In today’s career world, where negative publicity can cause serious problems for companies, it’s difficult to get excited about hiring someone who might turn out to be a liability.
Teachers whose drunken party pictures end up on Facebook, and top level executives involved in nasty divorces, can really set an employer (and their reputation) back.
Not only that, but there are some jobs, like truck driving, in which your driving record might be applicable. No trucking company wants to hire someone with a string of DUI arrests.
So, when you apply for a job, what will employer’s look for in background checks? Are there limitations to what information they can see?
As with almost everything in else in life, the answer depends on where you are, and what job you’re applying for.
Employers Need Your Permission
Generally, before running any type of background check, an employer needs your permission. They can’t pull your credit report, and even some other reports, without your consent. In fact, there are some states that won’t allow certain types of reports to be pulled for employment purposes at all.
A few years ago, when pulling a candidate’s credit report was all the rage amongst employers — even for jobs where handling money wasn’t part of the description — some states passed laws against using credit reports in the hiring process.
However, even in those states, other background checks might still be run. Depending on the job, you might need to consent to a criminal background check, or a check of your driving record.
Know Where You Stand
In some cases, employers might even ask permission to look at your social media accounts (or, they might just Google you, to see what pops up). At one point, there was a controversy because some employers were asking candidates for their social media passwords (again, a rash of state laws and public backlash has put a stop to those types of requests).
Denying your permission for a background check, though, might cost you the job. If you don’t agree, an employer might think that you have something negative to hide.
If a potential employer finds something that sways the decision against you, the law requires that the employer notify you in writing, and provide the name of the company that performed the background check. This is so you have a chance to look at the information — and correct it if it’s wrong.
Find Out What’s Publicly Available
Of course, thanks to the Internet, and the fact that few of us value our privacy online, an employer might not need to go through the trouble of getting your permission for an official background check. Simply Googling your name might be enough to give a potential employer enough information about you.
Additionally, there are public records of certain proceedings, although those can be difficult to slog through. One of the reasons many employers hire background check firms is due to the fact that many of them compile searchable databases of public records information, making it easier to find the information that employers want to know.
So, what’s the solution? If you are serious about privacy, be careful about what you put online. And carefully think about how what you’re doing now could impact your job prospects tomorrow.
Have you ever been subjected to a background check? What was your experience and how did it affect your chances for getting the job?