Many large and small employers utilize background checks to verify a candidate’s claims and to confirm that they do not have any outstanding warrants to legal troubles. However, a common refrain we hear from candidates is that they are not given proper notice on whether or not they passed their background check.
Background checks have become more-and-more prevalent in recent times. As the cost for a background check has fallen to roughly $50, employers are opting to conduct background checks on all serious candidates. From an employers perspective, conducting background checks is a smart investment to ensure a candidates claims are accurate and that they do not have any previous felonies or misdemeanors which could disqualify them from the position.
However, as the rate of background checks has increased, we have seen an influx in candidates who have not been informed of the results of their background check. It can be difficult to reach out to a potential employer and ask, “did I pass my background check?” as that can be seen as suspicious and a cause for concern.
Why Conduct A Background Check?
Employers are not only beholden to their investors and shareholders, but also to their employees and their community. They try to make attempts to create a warm, friendly environment that is inclusive and welcoming for all individuals. By conducting background checks, employers are looking to verify that a candidate has not committed any offenses which go counter to the company mission. In addition, they also look to confirm that no offenses were made which could place other employees in a hostile or dangerous situation.
Employers are also apt to conduct a background check to ensure employment eligibility. Certain industries and professions have stricter rules and regulations on who is eligible to work there. An employer may also opt to conduct a background check as a barometer to ensure that the information a candidate provided is accurate and truthful.
Lastly, employers looking to limit their liability will be more prone to conducting a background check. This can also be in conjunction with an attempt to avoid business losses and any potential public backlash over an incident caused by an individual with a previous criminal record.
When Are Background Checks Administered?
Generally, there are two types of background checks. The first is the informal one, whereby the employer will conduct their own research and investigation into the candidate. This can include perusing a candidate’s social media presence, any publications they’ve made, and any public information which can be found online.
This type of background check requires no consent or approval. It is generally completed by the hiring manager and they do not need to inform the candidate that this research was completed. This is also one of the main reasons why we encourage all job seekers to clean-up their social media profiles and presence.
The second form of a background check is the official one. It is where an employer will go through a background check company to complete the process. An employer must receive a candidate’s explicit consent and approval before moving forward with this background check. It is unlawful for an employer to conduct an official background check without the approval of the candidate.
What Information Is Being Investigated?
Depending on the situation, the employer can opt for different and varying levels of information from the background check. This includes, but is not limited to, employment history, education, criminal history, credit reporting and history, motor vehicle, and license record checks. Additionally, some background checks will procure medical, property, and military records, sex offenders lists, and workers’ compensation information.
An employer will let a candidate know which information they will be requesting within the background check. A candidate should also have the opportunity to discuss why the information is being requested and for what purpose.
What Information Cannot Be Included?
The Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) regulates the national standards for information which can be included within background checks. However, these regulations apply to third-party companies and agencies which conduct these screenings, not when they are conducted within the company.
Third-party companies are not allowed to report on bankruptcies after ten years, civil suit, judgments, and arrest records after seven years. Tax liens and credit accounts paid after seven years.
Who Performs The Background Check?
As these regulations are governed by The Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), they have stated that the background check must be prepared and completed by an outside company – a “consumer reporting agency” or business that “for monetary fees, dues, or on a cooperative nonprofit basis, regularly engages in … assembling … information on consumers for the purpose of furnishing consumer reports to third parties.” (FCRA §603f).
In addition to receiving the candidates explicit, written consent to conduct a background check, the authorization must be provided on a separate sheet to the candidate from all other documents.
Can I Refuse A Background Check?
In complete technical terms, yes, a candidate can refuse a background check as a pre-employment verification. However, as most companies mandate a background check be completed, refusing to one could be grounds for removal from the application process.
How To Know If You Passed A Background Check?
Background checks provide a wealth of information, many of which is not relevant to the employer. Employer’s will take different pieces of information as important, which is why it is difficult to fully define what passing a background check entails.
However, if you passed a background check with an employer, the most obvious way you will know is if the employer decides to move forward with your application. If you are offered a position at the company, it is generally safe to assume that you passed the background check.
How To Know If You Did Not Pass?
If you did not pass a background check, then the employer is bound by the Fair Credit Reporting Act to notify the candidate, if the decision was made based on a factor found within the background check. This decision must be made in writing to the candidate and must provide the candidate with information about the company that performed the background check, including their name, address, and phone number.
Additionally, the employer must include documentation verifying that the background check company did not make any adverse decisions and informing the candidate that they had up to 62 days to obtain a free copy of the report. Lastly, thee employer must let the candidate know that they can contact the background check company to dispute any inaccuracies.