jobs That Don't Require A Background Check

Jobs and industries that often do not require background checks usually include positions where the level of responsibility and risk is relatively low. Some of the typical areas where background checks might not be as common;

  • Positions in retail or food service,
  • Gig economy type jobs,
  • Art and creative fields,
  • Agricultural jobs,
  • Manual labor and construction,
  • Housekeeping.