Know Your Rights: Job Background Checks

With studies showing that a large majority of employers use background checks before offering someone a job, it’s more important then ever to know what exactly is included in the public record of your past – good and bad.

With unemployment near 10%, the last thing job-seekers need is to lose jobs over something a potential employer digs up on a background check. But you can find out what will come up from your past, and if there are any black marks you need to correct.

Here’s the deal. Employers look at any business decision as a matter of risk. With new hires, companies aren’t willing to take the chance on hiring someone who will bilk the company or embarrass it with criminal behavior. In many cases, especially on the job, companies are liable for their employees’ behavior.

Confirming the information potential employees put on their resume is another high priority for employers. According to a CareerBuilder survey, 49% of hiring managers said they have caught applicants lying on resumes.

Lying or not, you do have some leverage in the background check process. For example, employers have to let you know they’ll be conducting a background check. You can refuse that request, although employers will likely view that as an attempt to hide some damaging information. If you’re rejected for a job based on information found during a background check, the company has to let you know specifically what it found.

What are employers looking for in a background check? It could be something as simple as verifying your Social Security number, but it could also be an in-depth review of your criminal history, credit status, academic degrees, driving record, drug testing, legal issues with previous employers, or even your Internet habits (background checks are increasingly being done on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter).

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