4 Things You Should Know About Background Checks

Job Search Background CheckHave you already made it past the job interview and now realize that it’s time for the background check? In a way, this spells good news because it means that a company is interested enough in you to find out more. But, depending on what they find in your history, they could be turned off enough to remove you from candidacy.

Knowing this could make some candidates feel so afraid that they don’t even want to apply for jobs. Don’t feel afraid, though. Instead, take a look at four things to know about background checks:

1. Employers Need Permission to Conduct One

Employers need your permission to have third-party agencies conduct background searches, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. Because most don’t have their own background screening capabilities, you will have to sign a form granting them permission. But if you have made it through the interviewing process and haven’t been asked to sign a form, it’s not a bad idea—for your own knowledge—to ask the employer outright if they plan to conduct a check.

2. Severity of a Crime is Often a Factor

If you have a criminal history, it’s important to note this information on your job application if asked—especially since it will likely pop up during a background check. But it’s good to also note that many employers take a subjective approach to a criminal history. They may look at the severity and timeframe of the crime (DUI in college vs. three DUIs in the past two years) to decide whether to hire you.

3. Background Check Could Occur After an Employment Offer

One thing to note is that some employers don’t stop their background checks after you’ve been offered a job. You might learn that your new employer is known for conducting frequent and random checks, especially if you are ever considered for a promotion.

4. Employers Need Permission Only Once

Keep in mind that once you’ve given an employer permission to conduct a background check, they typically don’t need your permission again if they’re conducting the same type of check and it’s within the same company.

A background check can sound like a scary process, especially if you have made mistakes in the past. But if you’re honest, upfront, and are prepared to explain blemishes, you may be surprised by how understanding an employer could be.


Jessica Holbrook Hernandez is an expert resume writer, career and personal branding strategist, author, speaker and President/CEO of Great Resumes Fast. She creates high-impact, best-in-class resumes and cover letters that transform job searches into interviews and ultimately job offers. For more information about professional resume writing or to read more career and job search related articles visit http://www.greatresumesfast.com or call 1.800.991.5187.

Jessica Holbrook Hernandez, global resume authority and President/CEO of Great Resumes Fast, is a former HR Manager who partners with professional- and executive-level candidates to create authentic, branded resumes and cover letters. An international resume columnist and resume expert for JobTalkAmerica radio, her work opens doors to lucrative positions at Fortune 500 companies.

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  1. Great post. Background checks can be very scary. You made a good point about being honest and up front. This is especially important on a resume. If there is false information on a resume a thorough background check will usually uncover it.

  2. Hey Jessica

    As a former recruiter I only had a few cases (mostly government jobs) where people had to go through government checks but I have to admit I was always worried something might come up that the job searcher had never told me about! Fortunately things always did work out ok in the end.


  3. Thanks for the helpful tips, Jessica! Background checks are a natural part in the hiring process of many positions. While these official checks get the real dirt on you, keep in mind that employers often turn to Google as well as a preliminary check. Negative results or none whatsoever could cost you the job before you ever set foot into the interview.

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